Timon of Athens

by: William Shakespeare

Act V, Scenes iii-iv

At the end of the play, Timon is honored as an honorable man. Yet is it again because he made a gift of gold to Alcibiades, and not because he had any real friends? When Timon's fortunes turned and he fled Athens, no one thought much of his honor. Yet later his servants and apparently everyone else in Athens thought he was worthy enough to try to lure back to Athens. Perhaps Timon's friends made up only a small part of the population of Athens; thus the actions of a small group convinced Timon to curse the entire city and humanity in general. Why, then, could such an equally small group who favored him be unable to change his mind back?

The play ends with many questions about everyone's various intents. Did the citizens of Athens want Timon back in Athens because of his newly found gold? If so, they too were merely flattering him. Did Alcibiades really want to defend Timon or was he only doing it for the gold? Did Timon leave Athens in a rage because a few lords, who were later punished by Alcibiades, were cruel to him, when the rest of the city liked him? Or did everyone always like him best for his money?

All these intentions are impossible to know, which is precisely the reason that Timon presumably disappeared into the wilderness. He couldn't figure out what anyone wanted out of him, but it certainly wasn't uncomplicated friendship. Once money was involved, everything became complex, and no one's intentions remained honest and clear. So Timon was an extremist; he began believing the best about everyone, believing generosity paid off, and enjoying giving things to his friends. And he died believing that he had no friends, everyone hated him, generosity was a waste, and there were (almost) no honest men. The real truth was probably somewhere in between. But Timon was not an astute enough student of human nature to see the truth in the middle path.

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