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MonkeyNotes-Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
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PLOT (SYNOPSIS)

As the play opens, the reader sees Timon leading a happy and prosperous life. He is a man who is known for his generosity. The reader, at this moment, can sense the outcome of his actions, that is, his downfall. Timon is a rich aristocrat of Athens. He loves and trusts his friends and compares them to Ďbrothers commanding one anotherís fortune.í He runs into debt because he is always lavishing expensive gifts on them. He is always ready to come to the assistance of his friends who are in need, for instance, his timely offer of money helps to free his friend Ventidius from prison. Ventidius had been arrested for not paying his debts. Ventidius offers to return the money because he knows that Timon will brush aside his offer. The only true friend of Timon is probably Apemantus, who often criticizes Timon for his irresponsible actions. Timon however pays no heed to his warnings. Towards the end of the first Act, the readers learn about Timonís empty coffer and mortgaged land. However, Timon takes the whole situation very lightly as he has full faith in his Ďfriends.í Timonís faith in his friends is similar to the faith of Lear (King Lear) in his daughters Regan and Gonevil.


One notices that the scene is reversed in the second and third act. Timon discovers that he is in debt when creditors gather around him. He sends his servants to his Ďfriendsí to get help, but they all refuse by giving some excuse or the other. It is ironic that Ventidius, who owes much to Timon for his help during his crisis, refuses to help him when he is in need. Here Timonís good nature is contrasted with the corrupt society around him. Timon is not only hurt by this betrayal of his friends but is also shocked by the nature of mankind. He decides to teach them a lesson and show them what they are worthy of. He invites them for a banquet. The guests arrive happily, thinking that they will once again receive gifts from Timon. They however are in for a surprise. When they uncover their dishes to eat, they discover that they have only been served warm water. When they express their surprise, Timon throws the warm water on them, curses them and throws them out of his house. Flavius, the faithful steward, feels sorry for his masterís condition. Timon leaves the city of Athens and takes shelter in a cave in the woods. One day as he is digging for roots to eat, he unearths plenty of gold.

Alcibiades comes to the woods to meet Timon. Two prostitutes, Phrynia and Timandra accompany him. Timon is very angry to see Alcibiades and the others because he does not want anything to do with mankind. He bribes the two prostitutes with gold and asks them to continue with their profession and spread venereal diseases. When Alcibiades tells him of his plans to attack Athens, Timon is very happy and advises him to not even spare the lives of babies and women. Later Apemantus comes to visit Timon in the woods. Their conversation soon leads to an argument and then to abuse and Timon chases him out by throwing stones at him. One-day robbers attack Timon, in order to loot the gold that he possesses. Timon, who is now completely disillusioned by mankind, offers them gold and asks them to continue with their villainy. Timonís faithful steward Flavius also comes to visit Timon. When Timon is sure of his loyalty, he offers him some of his newly found treasure on the condition that, he will hate and curse mankind and not show charity towards anybody. The news that Timon has acquired a fortune reaches Athens. All the people who had earlier betrayed him now rush back to him. But, Timon is now an enlightened man and can distinguish true friends from false ones. When the painter and the poet approaches Timon for gold, Timon beat them up and sends them away.

In the meantime, Alcibiades threatens the Senators of Athens. They come to the woods to seek help from Timon. Timon does not bother to listen to them, as he no longer cares about what happens to mankind. Readers can now see the contrast between the prosperous Timon of Athens and the Timon, who is in the woods after his fall. The disappointed Senators return to the city.

There is a lot of similarity in the story of Timon and his friend Alcibiades. Alcibiades is the commander of the army. His friend, who was a soldier, had been sentenced to death for committing a murder. Alcibiades begs the Senators to spare his life, as he had killed in self-defense. Instead of listening to his request, the Senators banish him for supporting a wrong cause. Therefore he too is disillusioned by the behavior of the Athenian Senators. This is specially because he has done so much for the city. But, unlike Timon, Alcibiades assembles a military force and marches towards Athens to avenge against the Senators. The Senators know that they will not be able to defend themselves against Alcibiades and his huge army and therefore surrender.

Alcibiades, in the meanwhile, learns that Timon is dead and that somebody has buried him in the woods. Alcibiades therefore is very sad. But, at the same time, there is hope, as Alcibiades decides to establish a government based on noble principles.

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