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Summary Act 5


While inveighing against humankind and wishing that nature will conspire with him against humankind to ultimately lay it to waste, Timon digs for roots—for his sustenance—only to find gold. Chagrined, Timon inveighs against gold which would corrupt man to the extent of making servants of masters and vice versa; beggars of magnates and vice versa; knaves of senators and vice versa; and etcetera and vice versa when Alcibiades, with an army at his command, stumbles upon Timon who is quick to have his gold concealed. He is quick to recognize his former friend Alcibiades too, and convinced that he is no better than any of his other former friends bids him a speedy farewell, wishing him ill in the process. Taken aback, Alcibiades, who, for his part, recognizes Timon, objects to Timon’s acrimony and goes so far as to offer to do Timon a good turn. Timon rejects the offer, however, and instead does a good turn for Alcibiades and for the two whores Phyrinia and Timandra, offering them each a substantial share of his gold when he learns that Alcibiades and his followers are on their way to launch an attack on Athens. As he is in need of money, Alcibiades accepts Timon’s gold but he makes it clear that he will not commit the atrocities on Athenians that Alcibiades would have him do. As for Phyrinia and Timandra, they vow to continue their whoring ways as long as Timon is willing to pay them for thus avowing. Eventually, Alcibiades has his army on the march again. Timon, meanwhile, incredulous at man’s insatiability for riches, continues to dig when he simultaneously unearths a root to his joy and to his exasperation senses another man approaching. The man is Apemantus, the misanthrope. He is incredulous that Timon who had at one time been adored by one and all and vice versa could end up hating humankind as he has. By and by, Apemantus, arguing that humankind is scum, a fact that he himself has always known to be the truth, admits his new found fondness for Timon. But, Timon denies that they have anything in common, arguing that Apemantus is the way he is—a cynical bastard—because he has never known what it is to be loved and adored, and moreover that his hatred of mankind is unwarranted as he has never known what it’s like to be flattered and then betrayed. Regardless, Apemantus persists in trying to convince Timon that they are, so to speak, brothers-in-arms. Timon has nothing but insults for Apemantus, however. Eventually they part ways, as Apemantus, who is still convinced that they are two of a kind, promises to return when he feels so inclined. Anon, a band of thieves, who have heard news of Timon’s liberal hand with regard his new found gold, greet Timon, claiming that they are actually soldiers in need of provisions. Timon calls their bluff, and yet rewards them with a share of his gold, arguing that their thievery is a fitting complement to the nature of the universe which is in its every aspect a thief. The argument is so damning that the thieves feel compelled to give up their criminal ways. Their departure ushers in Timon’s steward Flavius who declares his everlasting loyalty and service to Timon. Timon denies that he has ever had such a faithful servant in his service, compelling Flavius to weep. Taking pity on Flavius, Timon offers a few kind words. Eventually, giving Flavius a substantial share of his gold, Timon advises Flavius to go and make a decent life for himself. Flavius pleads Timon that he be allowed to stay and serve Timon to no avail. Dismissing Flavius, Timon retires to his cave only to be paid a visit by the painter and the poet shortly thereafter. Timon welcomes them, but as the poet and the painter have come for the express purpose of ingratiating themselves to Timon so that they might be rewarded with gold, a purpose that Timon has overheard them speak of in confidential tones, Timon chases them away, hurling stones after them. Last but not least, led by Flavius, two senators arrive, first to apologize for the way they had collectively maltreated Timon, and secondly to plead with Timon for his return to Athens where his military leadership is needed to oppose Alcibiades and his army. Timon replies that he does not care. 


Senators question a messenger as to the magnitude of Alcibiades’ army. Though unsure of that intelligence, the messenger informs the senators that Alcibiades has asked Timon to join him in sacking Athens. By and by, a senator arrives with the news that Athens cannot count on Timon to defend her. The senators prepare for the worst. 


A soldier of Alcibiades’ army seeks Timon. He finds a grave with a tombstone in what seems to be Timon’s. But there are words on the tomb which are indecipherable. He decides to copy the words so that Alcibiades’ may interpret them.


Alcibiades enters Athens triumphant. The senators concede their defeat and plead Alcibiades to be just in meting out his justice, arguing that not every Athenian is guilty of maltreating Timon and Alcibiades, that there were Athenians who have made amends to Timon and then some. Alcibiades agrees to be just and use mercy. Anon, a soldier arrives with news of Timon’s death. He shows Alcibiades the waxed copy of Timon’s epitaph. Timon is indeed dead. Alcibiades pays his tribute to Timon, a man who though shunned by man was blessed by the gods.

William Shakespeare