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Summary Act 4


Senators have gathered at Timon’s house for a feast, and as they wait for their host they each make known to the others of his extenuating circumstance which had prevented him from lending Timon money. Indeed, every one of them has an excuse for not lending and every one of them expresses his regret—the authenticity of which is at best suspect—for being unable to lend. Presently, the senators are exchanging information as to the exact sum of money that Timon had requested of each one of them when Timon appears on the scene to welcome his guests. Timon and the senators exchange greetings, and though all seems to be outwardly well Timon inwardly disparages the treachery that lies within the senator’s hearts. A few of the senators have reservations (of Timon) too. By and by, as the table is set and the covered dishes brought out, the feast begins. As master of ceremony, Timon offers a prayer to the gods which seems fitting but for its tenor and actual content. Indeed, to the senators’ shock and outrage, Timon urges the gods to avoid borrowing from the senators lest they--like Timon—find themselves friendless and destitute and to condemn them to destruction which they so well deserve. As if that wasn’t shocking and outrageous enough, Timon uncovers the dishes, revealing them to be stones in steaming water. Understandably, the senators begin to leave in droves. They are, nonetheless, abused to the very end as Timon pelts them with stones and much deserved insults. Having distanced themselves from Timon’s house, the Senators complain amongst themselves of their losses (one has lost his cap, for instance, another his gown), and they collectively wonder if Timon has lost his mind.


Timon rants and rails against Athens, Athenians, and humankind in general. He wishes upon the Athenians a total breakdown of social order. He wishes that Athenian wives become licentious and that Athenian children become disobedient. He exhorts slaves and fools to supplant lords and senators and servants to steal from their masters. He wishes that everything good in Athens becomes diseased and turns to filth. Removing his Athenian garbs, Timon vows to have nothing to do with Athens, with Athenians, and with humankind in general. He goes into the woods, convinced that the beasts of the wilds will prove more kind to him than humankind ever has.


Timon’s servants, including Timon’s steward Flavius, are gathered to lament their master’s fate and to curse their master’s supposed friends who were legion when Timon’s coffers overflowed but who are a handful, if that, since Timon’s coffers have emptied. Led by Flavius, who distributes his meager wealth among his fellow servants, they resolve, despite going their separate ways, to remain loyal to Timon no matter the circumstance. As they disperse, Flavius, cognizant of his master’s desperate straits, determines to seek him out and to help him in whatever way he may yet be of service.

William Shakespeare