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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Watercolors of Shakespearean Characters 
~ Bastards, Frauds & Tellers of the Truth  ~


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APEMANTUS In TIMON OF ATHENS
by Hannah Tompkins
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Apemantus Watercolor by Hannah Tompkins

 

Apemantus is cast as a "churlish philosopher" and he is that. Like his spiritual brother, Thersites, he litters the environment with his blistering comments. Yet, the extravagance of his misanthropy is wasteful, for there are still many good and useful truths that can be salvaged and re-cycled by a sober sifter.

The causes of his testy cynicism are not the subject here, but that he uses it as an unadorned but reliable vehicle for his caustic remarks. He comes upon the lord Timon in the presence of two fawning cronies:
Timon: "Good morrow to thee, gentle Apemantus." 

Apemantus: "Till I be gentle, stay thou for thou good morrow; When thou art Timon's dog, and these knaves honest."
These are his first words which introduce some disparaging one-liners against the self-seeking poet, painter and jeweler. Timon asks him:
" How dost thou like this jewel, Apemantus?"
And he cracks:
"Not so well as plain-dealing, which will not cost a man a doit."
When another lord asks him "What time o'day is't, Apemantus?"
He answers : "Time to be honest."

That he has some regard for Timon is evident, else he would not spend the time trying to warn him of the deceit and false flattery prevailing. But Timon, wrapped in the ego of his own generosity, is deaf to such counsel:
Timon: "Now, Apemantus, if thou wert not sullen
I would be good to thee."

Apemantus: "No, I'll nothing: for if I should be bribed too, there would be none left to rail upon thee; and then thou wouldst sin the faster."
"O, that men's ears should be to counsel deaf, but not to flattery."
Timon is not only deaf but blind too: but not for long: soon he is deprived of his financial credit and the parasitic vultures fall away as from a carcass clean-picked. In his bitter disillusionment, Timon becomes a beastly hermit living in a cave, grubbing for roots, where Apemantus comes upon him again.

Though he confesses friendship and love for the old man, he still applies salt to the wounds, in an attempt to bring Timon to some balance of moderation by recognizing the truth.
Apemantus: "The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but the extremity of both ends.."
But Timon is too obstinate in his pride to admit he made a mistake or misjudged:
Apemantus: "Art thou proud yet?"
Timon: "Ay, that I am not thee."
Apemantus: "I, that I was no prodigal."
Their conversation is malicious and scathing and resolves itself into name-calling. It is the only thing that is resolved, for it is obvious that Timon will not make any concessions to the truth, and Apemantus will make no compromises.

Timon dies, alone, buried in a wretched grave. Apemantus lives... as befits a truth-teller. His method may not be the most appealing but his intent deserves some respect.


Copyright © 1982 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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