Study Guide

The Life of Timon of Athens Greed

By William Shakespeare

Greed

Party at Timon's house, are we right?

In the beginning of Timon of Athens, Timon is always having people over for huge, all-you-can-eat banquets where he hands out huge, expensive gifts and pays off random people's debts. Sounds like fun, right?

Yeah, maybe a little too fun. Timon's so-called friends are basically just moochers who use him for his dough. They eat his food, take his money, and gorge themselves on his wealth. They may not even know they're doing it; if Timon is offering stuff, why shouldn't they take it, right? Like Timon, these dudes see friendship as mostly an exchange of moolah and favors. It's not about Timon as a person—it's about the stuff he gives them and about the good times he makes possible.

Well, by the end of the play, it's more of a famine than a feast for our main dude. Timon spends the last days of life literally scouring the earth looking for food to feast on. It may be lean times, but Timon is still full enough of delicious quotes about greed to satisfy anyone's appetite for hair-raising snark.

Questions About Greed

  1. Is everyone feasting on Timon, or are some people just eating? Does anyone in the play just take what he needs and nothing more?
  2. Can we blame the men for being greedy when Timon willingly offers so much stuff to them? Doesn't Timon play a role in starving himself?
  3. What fuels Timon's desire to feast on others once he's in the woods? Is his advice to the thieves about eating men up just repeating what others have done to him?
  4. What does Apemantus say about greed? Why doesn't anyone take note of his ideas about what's eating away at Timon?

Chew on This

Timon is responsible for the fact that his friends are feasting on him; he willingly invites people to eat up his wealth all the time.

Timon's so-called friends are vultures who consume Timon's food, gifts, and wealth with their greedy appetites.