Today we’re going to be taking a look at Flavius’ monologue from Act 4, Scene 2 of Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare. This is a great speech if you’re in need of a lighter soliloquy with a journey throughout. Let’s take a look.
The play begins with a party hosted by the titular character of the play, Timon, with a guest list comprising of most of the plays main characters. At the party Timon gives away vast amounts of money and possessions to various guests. Not long after the party Flavius, Timons servant, tells Timon how upset he is that he would be so irresponsible with his wealth to give it away to people who aren’t true friends. Timon seems to be unaware of this for some reason and so when he’s enlightened, takes his anger out on Flavius.
It’s not long after that creditors come to Timons estate to repossess his remaining assets. Timon cannot pay and so sends his servants, including Flavius out into Athens to ask his ‘friends’ for help. The servants are rudely turned down, and when they return to Timon, he tells them about the revenge he will enact at his next party.
Cut to: the party. This time at the party when the guests are expecting more wealth to be strewn amongst them they are met with plates of rocks and bowls of lukewarm water. Timon flies into a rage smashing bowls and dowsing his guests in the water vowing to run away and discard society all together.
In the next scene the servants meet wondering where Timon has gone. The servants all leave Flavius alone. And Flavius has a plan…
O, the fierce wretchedness that glory brings us!
Who would not wish to be from wealth exempt,
Since riches point to misery and contempt?
Who would be so mocked with glory, or to live
But in a dream of friendship –
To have his pomp and all what state compounds
But only painted, like his varnished friends?
Poor honest lord, brought low by his own heart,
Undone by goodness! Strange unusual blood
When man’s worst sin is he does too much good.
Who then dares to be half so kind again?
For bounty that makes gods do still mar men.
My dearest lord, blessed to be most accursed,
Rich only to be wretched, thy great fortunes
Are made thy chief afflictions. Alas, kind lord,
He’s flung in rage from this ungrateful seat
Of monstrous friends;
Nor has he with him to supply his life,
Or that which can command it.
I’ll follow and inquire him out.
I’ll ever serve his mind with my best will:
Whilst I have gold, I’ll be his steward still.
Oh the horrible sadness that greatness can bring!
Who wouldn’t want to not be rich if all riches give you is misery and hate!
Who would want to be so famous or have so many fake friends-
To live in luxury and have everything you ever wanted if it was as false as his so-called friends?
Poor, decent man, given nothing but misery for having a good heart!
It must be a strange curse when a man’s greatest sin is that he is too kind.
Who would dare to be even half as kind ever again?
The riches that are made for gods can just ruin ordinary men.
My dear master, you were blessed only to be cursed later,
You were rich only to be miserable,
Your great wealth is your greatest curse. Oh my kind master!
He’s gone into a rage because of the actions of his monstrous friends,
And he doesn’t have any money or a way to get any to live on.
I’ll follow him and inquire about his whereabouts.
I’ll serve his mind for as long as I can manage.
So long as I have gold I’ll always be his servant.
Notes on Performance
Firstly, this is a soliloquy and given that the nature of the last two lines being less cerebral and more directed my best bet is that this is a ‘let’s have a chat audience’ type soliloquy. So play with that! Connect with your audience as though they were your scene partner.
The second thing I want to bring up is that there’s a lot of character that goes into this piece. Think about what this servant is willing to do to help his master. This character is loyal, brave and tenacious. So use those traits in your characterisation.
And off the back of that, think about the relationship Flavius must have with Timon if he’s willing to do so much for him. This is a dangerous journey he’s about to embark on which indicates how much he must care for him.