Read Timon of Athens

NOTE on weather/location - it's too late to change the location for meeting, but if the weather turns weird on us we could adjourn to Montlake Library.  The thunderstorm forecast came up suddenly.

Great Timon, noble, worthy, royal Timon!
Ah, when the means are gone that buy this praise,
The breath is gone whereof this praise is made:
Feast-won, fast-lost; one cloud of winter showers,
These flies are couch'd.

Quotations and synopsis follow the location and logistics section.

LOCATION & LOGISTICS: See above for map of spot in Volunteer Park - I'll try for the picnic tables across the road from the wading pool / restrooms at the NE end of the park (east of the conservatory, which is a Victorian glass greenhouse).  The tables tend to migrate, but there are usually some near a big silvery conifer, or the staked dahlia plantings, or east of there (nearer 15th Ave E).  You can call (206)[masked] if you can't find us. Bring lawn chairs if you like. Volunteer Park is right on the #10 busline from downtown.

If the weather seems likely to rain, I will look for an available library. (We can't hold library reservations as back-up any more, since they now require a week's notice for cancellations.) Any location change will be announced by the day before.

Bring a copy of the text if you have one, if not we usually have an extra and can share.  It's not necessary to read the play before hand, but some familiarity with the plot is helpful.  This is a relatively short play.  With intros, dividing out the (many) parts, reading, break, and optional discussion afterwards, expect this to take several hours.

For text, synopsis and "character circles", see


Timon, a wealthy Athenian, gives freely to all who ask - bailing one out, giving another money to marry with, patronizing artists and writers, entertaining all at his table, refusing to be repaid, and generally flinging rich gifts around.

We are born to do benefits.

He basks in the general praise, ignoring his loyal steward Flavius's worries about the debt he is running into.  One of his creditors realizes that the money is unlikely to be repaid, since Timon is famous as an easy touch; people know they can bring him small gifts to prompt lavish ones in return:

Still in motion
Of raging waste? It cannot hold, it will not.
If I want gold, steal but a beggar’s dog
And give it Timon, why, the dog coins gold.

Finally the creditors close in.  Timon is stunned to hear that his vast lands and fortune are gone, to which his steward answers:

Oh my good lord, the world is but a word;
Were it all yours to give it in a breath,
How quickly were it gone!

Timon comforts himself with the thought that his many friends now have an opportunity to return his kindness with a loan of money, which they will surely be quick and glad to do. Alack, he finds, as Billie Holiday sang, "Money, you've got lots of friends,/ Crowding round the door / When you're gone, spending ends / They don't come no more."

Nobody knows him when he's down and out, and Timon is maddened with rage. He becomes as extravagant in his hostility as he had been in his generosity.  After a mock feast where he throws water and pans at the guests, he leaves to become a hermit in the woods.

May you a better feast never behold,
You knot of mouth-friends! Smoke and lukewarm water
Is your perfection. This is Timon's last;
Who, stuck and spangled with your flatteries,
Washes it off, and sprinkles in your faces
Your reeking villany.

The servants of Timon's household bid sad farewells to each other, grieving as well for their former master. In the forest, while digging for roots to eat, Timon finds gold.  He gives it to Alcibiades, an Athenian military leader with his own grudge against the leaders of the city, to finance an attack on Athens.

The cynic Apemantus visits the misanthrope Timon, and remarks:

The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but the
extremity of both ends.

They engage in a battle of insults.

Apemantus: Thou art the cap of all the fools alive.

Timon: Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon!

Apemantus:A plague on thee! thou art too bad to curse...

Timon: If I name thee.
I'll beat thee, but I should infect my hands.

Apemantus: I would my tongue could rot them off!

Timon: Away, thou issue of a mangy dog!
Choler does kill me that thou art alive.

After Timon finally flings a stone at him and sends him packing, more and more visitors turn up.  First bandits, driven by rumors of gold, who he scares into honest living by the violence he urges them to commit. Then Flavius, his steward, whose faithfulness touches his heart, but who he does not wish to see.  Next he drives off a pair of his former sycophants. Finally some Athenian senators arrive to ask for his influence to protect the city from Alcibiades and his army; he offers all Athenians the use of his tree to hang themselves.

Alone, Timon dies in the forest.

Timon hath made his everlasting mansion
Upon the beached verge of the salt flood;
Who once a day with his embossed froth
The turbulent surge shall cover.

In Athens, the senators appeal to Alcibiades not to punish the whole city for the deeds of a few, and he relents.   Hearing of Timon's death, Alcibiades praises him and promises to bring peace to the city.


Join or login to comment.

  • Laurie

    To see this @3:29 (my favorite lines from The Tempest), followed by the segment Second Star to the Right, and Straight on Till Morning beginning with words from Peter Pan @20:14, in the context of the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony see:

    Be not affeard, the Isle is full of noyses,
    Sounds, and sweet aires, that giue delight and hurt not:
    Sometimes a thousand twangling Instruments
    Will hum about mine eares; and sometime voices,
    That if I then had wak'd after long sleepe,
    Will make me sleepe againe, and then in dreaming,
    The clouds methought would open, and shew riches
    Ready to drop vpon me, that when I wak'd
    I cri'de to dreame againe. The Tempest, Shakespeare, First Folio[masked]

    August 11, 2013

  • Robert

    Perhaps others of you missed this as well. I came late to it, but better late than never, thanks to Brian:
    (Tempest, Act 3.2, Caliban.)

    1 · August 10, 2013

  • Paul K.

    I certainly agree with you about this Robert! Thank you for sharing it.

    August 10, 2013

  • jennifer

    So sorry to have to cancel at the last min. Was really looking forward to getting to know this play. Hope you all have a great time!

    August 10, 2013

  • Cheryl M.

    I'm so sorry; the timing tomorrow doesn't work for me after all. Next time! Cherie

    August 9, 2013

  • Toni

    I'll be later, of course, but happy to listen in. I've not read this one.

    August 9, 2013

  • Barbara

    My 40th HS reunion is that day, so much as I've been looking forward to reading this one, I won't be able to make it. It's a tough decision! Looking forward to hearing how it goes!! I hope everyone has a GREAT time.

    See you on the 24th.

    August 6, 2013

    • Cassie P.

      Well I'm sure gonna miss you Barbara. Hope to see ya soon?!

      August 6, 2013

    • Barbara

      Oh, yeah, I'll be at the next one. These reunion things don't happen very often.....I was really looking forward to "Timon," though, and I ALWAYS like our group.

      August 7, 2013

  • Roberta M.

    Really enjoyed the last one and hope to learn at this one whether it's T long I and then mon, or T short I and then mon.

    1 · August 3, 2013

  • Cassie P.

    Im about 95% sure I'll be there.. though if, at the last moment I can hang out with a friend, I'll do that.

    August 3, 2013

  • Cheryl M.

    I will try.

    August 1, 2013

  • Cheryl M.

    I'm just really excited to find this group. I had been a member of an S-reading group in Honolulu and when I moved here in 1999, I intended to start a group, but didn't really dedicate myself to it. Somehow, today, I became aware of you! Looking forward to joining you all.

    August 1, 2013

  • Paul K.

    I enjoyed our last reading of Othello but I am eager to see us also begin to include some of the other plays mentioned as they have given me great satisfaction in my own reading: Timon of Athens, 2 Noble Kinsmen, Edward III & Troilus and Cressida. I enjoyed reading Chaucer's account of that story last year and Joyce Carol Oates has a very insightful essay on that marvelous play you might enjoy.

    July 14, 2013

  • Roberta M.

    Othello would be great fun.

    July 13, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am currently reading King John and following it up with Othello. Really want to read aloud.

    1 · July 1, 2013

13 went

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Create your own Meetup Group

Get started Learn more

Meetup has allowed me to meet people I wouldn't have met naturally - they're totally different than me.

Allison, started Women's Adventure Travel

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy