Timon of Athens

by: William Shakespeare

Act V, Scenes iii-iv

Summary Act V, Scenes iii-iv


Two more Senators discuss the fate of Athens and Timon. A messenger has heard that another messenger was sent from Alcibiades to Timon, to urge working together against Athens. They senators agree that it is more important than ever to lure Timon back to Athens. But the senators who spoke to Timon in the last scene enter, and declare he is a lost cause.

A soldier in the woods seeks Timon. He comes upon a gravestone, but is unable to read the writing on the stone. He takes a rubbing of the words to his superiors, but leaves believing Timon to be dead.

Alcibiades and his forces approach Athens. Several senators enter, and Alcibiades tells them that the time when he would crouch under the shadow of their power is past. The senators say they have tried to soothe Alcibiades's wrongs, with gestures greater than his grievances. Plus they have tried to woo Timon back to Athens. They were not all unkind, not enough to deserve war, they say.

The senators go on to say that the people who raised the walls of Athens are not the same ones who slighted Alcibiades, and those who caused Alcibiades's banishment are no longer living. They welcome him to march into the city, but ask him not to kill everyone. Rather, they say, choose by lot and kill some, but not all, since the entire population has not offended Alcibiades. Crimes, they say, are not inherited. Enter the city with friendliness, they ask, and make some gesture of kindness.

Alcibiades makes such a gesture, and asks that the senators send out his and Timon's enemies for punishment, and he will harm no one else. And he determines to make no other disturbance in the city. Then the soldier enters with the rubbing from Timon's grave. Alcibiades reads the epitaph, which says that Timon lies dead, a man whom everyone hated. Alcibiades says that Timon expressed well how he felt toward the end of his life. Though he scorned humanity, Timon nevertheless was well respected, he says, and he hopes his faults may be forgiven. Then he enters the city, with hopes for peace.


Alcibiades has now become Timon's champion, mysteriously. Presumably Timon's gift of gold and his urging to wreak havoc on Athens was enough to convince Alcibiades that his goal in attacking Athens should be to punish those who slighted him and Timon. Timon's real advice, of course, was to cause as much damage in Athens as possible, not to just punish a few pompous lords. Yet Alcibiades is restrained in his assault on Athens.