Timon of Athens

Type: 
Tragedy
First Performed: 
1607-08
First Printed: 
1623
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He that loves to be flattered is worthy o' the flatterer.

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Timon, a rich Athenian, is famous for his generosity and kindness. He pays friends' debts to free them from prison and gives money to a servant to allow him to marry. His generosity, however, leads to his bankruptcy and he must face his debtors. After all his kindnesses, Timon is dismayed when his requests for help are all refused by his friends. He decides to throw a feast, but when his guests arrive, he shocks them and serves only bowls of warm water. The disillusioned Timon renounces not only these “friends,” but all of mankind, and retreats from Athens to live in solitude.

Meanwhile, army captain Alcibiades is banished from Athens for his persistent requests for mercy on behalf of one of his men. He seeks out Timon, who has discovered a treasure of gold while digging for roots to eat. With a gift of gold, Timon persuades Alcibiades to attack Athens. He also gives gold to a group of bandits, and extracts from them the promise of another attack on Athens. However, Timon's rantings against Athens have the opposite affect, and the bandits give up their pillaging. When Alcibiades invades Athens, the Athenians turn to Timon for help. The senators of Athens try to persuade Alcibiades to pursue peace with Athens by offering atonement for sins against Timon, but a soldier arrives with the news that Timon has died alone in his cave.