William Shakespeare

Timon Of Athens

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Timon Of Athens Summary

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Timon of Athens is William Shakespeare’s 29th play, written around 1606. Critics believe he co-wrote the play with Thomas Middleton, one of his most successful contemporaries. Considered a tragedy, it has several elements; it is unique among Shakespeare’s work for being incomplete and not as polished as his other plays.

The play’s themes include human greed, ingratitude, and the possibly negative ramifications of extreme generosity.

The first scene is set in the house of Timon, a wealthy Athenian nobleman. Various merchants, including a poet, a painter, and a jeweler, talk amongst themselves about the possibility of selling their work to Timon.

Timon learns that his dear friend, Ventidius, is in prison; to match his bail, Timon sends him money. He ends up purchasing merchandise from the visiting workmen.

His friend Apemantus visits his house. A laconic and gruff man, he ignores Timon’s cheerful greeting and ridicules Timon’s other visitors, who are, according to Apemantus, just there to get his money. This includes one poet who writes verses about Timon being Dame Fortune’s best friend.

Timon doesn’t heed Apemantus’s skepticism. His other friend, Captain Alcibiades, also comes to his house.

Timon throws a large feast in a reception hall. Apemantus is there to observe the flatterers. Timon gives a stirring speech about how he’s thankful for his friends and all that they make for him. His servant, Flavius, worries that Timon will soon run out of money because of his extreme generosity. Rumors abound that Timon has some secret source of income because it seems that he’ll never run out of gifts to impart to others.

But one day, three creditors appear at Timon’s front door. He tries to send them away but they insist on being paid. Flavius warned him about his dwindling funds several times before but Timon always waved him away.

Timon tries to sell his land but it is already mortgaged. He asks his friends for loans, but none are willing to help him. He asks Ventidius, whom Timon recently freed from jail, but even he refuses to help.

Servants start circling Timon’s house awaiting payment. They consider among themselves how odd it is that their masters are demanding money from Timon while they continue to wear and use the gifts he gave them.

Despite all his financial hardship, Timon plans one last dinner party. Timon invites his friends and other noblemen. During the feast, Timon publically prays that God never gives people all that they desire, for one day, they will abandon him. He has his remaining servants brings out all that he has to offer: bowls of water. He then curses his so-called friends, and leaves Athens.

In another part of Athens, Alcibiades is debating local senators about the sentencing of one of his friends. His friend killed another man in extreme anger. Alcibiades is so irate that the senate views him as dangerous and exiles him. Alcibiades, like Timon, is banished from Athens.

Timon’s servants mourn his loss, saying it’s a tragedy that such a generous man could be so miserably treated and become so cynical in his outlook. Flavius, using the last of his money, is the only servant who follows Timon into the desert.

One day, while scouring for food, Timon discovers a massive mound of gold. Now mistrustful of money, Timon only keeps some of the gold, while burying the rest.

Timon meets Alcibiades in the woods. He listens to Alcibiades’s plan to raise an army and conquer Athens. Timon donates some of his gold, and encourages a massacre in his former home.

Timon is living in a cave when Apemantus comes to see him. Apemantus scolds him for being so generous to everyone, even people who clearly were using him. The two swap insults. Timon doesn’t know why Apemantus hates the world so much when it hasn’t been as bad to him as it has to Timon. They depart, and the only thing they agree on is that humanity should be destroyed.

Flavius visits Timon’s cave once more. He offers his services, but Timon, seeing that he doesn’t hate humanity yet, gives him gold and commands him to leave him alone.

Hearing that Timon has a little gold again, the poet and the painter go to his cave. To have some fun and to exact revenge, Timon sends them on a circuitous journey before he gives them any money.

After his self-imposed exile, two senators of Athens, led by Flavius, arrive to tell Timon that Athens regrets how they treated him; they want him to return. They’re also motivated by the chance that Timon’s presence will keep Alcibiades from invading the city. Despite their pleas, Timon decides not to return and says the two senators should go hang themselves.

Alcibiades begins his invasion of Athens. The senators attempt diplomacy: they say that not everyone in Athens insulted Timon and Alcibiades. Hearing their defense, Alcibiades agrees to enter the city in peace; he will only look to avenge himself against those men who explicitly abused Timon’s generosity and insulted him.

Suddenly, a messenger arrives with the news that Timon has died. In mourning, Alcibiades reads an epitaph that Timon wrote for himself. Alcibiades concludes that it is a great tragedy that Timon died thinking he could trust no one on earth.