Timon of Athens Study Guide

Timon of Athens

Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare

Timon of Athens is a tragic play following the exploits of the title character, Timon, as he slides from wealth and status into bitter, cynical misanthropy. Timon's fall begins when he is exposed to cynical philosophies at a lavish banquet he himself is hosting. Timon's inability to accept counsel leads him to ignore his scribe's warnings of bankruptcy and give lavishly to many artists and writers. This leads Timon to poverty and despair, and eventually to a total rejection of the world of civilization.

The Life of Timon of Athens (date uncertain, published 1623) is a play by William Shakespeare about the legendary Athenian misanthrope Timon (and probably influenced by the eponymous philosopher as well). It is generally regarded as one of his most obscure and difficult works. Originally grouped with the tragedies, it is generally considered such, but some scholars group it with the problem comedies.

Act I

  • Magic of bounty! all these spirits thy powerHath conjur'd to attend! I know the merchant.
    • Poet, scene i

  • When we for recompense have prais'd the vile,It stains the glory in that happy verse

    Which aptly sings the good.

    • Poet, scene i

  • The fire i th' flintShows not till it be struck
    • Poet, scene i

  • No levelled maliceInfects one comma in the course I hold;

    But flies an eagle flight, bold, and forth on,

    Leaving no track behind.

    • Poet, scene i

  • I am not of that feather to shake offMy friend when he most needs me.
    • Timon, scene i

  • Here's that, which is too weak to be a sinner,—Honest water, which ne'er left man i' the mire.
    • Apemantus, scene ii

  • Immortal gods, I crave no pelf;I pray for no man but myself:

    Grant I may never prove so fond,

    To trust man on his oath or bond.

    • Apemantus, scene ii

  • Men shut their doors against a setting sun.
    • Apemantus, scene ii

Act II

  • Every roomHath blaz'd with lights, and bray'd with minstrelsy.
    • Flavius, scene ii

  • 'T is lack of kindly warmth they are not kind.
    • Timon, scene ii


  • Every man has his fault, and honesty is his.
    • Lucullus, scene i

  • Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.
    • 1 Senator, scene v

Act IV

  • Timon will to the woods; where he shall findThe unkindest beast more kinder than mankind.

    The gods confound— hear me, you good gods all —

    The Athenians both within and out that wall!

    And grant, as Timon grows, his hate may grow

    To the whole race of mankind, high and low!


    • Timon, scene i

  • We have seen better days.
    • Flavius, scene ii

  • Not within the leaf of pity writ.
    • Timon, scene iii

  • If thou wert the lion, the fox would beguile thee; if thou wert the lamb, the fox would eat thee; if thou wert the fox, the lion would suspect thee, when, peradventure, thou wert accused by the ass; if thou wert the ass, thy dulness would torment thee, and still thou livedst but as a breakfast to the wolf; if thou wert the wolf, thy greediness would afflict thee, and oft thou shouldst hazard thy life for thy dinner; wert thou the unicorn, pride and wrath would confound thee, and make thine own self the conquest of thy fury; wert thou a bear, thou wouldst be killed by the horse; wert thou a horse, thou wouldst be seized by the leopard; wert thou a leopard, thou wert german to the lion, and the spots of thy kindred were jurors on thy life; all thy safety were remotion, and thy defence, absence. What beast couldst thou be, that were not subject to a beast? and what beast art thou already, that seest not thy loss in transformation!
    • Timon, scene iii

  • I'll example you with thievery:The sun's a thief, and with his great attraction

    Robs the vast sea; the moon's an arrant thief,

    And her pale fire she snatches from the sun;

    The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves

    The moon into salt tears; the earth's a thief,

    That feeds and breeds by a composture stol'n

    From general excrement: each thing's a thief:

    The laws, your curb and whip, in their rough power

    Have uncheck'd theft.

    • Timon, scene iii

Act V

  • Other incident throesThat nature's fragile vessel doth sustain

    In life's uncertain voyage.

    • Timon, scene i
  • You are an alchemist; make gold of that.
    • Timon, scene i

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