Study Guide

The Life of Timon of Athens Summary

By William Shakespeare

The Life of Timon of Athens Summary

Read the full text of The Life of Timon of Athens with a side-by-side translation HERE.


Timon has it all. He's rich and powerful, and he's got a stellar set of friends. He's living the high life up in Athens. When some merchants show up at his house selling paintings, jewels, and fancy poetry, he's happy to pay them handsomely. When his friend owes a debt, he pays it. When his servant wants to get married, he foots the bill. You get the idea.

But Timon doesn't stop there. He throws extravagant parties, night after night. He gives his friends expensive gifts. His steward Flavius is a little concerned about how much money Timon is spending all the time, but every time he tries to talk to Timon about it, Timon brushes him off.

One day, a Senator asks Timon to repay his debt. Timon has borrowed a couple thousand from him, and he wants it back. There's just one tiny problem: Timon doesn't have the money to repay the Senator—and that's a surprise to him. He asks his steward to repay the man, but he's shocked when his steward says he can't. There's no money left.

Timon isn't too worried, because he's got an amazing set of friends, after all. When he sends his servants to ask them for a little dough, though, he's totally denied. Each one of his friends was eager to eat at his house and take his gifts, but when he asks for something from them, they don't give him the time of day.

Disgruntled, confused, and betrayed, Timon hosts one more dinner party, during which he sticks it to his so-called friends. He throws water and stones at them, cursing their very existence.

Timon has no money and no place to live, so he runs away to the woods. There, he becomes bitter and angry at all of mankind. He also finds a pot of gold in the ground. (We're not kidding.) He decides that money is the root of all evil: it turns men into greedy beasts. That doesn't stop him from using it to get what he wants, though.

Timon comes across his old acquaintance Alcibiades, who has been banished from Athens for disagreeing with the Senators about the death penalty. Timon helps Alcibiades by giving him gold so that he can destroy the city of Athens. Then Timon does the only thing he has left to do: write his own epitaph. He's so livid and cynical at everyone that even when Flavius, his own steward, shows up to help him, he doesn't want it.

Meanwhile, Alcibiades overtakes Athens and forces Timon's enemies to surrender. A soldier finds a tomb in the woods with an inscription about how Timon hates mankind and curses everyone. Alcibiades promises that Timon will never be forgotten.