December 13, 2002
Jesus! What strange, hideous power has dominion over this place that swallows up idealistic young cadets and turns them into investment bankers? Demolish it! Scorch the earth on which it stood!
Today, we will tackle Acts Two and Three of Shakespeare's Timon of Motherfucking Athens. If you have not finished your study questions from yesterday, please do so now, because you will be completely lost when we proceed, and this is no time to have egg on your face.
It will surprise no one that, as Act Two opens, we are still in Athens. This is a different part of Athens, though: a place where senators roam, a senatorial preserve. Americans in the audience will no doubt clench their fists, but the ancient Greeks did not rip off the idea of senators from the United States. They came up with it themselves. It turns out that Timon owes the Senator money. In fact, it turns out that Timon owes a lot of people a lot of money. Timon has a problem. When he has money, he uses it to buy presents or host dinners for his friends. He assumes that the debt will never come calling, because to him, there exists a continuum of kindness between friends, not cold record-keeping. Timon also doesn't realize how broke he is, because the Steward, his financial manager, is the quiet, sensitive type. As numerous Servants clamor for their masters' bills to be paid, Apemantus enters and hassles everyone some more. For no clear reason, he is accompanied by a Fool who, like most Shakespearean Fools, needs to shut the fuck up.
Now, given how nice Timon is to everyone, you'd think they could be patient about the debts, or even spot a brother a small loan, right? We're all friends here, right? We're all tight? Well, here comes a ten-ton surprise, because it turns out that their gratitude was all talk. Each generates a lame excuse, even Sempronius, who claims to have known Timon from back in the day. From back in the day! This, truly, is cold. The irony of the fact that these usurers have accepted gifts and valuable cash prizes from Timon and are still holding him liable for debts is not lost on the various Servants; this is rather akin to Bob Barker rigging The Price is Right so his chum can rock the Showcase Showdown and then receiving a cleaning bill for the old-person smell that Bob left in his chum's car. Timon descends into insanity with remarkable speed and efficiency, and announces his plans to hold a 'revenge' dinner for his former friends, an idea which will give anyone who has read Titus Andronicus chills. At the dinner, though, Timon just serves warm water and yells at everybody, and they leave. Great plan, Timon.
Questions to Consider for Acts Two and Three:
1. What the shit, guys?
2. If senators have, historically, been assholes, why do we have them?
3. What, exactly, was Timon looking to accomplish with his dinner plan?
4. How does Shakespeare seem to feel, in general, about usurers?
5. Should you buy things for yourself, or for other people? Illustrate your answer with examples from your own broke-ass checkbook.
6. Having been cynical about human nature from the beginning, does Apemantus now have the right to tear open his shirt, pound his chest and yell "Who's the dog now?" If so, should the Fool reply "You're the man now, dog", or should it be Timon? Discuss.
Extra Credit: Write an imaginary dialogue between Timon of Athens and the Notorious B.I.G. What might they have to talk about? Would Timon agree that mo' money does, indeed, equal mo' problems? What issues, such as "where you're from", are important to both men? If Timon is construed as West Coast, which other crazy old guy from Shakespeare's plays would be most likely to have Timon killed in a drive-by shooting?
Next: The apocalyptic conclusion of Timon of Motherfucking Athens.