Timon of Athens "Policy Sits Above Conscience"
by William Shakespeare

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"Policy Sits Above Conscience"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: Timon is a generous patron of the arts and an open-hearted, lavish host. He joys in giving, and will return a kindness sevenfold. His extravagance ends in bankruptcy. Before long, his creditors become alarmed and try to collect their loans. Flavius, Timon's faithful steward, convinces him he owes more than twice what he owns. He, believing his friends will succor him in his need, sends servants to request loans from them. The first, Lucullus, tries to bribe the servant to say he was out. The second, Lucius, regrets the ill chance that finds him without means to help. He uses honeyed words, but sends no money. This exchange of words is overheard by three strangers to Athens who, aware of Timon's great mind and reputation for generosity, comment on the situation.

FIRST STRANGERFor mine own part,I never tasted Timon in my life,Nor came any of his bounties over me,To mark me for his friend. Yet I protest,. . .Had his necessity made use of me,I would have put my wealth into donation,. . .But I perceive,Men must learn now with pity to dispense,For policy sits above conscience.