Timon of Athens

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scene iii


Timon escapes Athens hoping to be left alone, but he has barely a moment to himself in the wilderness. He has just enough time to discover gold, an unfortunate irony for a man who has just been broken by an absence of gold. But Timon can't go back now, so he distributes the gold to those he believes can use it to bring about the downfall of Athens. He gives it to Alcibiades to help in his campaign against Athens and to the prostitutes to urge them to infect as much of the population as they can. He gives it to the bandits and urges them to rob Athens--but he makes them so rich that they consider quitting their profession! But overall he wishes destruction and ruin on his former home.

Even in the wilderness people line up for Timon's attention. Apemantus arrives, claiming he has come only to annoy Timon, and doing just that. Yet the two pause in their insult slinging long enough to have a reasonable conversation about their fates, how Timon's fall is harder because he had been raised so high. Yet the two men don't seem to come to any greater closeness through this exchange, even through a kinship of hating humanity. In the feast scene, Apemantus played the observer, but here he must interact with Timon--yet to what end? He achieves no understanding with Timon, and is the only character who leaves without any gold.

Then Flavius arrives, demonstrating to Timon that he had one honest man in his company in Athens, and convincing him that he need not curse the entire human race. Timon notes that this one honest man is a servant, not a lord or a senator or a man of any stature. But it's too late for Timon to benefit from this information; he gives Flavius his newly acquired gold and prepares to die. Yet Athens is redeemed, if not in Timon's eyes; for one good man among the masses may be enough to make Athens worth saving.