The World Is But a Word

Timon of Athens, Act II: Scenes 1-2

The chickens come home to roost on Timon’s doorstep: creditors, debt collectors, credit card companies, you name it — all sniffing the overreach in Timon’s finances and descending like vultures to grab some flesh while it’s left to be had on the soon-to-be roadkill.

Till now, Timon has chosen to remain oblivious to his finances. The owner of extensive lands (which he claims extend to Sparta, a fitting zinger by Shakespeare because Spartans, you know, watch their money i.e. “spartan”), he has heretofore presumed that expenses would be covered by income and don’t bother him with learning to use Quicken.

He has no idea that his steward has had to sell most of said land or forfeit it as security for bad debt. In way, way over his head (his possessions at liquidation wouldn’t pay half the money currently owed), he only now comes to the realization of his woeful plight.

In varying stages of denial, Timon first asks why nobody had told him sooner. Doh! Then he assumes that his vast estate must surely have the resources (as previously mentioned) in land that can be tapped to make the little problem go away. Um, no. And stop calling him “Shirley.”

Very well, then. He’ll call in favors from those he has helped out in the past. To show just how off his financial rocker Timon is, Shakespeare has him even seeing this as a benefit because now he will be able to put his friends to a worthy test. Perhaps his family watched It’s a Wonderful Life too many times at Winter Solstice or something, for he believes that surely, surely [You did it again, you called him, “Shirley!”  Three times, no less.] the town he has been so good to will come through for him.

TIMON: And in some sort these wants of mine are crowned,

That I account them blessings; for by these

I shall try friends. You shall perceive how you

Mistake my fortunes; I am wealthy in my friends.

He bids his servants go forth to ring up a few ol’ chums and urge them to toss a few groshens into a hat. Oh, wait. A “talent” is how much? Sixty pounds in silver? Two thousand dollars each by Isaac Asimov’s reckoning? And Timon requests how many of them???

Let’s see: fifty from his good friends and — you have to be kidding — one thousand from the till the Senators keep watch over. Is the man out of his mind? That’s over two million dollars at 1970s (or thereabouts) prices! You don’t even have to factor in for inflation to realize that this poor guy is barking up the wrong tree.

(OUCH — that’s makes two teeth-gnashing cliches on my part. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle for me.)

Trouble is, Flavius has already anticipated this far ahead. And now he has the grim task of letting Timon know that this method has already been tried; he used the lord’s signet ring to hit the Senators up for cash.

The resuts? “Um, err, we’d love to help you out there, but, um, now’s not a good time for us, and, uh…”

Right. Of course.

Not to worry, Timon says. Senators are an undependable lot, and old, and dishonorable when push comes to shove (three! three for me! help!). But rest assured that a friend in need — (nope, I won’t finish that, sorry.)

Let’s just say that Timon is about to find out that what it’s like living in Mike Tyson’s world. That is, if the two could switch places. [WARNING: BAD MOVIE IDEA. STEP AWAY FROM THE WORD PROCESSOR WITH YOUR HANDS UP.]

I’m not sure what exactly I mean here except that it’s too bad Mr. Tyson hadn’t been introduced to Mr. Shakespeare wayyyyy back in school.

Or something like that. Yeah.


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