Timon of Athens

The Athenian nobleman Timon is renowned for his lavish gifts and extravagant hospitality. His loyal steward, Flavius, and the cynical philosopher Apemantus warn him that his reckless generosity can only lead to ruin and disillusionment, but Timon, espousing an almost fanatical belief in human goodness, ignores their advice. When his money runs out and his creditors demand payment, Timon sends confidently to his “friends” for help. When all refuse him, he throws one last party, at which he curses all the guests before retreating to the woods outside the city to nurse his newfound hatred of humanity. His anger remains unabated even when, digging for roots to keep himself alive, he comes upon a buried cache of gold. Cursing it as an evil, he gives some to Alcibiades, a former Athenian general who is about to attack the city in revenge for his unjustified exile, and some to Flavius, his former steward. Refusing an offer of friendship from Apemantus, Timon also rejects a desperate plea from the Athenian senate for help in defending the city against Alcibiades’s army. His last act is to compose his own epitaph, which bitterly reaffirms his misanthropy. News of Timon’s death, however, has a sobering effect on Alcibiades, who vows to enter Athens in a spirit of forgiveness rather than revenge.

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