Timon of Athens: stage direction in the dialogue

Throughout the project, I’ve always searched in the dialogue for hidden stage direction (explicit ones which are usually few and far between…I say usually because as we get nearer the end of his career, I’m finding more explicit directions). Timon of Athens is no different.

But in this case, for me, it was like digging for roots and finding…not gold.

In the opening scene, while there is an explicit stage direction regarding the jewel (I.i.18), there is not one for the painting. However, if we let the dialogue be our guide, it’s there. The poet says, “Let’s see your piece” (I.i.28), then painter and the poet discuss its merits. So, it’s got to be there.

In the same scene, Timon greets the painter, “Well fare you, gentleman. Give me your hand” (I.i.163), so obviously Timon holds his hand out for the painter to accept. I would assume he does. Then when Apemantus enters, Timon asks, “Whither art going?” (I.i.191), giving the clue that the actor does not enter the scene as much as is passing through it, only to be stopped by Timon. Just a handful of lines later, Timon refers to “this jewel” (I.i.211), implying that he is showing it to the cynic.

It appears, in Act One, Scene Two, that during his greeting of his guests, he gets a little (or maybe a lot) teary-eyed because Timon himself says, “Mine eyes cannot hold our water, methinks” (I.ii.102-103), and Apemantus states, “Thou weep’st to make them drink, Timon” (I.ii.105). His speech about doing benefits and friends and brotherhood makes himself cry.

After the worst feast ever, Timon rages on the outskirts of Athens, and says, “Nothing I’ll bear from thee // But nakedness, thou detestable town; // Take thou that, too, with multiplying bans” (32-4). He states that he’s going to strip himself naked, and he does so in multiple steps (“multiplying bans”).

Of course, there’s the finding of gold: “What is here? // Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold!” (IV.iii.25-6). And he gives some later to Alcibiades (“the gold thou givest me” [IV.iii.130]), his two companions (“more gold!” [IV.iii.149]…though I suppose Alcibiades’ could be the original gold they are adding “more” to), Apemantus (“Look, so I have” [IV.iii.289]), and Flavius his steward (“Here, take” [IV.iii.522]).

The next is less stage direction than staging direction: when the soldier finds Timon’s epitaph, I’m not sure if the first one is written on something that can be carried back to Alcibiades, but the second one has to be carved into something, so that the soldier can take its impression with wax (V.iii.6).

And, finally, at the request of the second senator, Alcibiades throws his glove (V.iv.54) as a promise that he’ll end the war.

I don’t know if this is less than most plays, but it felt less…

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