ACT I SCENE 1
Various people—including a Poet, a Painter, a Jeweller, a Merchant, Senators, and Lords—are gathered in Timon’s house as Timon’s wealth and generosity have a way of attracting people. The Poet, however, makes a point of how this state of general goodwill will abruptly change if or when Lady Fortune decides to deprive Timon of his wealth and good luck. Anon, surrounded by petitioners, Timon appears on the scene. The first to petition Timon is a messenger who pleads on behalf of Ventidius, who is presumably Timon’s friend and who has a debt hanging over his head. Luckily for Ventidius, Timon agrees to help him out which will in effect absolve Ventidius of his debt. Next an Old Man petitions Timon, asserting that he will not have Lucillius, a servant of Timon, as his son-in-law what with Lucillius’ lack of means. The Old Man argues that his daughter is his one and only child and as they are not a wealthy family that he will make sure that his daughter marries well. To Lucillius’ great fortune, Timon decides to endow him with a wealth that would make it worthwhile for the Old Man to have his daughter marry Lucillius. Presently, the Poet and the Painter are soliciting Timon’s patronage of their future works, and the Jeweller, with the Merchant as his advocate, is offering up for sale his most prized merchandise when Apemantus, a notorious misanthrope, appears on the scene to disparage everything and everyone except Timon. Despite Timon’s best efforts, Apemantus maintains his churlish disposition. As Timon, having greeted the recently arrived Athenian captain Alcibiades, exits the scene with him, Apemantus engages two Lords with whom he exchanges insults.
At a large banquet that he is hosting, Timon continues with his generous ways, declining Ventidius’ offer to pay back Timon in full, including interest, for the money with which Timon rescued Ventidius from debtor’s prison. Timon then welcomes various Lords of Athens to make themselves at home, angering Apemantus who is sure in his heart of hearts that not one of them would hesitate to betray Timon if he could profit by doing so. Timon welcomes Apemantus to no avail: Apemantus refuses to be cheered up as he is convinced that the gathered assembly is made up of cadgers and flatterers. Nonetheless, Timon makes much ado about the true nature of friendship, and continues to lavish his guests with hospitality and gifts to the consternation of Flavius, Timon’s steward. Flavius is desperate to inform Timon of his grave financial situation what with all the generous gifts and lavish spending, but he is unable to as Timon is too busy entertaining his guests. To wit, for the benefit of his guests, Timon admits ladies dressed as Amazons who perform a masque. He then makes a gift of jewels and even his horse to the Lords. By and by, in turn, Timon accepts a gift and an invitation to go hunting from Lord Lucius and Lord Lucullus, respectively. Meanwhile, Apemantus who is as sullen as ever, wonders what all these false gestures of friendship will amount to in the end.