Timon of Athens: the acquisition of wealth

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Timon of Athens is a play about wealth. [yeah, I know, Mr. Misanthropos (or what he represents) would beg to differ, but like I said, “sake of argument”]

Well, in the play, we certainly run the gamut of how to acquire said filthy lucre…

Flavius the steward and the other servants have traded their service for pay. Alcibiades’ companions says they will “do anything for gold” (IV.iii.150).

Timon in Act Four, Scene Three, while digging for roots to eat, finds gold: “What’s here? // Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold!” (IV.iii.25-26).

The recently enfranchised Ventidius “lately // Buried his father, by whose death he’s stepped // Into a great estate” (II.ii.224-26).

Dowry and Bride-Price
The opening scene presents the financial transaction within a marriage. The old man describes the dowry his daughter brings to the contract: “Three talents on the present; in future all” (I.i.141). He feels that Lucilius is not worth-y of his daughter until Timon promises to “counterpoise, // And make [Lucilius] weigh with her” (I.i.145-46), with an appropriate bride-price.

Receiving (as gift)
Do I really need to offer examples? Really.

We learn from the Senator in Act Two, Scene One, that Timon has borrowed at least “five-and-twenty [thousand]” (II.i.3) talents from that Senator, Varro, and Isidore.

Ventidius, upon his return from jail, offers to “return those talents” (I.ii.6). Later, in one of his rants, Timon speaks of “an usurer” (IV.iii.223), one that not only lends, but charges outrageous interest upon return.

Despite their denial of being “thieves” (IV.iii.412), Timon’s Act Four, Scene Three visitors are listed as “Banditti” and the stage direction calls them singular “bandit”s.

In fact, it seems that the play covers all the monetary bases, save (maybe) for one: Conquest. Timon tells Alcibiades, “Thou art a soldier, therefore seldom rich” (I.ii.219). A soldier might turn/be forced to thieve (as it seems with the Banditti), as his wages are not high. And the victorious general would need to pay those soldiers, so any fortune won would be quickly dispersed.

Yesterday, I wondered at Timon’s past and thought there may be a military history there. In that vein, might Timon have been a successful, victorious general, who quit the field after paying his soldiers one last paycheck, and kept a bigger payday for himself?

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