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storm. Antonio conceived such a friendship for Sebastian, that he
resolved to accompany him whithersoever he went; and when the youth
expressed a curiosity to visit Orsino's court, Antonio, rather than
part from him, came to Illyria, though he knew, if his person should be
known there, his life would be in danger, because in a sea-fight he had
once dangerously wounded the duke Orsino's nephew. This was the offence
for which he was now made a prisoner.

Antonio and Sebastian had landed together but a few hours before
Antonio met Viola. He had given his purse to Sebastian, desiring him to
use it freely if he saw anything he wished to purchase, telling him he
would wait at the inn, while Sebastian went to view the town; but
Sebastian not returning at the time appointed, Antonio had ventured out
to look for him, and Viola being dressed the same, and in face so
exactly resembling her brother, Antonio drew his sword (as he thought)
in defence of the youth he had saved, and when Sebastian (as he
supposed) disowned him, and denied him his own purse, no wonder he
accused him of ingratitude.

Viola, when Antonio was gone, fearing a second invitation to fight,
slunk home as fast as she could. She had not been long gone, when her
adversary thought he saw her return; but it was her brother Sebastian,
who happened to arrive at this place, and he said: 'Now, sir, have I
met with you again? There's for you'; and struck him a blow. Sebastian
was no coward; he returned the blow with interest, and drew his sword.

A lady now put a stop to this duel, for Olivia came out of the house,
and she too mistaking Sebastian for Cesario, invited him to come into
her house, expressing much sorrow at the rude attack he had met with.
Though Sebastian was as much surprised at the courtesy of this lady as
at the rudeness of his unknown foe, yet he went very willingly into the
house, and Olivia was delighted to find Cesario (as she thought him)
become more sensible of her attentions; for though their features were
exactly the same, there was none of the contempt and anger to be seen
in his face, which she had complained of when she told her love to

Sebastian did not at all object to the fondness the lady lavished on
him. He seemed to take it in very good part, yet he wondered how it had
come to pass, and he was rather inclined to think Olivia was not in her
right senses; but perceiving that she was mistress of a fine house, and
that she ordered her affairs and seemed to govern her family
discreetly, and that in all but her sudden love for him she appeared in
the full possession of her reason, he well approved of the courtship;
and Olivia finding Cesario in this good humour, and fearing he might
change his mind, proposed that, as she had a priest in the house, they
should be instantly married. Sebastian assented to this proposal; and
when the marriage ceremony was over, he left his lady for a short time
intending to go and tell his friend Antonio the good fortune that he
had met with. In the meantime Orsino came to visit Olivia: and at the
moment he arrived before Olivia's house, the officers of justice
brought their prisoner, Antonio, before the duke. Viola was with
Orsino, her master; and when Antonio saw Viola, whom he still imagined
to be Sebastian, he told the duke in what manner he had rescued this
youth from the perils of the sea; and after fully relating all the
kindness he had really shown to Sebastian, he ended his complaint with
saying, that for three months, both day and night, this ungrateful
youth had been with him. But now the lady Olivia coming forth from her
house, the duke could no longer attend to Antonio's story; and he said:
'Here comes the countess: now Heaven walks on earth! but for thee,
fellow, thy words are madness. Three months has this youth attended on
me': and then he ordered Antonio to be taken aside. But Orsino's
heavenly countess soon gave the duke cause to accuse Cesario as much of
ingratitude as Antonio had done, for all the words he could hear Olivia
speak were words of kindness to Cesario: and when he found his page had
obtained this high place in Olivia's favour, he threatened him with all
the terrors of his just revenge; and as he was going to depart, he
called Viola to follow him, saying: 'Come, boy, with me. My thoughts
are ripe for mischief.' Though it seemed in his jealous rage he was
going to doom Viola to instant death, yet her love made her no longer a
coward, and she said she would most joyfully suffer death to give her
master ease. But Olivia would not so lose her husband, and she cried:
'Where goes my Cesario?' Viola replied: 'After him I love more than my
life.' Olivia, however, prevented their departure by loudly proclaiming
that Cesario was her husband, and sent for the priest, who declared
that not two hours had passed since he had married the lady Olivia to
this young man. In vain Viola protested she was not married to Olivia;
the evidence of that lady and the priest made Orsino believe that his
page had robbed him of the treasure he prized above his life. But
thinking that it was past recall, he was bidding farewell to his
faithless mistress, and the young dissemisler, her husband, as he
called Viola, warning her never to come in his sight again, when (as it
seemed to them) a miracle appeared! for another Cesario entered, and
addressed Olivia as his wife. This new Cesario was Sebastian, the real
husband of Olivia; and when their wonder had a little ceased at seeing
two persons with the same face the same voice, and the same habit, the
brother and sister began to question each other; for Viola could scarce
be persuaded that her brother was living, and Sebastian knew not how to
account for the sister he supposed drowned being found in the habit of
a young man. But Viola presently acknowledged that she was indeed
Viola, and his sister, under that disguise.

When all the errors were cleared up which the extreme likeness between
this twin brother and sister had occasioned, they laughed at the lady
Olivia for the pleasant mistake she had made in falling in love with a
woman; and Olivia showed no dislike to her exchange, when she found she
had wedded the brother instead of the sister.

The hopes of Orsino were for ever at an end by this marriage of Olivia,
and with his hopes, all his fruitless love seemed to vanish away, and
all his thoughts were fixed on the event of his favourite, young
Cesario, being changed into a fair lady. He viewed Viola with great
attention, and he remembered how very handsome he had always thought
Cesario was, and he concluded she would look very beautiful in a
woman's attire; and then he remembered how often she had said she loved
him, which at the time seemed only the dutiful expressions of a
faithful page; but now he guessed that something more was meant, for
many of her pretty sayings, which were like riddles to him, came now
into his mind, and he no sooner remembered all these things than he
resolved to make Viola his wife; and he said to her (he still could not
help calling her Cesario and boy): 'Boy, you have said to me a thousand
times that you should never love a woman like to me, and for the
faithful service you have done for me so much beneath your soft and
tender breeding, and since you have called me master so long, you shall
now be your master's mistress, and Orsino's true duchess.'

Olivia, perceiving Orsino was making over that heart, which she had so
ungraciously rejected, to Viola, invited them to enter her house, and
offered the assistance of the good priest, who had married her to
Sebastian in the morning, to perform the same ceremony in the remaining
part of the day for Orsino and Viola. Thus the twin brother and sister
were both wedded on the same day: the storm and shipwreck, which had
separated them, being the means of bringing to pass their high and
mighty fortunes. Viola was the wife of Orsino, the duke of Illyria, and
Sebastian the husband of the rich and noble countess, the lady Olivia.


Timon, a lord of Athens, in the enjoyment of a princely fortune,
affected a humour of liberality which knew no limits. His almost
infinite wealth could not flow in so fast, but he poured it out faster
upon all sorts and degrees of people. Not the poor only tasted of his
bounty, but great lords did not disdain to rank themselves among his
dependents and followers. His table was resorted to by all the
luxurious feasters, and his house was open to all comers and goers at
Athens. His large wealth combined with his free and prodigal nature to
subdue all hearts to his love; men of all minds and dispositions
tendered their services to lord Timon, from the glass-faced flatterer,
whose face reflects as in a mirror the present humour of his patron, to
the rough and unbending cynic, who affecting a contempt of men's
persons, and an indifference to worldly things, yet could not stand out
against the gracious manners and munificent soul of lord Timon, but
would come (against his nature) to partake of his royal entertainments,
and return most rich in his own estimation if he had received a nod or
a salutation from Timon.

If a poet had composed a work which wanted a recommendatory
introduction to the world, he had no more to do but to dedicate it to
lord Timon, and the poem was sure of sale, besides a present purse from
the patron, and daily access to his house and table. If a painter had a
picture to dispose of, he had only to take it to lord Timon, and
pretend to consult his taste as to the merits of it; nothing more was
wanting to persuade the liberal-hearted lord to buy it. If a jeweller
had a stone of price, or a mercer rich costly stuffs, which for their
costliness lay upon his hands, lord Timon's house was a ready mart
always open, where they might get off their wares or their jewellery at
any price, and the good-natured lord would thank them into the bargain,
as if they had done him a piece of courtesy in letting him have the
refusal of such precious commodities. So that by this means his house
was thronged with superfluous purchases, of no use but to swell uneasy
and ostentatious pomp; and his person was still more inconveniently
beset with a crowd of these idle visitors, lying poets, painters,
sharking tradesmen, lords, ladies, needy courtiers, and expectants, who
continually filled his lobbies, raining their fulsome flatteries in
whispers in his ears, sacrificing to him with adulation as to a God,
making sacred the very stirrup by which he mounted his horse, and
seeming as though they drank the free air but through his permission
and bounty.

Some of these daily dependents were young men of birth, who (their
means not answering to their extravagance) had been put in prison by
creditors, and redeemed thence by lord Timon; these young prodigals
thenceforward fastened upon his lordship, as if by common sympathy he
were necessarily endeared to all such spendthrifts and loose livers,
who, not being able to follow him in his wealth, found it easier to
copy him in prodigality and copious spending of what was their own. One
of these flesh-flies was Ventidius, for whose debts, unjustly
contracted, Timon but lately had paid down the sum of five talents.

But among this confluence, this great flood of visitors, none were more
conspicuous than the makers of presents and givers of gifts. It was
fortunate for these men if Timon took a fancy to a dog or a horse, or
any piece of cheap furniture which was theirs. The thing so praised,
whatever it was, was sure to be sent the next morning with the
compliments of the giver for lord Timon's acceptance, and apologies for
the unworthiness of the gift; and this dog or horse, or whatever it
might be, did not fail to produce from Timon's bounty, who would not be
outdone in gifts, perhaps twenty dogs or horses, certainly presents of
far richer worth, as these pretended donors knew well enough, and that
their false presents were but the putting out of so much money at large
and speedy interest. In this way lord Lucius had lately sent to Timon a
present of four milk-white horses, trapped in silver, which this
cunning lord had observed Timon upon some occasion to commend; and
another lord, Lucullus, had bestowed upon him in the same pretended way
of free gift a brace of greyhounds, whose make and fleetness Timon had
been heard to admire; these presents the easy-hearted lord accepted
without suspicion of the dishonest views of the presenters; and the
givers of course were rewarded with some rich return, a diamond or some
jewel of twenty times the value of their false and mercenary donation.

Sometimes these creatures would go to work in a more direct way, and
with gross and palpable artifice, which yet the credulous Timon was too
blind to see, would affect to admire and praise something that Timon
possessed, a bargain that he had bought, or some late purchase, which
was sure to draw from this yielding and soft-hearted lord a gift of the
thing commended, for no service in the world done for it but the easy
expense of a little cheap and obvious flattery. In this way Timon but
the other day had given to one of these mean lords the bay courser
which he himself rode upon, because his lordship had been pleased to
say that it was a handsome beast and went well; and Timon knew that no
man ever justly praised what he did not wish to possess. For lord Timon
weighed his friends' affection with his own, and so fond was he of
bestowing, that he could have dealt kingdoms to these supposed friends,
and never have been weary.

Not that Timon's wealth all went to enrich these wicked flatterers; he
could do noble and praiseworthy actions; and when a servant of his once
loved the daughter of a rich Athenian, but could not hope to obtain her
by reason that in wealth and rank the maid was so far above him, lord
Timon freely bestowed upon his servant three Athenian talents, to make
his fortune equal with the dowry which the father of the young maid
demanded of him who should be her husband. But for the most part,
knaves and parasites had the command of his fortune, false friends whom
he did not know to be such, but, because they flocked around his
person, he thought they must needs love him; and because they smiled
and flattered him, he thought surely that his conduct was approved by
all the wise and good. And when he was feasting in the midst of all
these flatterers and mock friends, when they were eating him up, and
draining his fortunes dry with large draughts of richest wines drunk to
his health and prosperity, he could not perceive the difference of a
friend from a flatterer, but to his deluded eyes (made proud with the
sight) it seemed a precious comfort to have so many like brothers
commanding one another's fortunes (though it was his own fortune which
paid all the costs), and with joy they would run over at the spectacle
of such, as it appeared to him, truly festive and fraternal meeting.

But while he thus outwent the very heart of kindness, and poured out
his bounty, as if Plutus, the god of gold, had been but his steward;
while thus he proceeded without care or stop, so senseless of expense
that he would neither inquire how he could maintain it, nor cease his
wild flow of riot; his riches, which were not infinite, must needs melt
away before a prodigality which knew no limits. But who should tell him
so? his flatterers? they had no interest in shutting his eyes. In vain
did his honest steward Flavius try to represent to him his condition,
laying his accounts before him, begging of him, praying of him, with an
importunity that on any other occasion would have been unmannerly in a
servant, beseeching him with tears to look into the state of his
affairs. Timon would still put him off, and turn the discourse to
something else; for nothing is so deaf to remonstrance as riches turned
to poverty, nothing is so unwilling to believe its situation, nothing
so incredulous to its own true state, and hard to give credit to a
reverse. Often had this good steward, this honest creature, when all
the rooms of Timon's great house have been choked up with riotous
feeders at his master's cost, when the floors have wept with drunken
spilling of wine, and every apartment has blazed with lights and
resounded with music and feasting, often had he retired by himself to
some solitary spot, and wept faster than the wine ran from the wasteful
casks within, to see the mad bounty of his lord, and to think, when the
means were gone which brought him praises from all sorts of people, how
quickly the breath would be gone of which the praise was made; praises
won in feasting would be lost in feasting, and at one cloud of
winter-showers these flies would disappear.

But now the time was come that Timon could shut his ears no longer to
the representations of this faithful steward. Money must be had; and
when he ordered Flavius to sell some of his land for that purpose,
Flavius informed him, what he had in vain endeavoured at several times
before to make him listen to, that most of his land was already sold or
forfeited, and that all he possessed at present was not enough to pay
the one half of what he owed. Struck with wonder at this presentation,
Timon hastily replied: 'My lands extend from Athens to Lacedaemon.' 'O
my good lord,' said Flavius, 'the world is but a world, and has bounds;
were it all yours to give in a breath, how quickly were it gone!'

Timon consoled himself that no villanous bounty had yet come from him,
that if he had given his wealth away unwisely, it had not been bestowed
to feed his vices, but to cherish his friends; and he made the
kind-hearted steward (who was weeping) to take comfort in the assurance
that his master could never lack means, while he had so many noble
friends; and this infatuated lord persuaded himself that he had nothing
to do but to send and borrow, to use every man's fortune (that had ever
tasted his bounty) in this extremity, as freely as his own. Then with a
cheerful look, as if confident of the trial, he severally despatched
messengers to lord Lucius, to lords Lucullus and Sempronius, men upon
whom he had lavished his gifts in past times without measure or
moderation; and to Ventidius, whom he had lately released out of prison
by paying his debts, and who, by the death of his father, was now come
into the possession of an ample fortune, and well enabled to requite
Timon's courtesy: to request of Ventidius the return of those five
talents which he had paid for him, and of each of those noble lords the
loan of fifty talents; nothing doubting that their gratitude would
supply his wants (if he needed it) to the amount of five hundred times
fifty talents.

Lucullus was the first applied to. This mean lord had been dreaming
overnight of a silver bason and cup, and when Timon's servant was
announced, his sordid mind suggested to him that this was surely a
making out of his dream, and that Timon had sent him such a present:
but when he understood the truth of the matter, and that Timon wanted
money, the quality of his faint and watery friendship showed itself,
for with many protestations he vowed to the servant that he had long
foreseen the ruin of his master's affairs, and many a time had he come
to dinner to tell him of it, and had come again to supper to try to
persuade him to spend less, but he would take no counsel nor warning by
his coming: and true it was that he had been a constant attender (as he
said) at Timon's feasts, as he had in greater things tasted his bounty;
but that he ever came with that intent, or gave good counsel or reproof
to Timon, was a base unworthy lie, which he suitably followed up with
meanly offering the servant a bribe, to go home to his master and tell
him that he had not found Lucullus at home.

As little success had the messenger who was sent to lord Lucius. This
lying lord, who was full of Timon's meat, and enriched almost to
bursting with Timon's costly presents, when he found the wind changed,
and the fountain of so much bounty suddenly stopped, at first could
hardly believe it; but on its being confirmed, he affected great regret
that he should not have it in his power to serve lord Timon, for
unfortunately (which was a base falsehood) he had made a great purchase
the day before, which had quite disfurnished him of the means at
present, the more beast he, he called himself, to put it out of his
power to serve so good a friend; and he counted it one of his greatest
afflictions that his ability should fail him to pleasure such an
honourable gentleman.

Who can call any man friend that dips in the same dish with him? just
of this metal is every flatterer. In the recollection of everybody
Timon had been a father to this Lucius, had kept up his credit with his
purse; Timon's money had gone to pay the wages of his servants, to pay
the hire of the labourers who had sweat to build the fine houses which
Lucius's pride had made necessary to him: yet, oh! the monster which
man makes himself when he proves ungrateful! this Lucius now denied to
Timon a sum, which, in respect of what Timon had bestowed on him, was
less than charitable men afford to beggars.

Sempronius, and every one of these mercenary lords to whom Timon
applied in their turn, returned the same evasive answer or direct
denial; even Ventidius, the redeemed and now rich Ventidius, refused to
assist him with the loan of those five talents which Timon had not lent
but generously given him in his distress.

Now was Timon as much avoided in his poverty as he had been courted and
resorted to in his riches. Now the same tongues which had been loudest
in his praises, extolling him as bountiful, liberal, and open handed,
were not ashamed to censure that very bounty as folly, that liberality
as profuseness, though it had shown itself folly in nothing so truly as
in the selection of such unworthy creatures as themselves for its
objects. Now was Timon's princely mansion forsaken, and become a
shunned and hated place, a place for men to pass by, not a place, as
formerly, where every passenger must stop and taste of his wine and
good cheer; now, instead of being thronged with feasting and tumultuous
guests, it was beset with impatient and clamorous creditors, usurers,
extortioners, fierce and intolerable in their demands, pleading bonds,
interest, mortgages; iron-hearted men that would take no denial nor
putting off, that Timon's house was now his jail, which he could not
pass, nor go in nor out for them; one demanding his due of fifty
talents, another bringing in a bill of five thousand crowns, which if
he would tell out his blood by drops, and pay them so, he had not
enough in his body to discharge, drop by drop.

In this desperate and irremediable state (as it seemed) of his affairs,
the eyes of all men were suddenly surprised at a new and incredible
lustre which this setting sun put forth. Once more lord Timon
proclaimed a feast, to which he invited his accustomed guests, lords,
ladies, all that was great or fashionable in Athens. Lord Lucius and
Lucullus came, Ventidius, Sempronius, and the rest. Who more sorry now
than these fawning wretches, when they found (as they thought) that
Lord Timon's poverty was all pretence, and had been only to make trial
of their loves, to think that they should not have seen through the
artifice at the time, and have had the cheap credit of obliging his
lordship? yet who more glad to find the fountain of that noble bounty,
which they had thought dried up, still fresh and running? They came
dissembling, protesting, expressing deepest sorrow and shame, that when
his lordship sent to them, they should have been so unfortunate as to
want the present means to oblige so honourable a friend. But Timon
begged them not to give such trifles a thought, for he had altogether
forgotten it. And these base fawning lords, though they had denied him
money in his adversity, yet could not refuse their presence at this new
blaze of his returning prosperity. For the swallow follows not summer
more willingly than men of these dispositions follow the good fortunes
of the great, nor more willingly leaves winter than these shrink from
the first appearance of a reverse; such summer birds are men. But now
with music and state the banquet of smoking dishes was served up; and
when the guests had a little done admiring whence the bankrupt Timon
could find means to furnish so costly a feast, some doubting whether
the scene which they saw was real, as scarce trusting their own eyes;
at a signal given, the dishes were uncovered, and Timon's drift
appeared: instead of those varieties and far-fetched dainties which

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Online LibraryCharles LambTales of Shakespeare → online text (page 17 of 23)