Study Guide

The Life of Timon of Athens Act 4, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 4, Scene 3

Read the full text of The Life of Timon of Athens Act 4 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • Somewhere in the middle of the woods, Timon curses mankind.
  • Timon has nothing left, so he searches for food in the woods. He starts digging and strikes gold. Literally: he finds gold in the ground.
  • But don't think that lucky break is going to put an end to all Timon's curses. He thinks back on the destruction gold can bring and decides to keep it buried. He only keeps a small amount for himself to use for food and supplies.
  • Just then, music starts playing in the distance. It's Alcibiades, with two courtesans, Phrynia and Timandra.
  • Timon recognizes Alcibiades, but he doesn't trust him. He's no better than the rest of the Athenians, he thinks. He utters some offensive things at Alcibiades and curses the courtesans to boot.
  • But when Alcibiades recognizes Timon, he pities him. He says he and his crew only have a small amount of cash, but they're happy to share it with Timon.
  • The motley crew is on the way to attack Athens, and they'd love if Timon joined them.
  • Upon hearing this, Timon gives them some gold. Here's a bunch of wealth, Timon says, but it's loaded with a jumble of curses.
  • Timon wants Phrynia and Timandra to keep doing their job (as prostitutes) in Athens. Create more mischief, he commands. Lure men in and give them diseases.
  • After Alcibiades and his crew depart for Athens, Timon reflects on what just happened. He's pretty disgusted with mankind in general. All people care about is money.
  • In walks Apemantus, the grumbler. He's full of his usual glass-half-empty comments, but he's interested in Timon.
  • Isn't it fascinating, Apemantus notes, that Timon was once the belle of the ball, and now he hates everyone? He thinks about how cynical Timon has become and decides he quite likes the man now. After all, they're really similar, right?
  • Timon is outright offended. He's not like Apemantus, he says. Apemantus has never been loved, so he hates everyone. Timon, on the other hand, has been flattered up and down but then betrayed by everyone he knows. Timon insists that his distaste for mankind is warranted, but Apemantus's is not.
  • But Apemantus doesn't give up so easily. He thinks Timon would become a rich guy again if he had the choice. He keeps telling Timon they are twinsies and even tries to help him prepare a meal.
  • The curses continue. This time, Timon is firing them away: he asks Apemantus if anyone has ever loved him. Just myself, Apemantus replies. Timon just mocks Apemantus more.
  • When Timon asks Apemantus what should be done with the world, Apemantus says: "Give it to the beasts."
  • Timon thinks that's just about the dumbest idea ever; Athens is already full of beasts, he says. He curses Apemantus some more and then throws stones at him to make him leave. On his way off, Apemantus predicts that Timon will be bombarded with people in want of his newfound gold.
  • Then some bandits (speak of the devil) arrive. They claim to be soldiers in need of supplies, but Timon calls their bluff. He knows they've heard about his pot of gold. Even though he knows they are lying, he gives them some gold anyway.
  • Anything can happen in the woods, it seems. So when Flavius shows up, we're not really sure how Timon will react.
  • Timon tells Flavius he can't remember anyone from Athens. Yeah, right.
  • Flavius pities his master and tells him he was his honest servant. We sense a quip coming, and we're right, because Timon replies that he never had anyone around who was honest.
  • Cue the waterworks. Flavius cries over Timon's state. He begs him to see that his tears are real and even offers his own money to Timon.
  • Well, it works. Timon says Flavius is the only honest man he's ever known. He starts to rethink his whole philosophy that all men are flesh-eating beasts who prey on each other for fun.
  • Okay, nope, Timon's gonna stick with that philosophy, after all.
  • Then Timon gives Flavius a large portion of gold to repay him for his kindness. Here's the catch: Flavius cannot live with mankind; he has to be apart from them. On top of that, he can never, ever, ever give any charity to anyone, ever.
  • Flavius wants to stay and comfort his master, but Timon sends him away and goes back into his cave alone.