You are on page 1of 20

Greed, Injustice and Self-Interest in The Life of Timon of Athens

Ori N. Bensimhon Dramatic Structure Saturday, November 6th, 2010

The Life of Timon of Athens is a linear play, written by Shakespeare between the years of 1607 1608. It begins with a Poet, a Painter, a Merchant and a Jeweler, all of whom have arrived at the house of Timon in the hopes of paying homage and ingratiating themselves with him. They all show each other the works that they have brought and then go on to speak at length about Timons graciousness. Timon arrives, richly dressed and to a fanfare. His servants dote him on as he speaks with a Messenger about the fate of his friend, Ventidius. Noble Ventidius, as Timon calls him, has been imprisoned for accruing an extraordinarily large amount of debt. Ventidius sent this Messenger in the hope that Timon might help him (financially). Not only does Timon agree to comply, the only thing he asks in return is that Ventidius come to him, so that Timon may help him more. Immediately after this, an old man approaches Timon. This old man claims that one of Timons servants; Lucilius has been frequenting his house at night, to visit with the old mans daughter. The old man wants Timon to forbid Lucilius from seeing his daughter. Lucilius is called forth and confesses that he is in love with the girl. Timon then asks the old man what sort of dowry his daughter would require. It is another remarkably large sum that Timon pays without hesitation. Timon moves on to his business with the four men who began the scene. The Jeweler shows Timon his wares and both, he and the Merchant work to flatter Timon. Apemantus enters and works his way through the four, accusing them all of being base flatterers: wanting to be rewarded financially for their sweet praises. Alcibiades arrives with a large number of other guests. More of Timons friends have arrived. He commands his servants to entertain them, and almost everyone goes inside. Apemantus and a couple of Lords remain. Apemantus continues to bemoan

the greedy, immorality of men and then departs. The two Lords discuss Timons fortune and generosity before deciding to follow everybody else, inside. Timon holds a banquet for everyone that has arrived at his home. Ventidius attends and thanks Timon for his generosity and offers to pay Timon back, double the sum of his previous debt. Timon refuses, saying that he gave to Ventidius cause from his heart, and that he desires no payment or compensation in return for a gift. Timons attendees continue to flatter him and tout his generosity, just as he continues to lavish them all with gifts. Apemantus chimes in at every opportunity to condemn the false kindness of Timons guests. Amidst these events Timons servant, Flavius tries to inform Timon that his fortunes have dwindled. Flavius reveals that though Timon refuses to hear it, he has already mortgaged his properties so that he may continue to lavish gifts upon his friends. Timons friends leave after he finishes presenting their gifts, but Apemantus stays a bit longer. He criticizes Timon for being so gracious to these false hearts, and warns him that he will lose everything, but Timon refuses to listen, claiming that he will not respond to Apemantus while he rails on society. Timon leaves, telling Apemantus to come back with nicer things to say. A senator to whom Timon is indebted reviews Timons accounts and laments that Timon is also indebt to other men. The senator is in need of his money and has seen no payment to date, so he sends his servant, Caphis to collect Timons debt. He instructs his servant to not accept no for an answer, nor to agree to come back on another day. Caphis arrives at Timons house to discover that two other Lords, Varro and Isidore have also sent servants to collect from Timon. Apemantus enters with a fool and berates the servants for their masters profession. Timon finally understands what Flavius has been

trying to tell him: he is deep in debt. Timon decides to send servants to ask his friends for money, but Flavius explains that hes tried that already. Timon sends the servants out anyway. Timons servants each makes their request from the friends that Timon has sent them to, and each friend turns them away for different reasons. More debt collectors begin to arrive at Timons house and he finally confronts them all. Timon is aghast at the behavior of those that he thought to be his friends. He tells Flavius to bring all of his friends over, once more for a feast. Flavius begins to protest, but Timon tells him not to worry. Alcibiades, a military man and a friend of Timon has gone to plea to the senate on behalf of one of his comrades. His friend has committed murder, but Alcibiades tries to defend his actions. He argues with the Senators so much that they banish him from Athens. He plans to come back to attack Athens. Timons guests arrive and he welcomes them in. He tells them all to sit as they must pray to the gods. In his prayer, he makes obvious metaphor to his own plight, describing how men forsake the gods. He then uncovers the dishes to reveal only stones and steaming water. When his guests ask him what this means, he rails at them, going so far as to splash water in their faces. The Lords leave Timon, saying hes gone mad. Timon gives a long speech about his newfound hatred of the city of Athens and its people. He wishes plague and death on all of them, tears off his clothes and declares that he will go live in the woods to be free of people. He finally declares that his hatred of the people of Athens will grow into a hatred of all mankind. Timons servants lament his fate

as their last payment is meted out to them by Flavius. Flavius then departs, hoping to follow Timon and continue to serve him. Alone in his cave, Timon finds a sum of buried gold, some of which he keeps. He buries the rest immediately. As soon as he has found some money, he hears someone approaching; its Alcibiades, accompanied by a pair of whores (Phrynia and Timandra). Alcibiades offers Timon some money, which Timon declines and then tells him hes going to war against Athens. At hearing this, Timon offers Alcibiades and the whores some of his newfound wealth to destroy everyone and everything in the city. They ask for more of his gold and he tells the whores to infect everyone with syphilis. Alcibiades and his company leave. Apemantus arrives and berates Timon for his past behaviors. He explains that Timon has brought this on himself and that it brings him great joy to see Timon brought so low. During their bickering, Timon explains that hes found some gold and before he finally leaves, Apemantus threatens to tell people of Timons new fortune, saying hell be thronged by visitors, which Timon seems to find unsettling. A pair of Thieves arrives and Apemantus finally leaves. Timon gives the thieves gold and tells them to go out and continue their work, stealing. He gives examples and states that there is no person or force in the world that does not steal from something else. The thieves are off-put by Timon and resign to stop their work when there is peace in Athens. Finally, Flavius arrives and explains his grief over Timons fall, weeping. Timon notes his sincerity and claims that there is one honest man among men. He gives Flavius gold and tells him to go live richly, but to show no kindness to any man (beggars included) and to never see Timon, again.

The Poet and Painter from the first Scene of the play come to Timons cave, having heard that hes come upon some gold. They have no work for him, but hope hell pay them for the promise of work to be done. He tells them he can only pay them when theyve each vanquished an arch-villain that travels with them. He then sends them off to find these villains and beats them offstage. Flavius arrives again, with two Senators in tow. The senators wish to ask Timon to return to the city of Athens, saying that everyone feels badly about their poor treatment of Timon. When they mention stopping Alcibiades together, Timon refuses them, saying that he doesnt care about what happens to Athens. Timon tells them that hell die soon and returns to his cave. Flavius and the Senators leave. The Senators who visited Timon return to consult with two other Senators, in Athens. They agree that they may be doomed, since Timon refused to come, and a messenger describes a recent encounter he had with a courier going from Alcibiades to Timon, with a letter. We then see that courier, a Soldier arrive at Timons grave. He cannot read the writing, so he takes a wax imprint back to Alcibiades. Alcibiades and his army arrive at Athens. The Senators plead with him not to kill everyone in the city. They claim that those that wronged Alcibiades are dead. They ask that he only punish those who are the enemies of he and Timon, as it wouldnt be fair to punish everyone else for the actions of a few. Alcibiades consents to the compromise. Just as he does, his soldier enters, bearing the imprint of Timons epitaph. Timon described himself as someone who All living men did hate, but Alcibiades disagrees with this. He says he will remember noble Timonhereafter more. Alcibiades enters Athens, looking to bring peace to the city.

In Timon of Athens, we have three plots. There is that of our main character, Timon and the subplots of Alcibiades, a captain in the military and Flavius, Timons servant. Examining Timons plot, we find that the Happening (the event that begins the chain of events in the play) is when Timon mortgages his property to a handful of Lords who he considers to be friends. Timon has obviously been a very generous person for some time, before we enter the world of the play. The level of his generosity is demonstrated in the beginning of the play, when he so quickly dispenses large sums of money to assist his jailed friend and his enamored servant. Timon had gone so far as to deplete all of his funds. He was then forced to mortgage his lands so that he might keep lavishing gifts upon his frineds. Although not seen on stage, it is this act that begins turning the wheels of cause and effect for this play. When he does this, Timons goals have not really changed. He still only seeks to give generously and share his bounty with his friends. We see that the subplot of Flavius also begins with the mortgaging of Timons properties. He is the one managing Timons accounts, and must now convince his master to spend more mindfully and give more discriminately. Flavius tells Timon that at many times I brought in my accounts, laid them before you; you wouldsay you summed then in mine honestyI have shook my head and wept, yea, gainst thauthority of manners prayed you to hold your hand more closeprompted you in the ebb of your estate and your great flow of debts (II.ii.128-137). Still, despite Flavius genuine interest in his masters wellbeing, Timon refuses to listen to the warnings of his loyal servant. This whole scenario might seem ridiculous to anyone with some common sense. Why would Timon continue to give his friends gifts when hes already in debt, with no

more land to sell? Flavius says that [Timon] commands us to provide and give great gifts, and all out of an empty coffer; Nor will he know his purse, or yield me this: to show him what a beggar his heart is, being of no power to make his wishes good (I.ii.187191). Somehow, Timon has avoided any knowledge of his financial affairs. He is very adept at ignoring the plain truth, in favor of his ideal scenarios. The Complication in this story is met when those that Timon borrowed money from (and also those who he showers with gifts and generosity) call their debts from Timon into collection, and send their servants to his home. One imagines that this has been happening steadily for some time, as Caphis master tells him Be not ceased with slight denial, nor then silenced when Commend me to your master, and the cap plays in the right hand, thusAnd my reliance on his fracted dates have smit my credit (II.i.1623). We are only shown the day on which the volume of calls from creditors seems to reach its height. When Caphis and the other servants all come to call Timons debt due and cannot be turned away, Timon finally listens to what Flavius has been trying to tell him. Though hes become aware of his financial plight, Timon still sees no problems, as he believes that his friends will be as generous as he has been to them. Canst thou the conscience lack to think I shall lack friends? Secure thy heart. If I would broach the vessels of my love and try the argument of hearts by borrowing, men and mens fortunes could I frankly use as I can bid thee speak (II.ii.170-175). Timon sends his servants to collect more loans from his friends, in the hope that they will pay his debts. Timon wishes to prolong his current, generous lifestyle and cannot do so without these loans. When Timon dispatches his servants, Flaminius, Servilius and a Third to Lord Lucullus,

Lord Lucius and Sempronius respectively, he has no expectation other than that of his friends mutual kindness. When Timons creditors begin to call in their debts, the Complication in Flavius story is also met. Flavius immediately sets to work on finding any way possible to salvage Timons financial situation. He goes to Timons friends to ask for loans to help generous Timon in his time of need, however he is consistently met with disappointment. I have been bold, for that I knew it the most general way, to them, to use your signet and your name; but they do shake their heads, and I am here no richer in return (II.ii.193195). After the hopes Timon had pinned upon his friends were dashed, when the servants of his creditors continue to build up outside of his home, Timon is forced to confront them. Something fundamental in Timon changes, creating the Pivot in our story. Tear me, take me, and the gods fall upon you, (III.iv.96) Timon exclaims as he is overwhelmed by the amount of servants demanding money. This could perhaps, be brushed off as a reaction to a stressful situation, but Shakespeare wants us to know that Timon is a different man, now and he wants us to know why. Where he once so adamantly refused the claims of Apemantus cynicism, he now tells Flavius Go bid all my friends again: Lucius, Lucullus, and Sempronius all Luxors, allGo, I charge thee, invite them all. Let in the tide of knaves once more (III.v.7-14). We are given the names of Lucius, Lucullus and Sempronius, indicating that it was their disappointing his expectations in the scenes prior that stirred this change in Timon. Beginning with this initial shift in his behavior, Timon develops a growing contempt for mankind. He wishes to cut ties with humanity and does so by inviting his

supposed friends to a feast that consists of steaming water and stones; a proverbial spitting in their faces. He beats them, rails at them and finally leaves, declaring his hatred as he goes Henceforth be no feast whereat a villains not a welcome guest. Burn House! Sink Athens! Henceforth hated be of Timon man and all humanity! (III.vii.94-97) His hatred-fueled fervor seems to reach its boiling point as he enters into a ranting soliloquy, outside of the city walls. He eventually tears off his clothing and proclaims his wish to live apart from humanity and its poisonous ways. Timon will to the woods, where he shall find thunkindest beast more kinder than mankind (IV.i.35-36). Here, we are seeing the first of four examples of dealing with injustice that Shakespeare gives us. Each of them is very different in nature, with varied outcomes. Timon chooses a passive-aggressive approach. While he chooses to separate himself from society, he continues to bemoan their flaws, if only to the wind. He addresses his grievances, but not with those that he should. Even when he does address them at the feast, he uses the metaphor of the gods relationship with man rather than speak directly. You great benefactors, sprinkle our society with thankfulness. For your own gifts make yourselves praised; but reserve still to give, lest your deities be despised. Lend to each man enough that one need not lend to another; for were your godheads to borrow of men, men would forsake the gods (III.vii.65-69). Timon leaving Athens signals the Pivot in Flavius story. Flavius entire life and purpose have been upended. He is left with only the remains of his masters once-great wealth and the knowledge that his great, kind master is now out in the wilderness, bitter, poor and broken. He resolves that he will go seek out Timon and continue to serve him until Flavius own funds run dry. Alas, kind lord! Hes flung in rage from this ingrateful

seat of monstrous friends; nor has he with him to supply his life, or that which can command it. Ill follow and enquire him out. Ill ever serve his mind with my best will. Whilst I have gold Ill be his steward still (IV.ii.44-51). This is another of the four responses to injustice that Shakespeare shows us. Flavius, while cursing Timons friends does nothing to address the issue with them. Being a servant, he has taken a passive and subservient role in addressing this injustice. We will pause here to examine the plight and subplot of Alcibiades. Alcibiades is a soldier who is uncomfortable when off of the battlefield. Timon observes You had rather be at a breakfast of enemies than a dinner of friends, to which Alcibiades replies So they were bleeding new, my lord; theres no meat like em. I could wish my best friend at such a feast (I.ii.74-77). Alcibiades can be a violent man and he does not take his enemies lightly. Shakespeare is showing us this to highlight the potency OF what Alcibiades does at the end of the play. This also illustrates that his primary love and desire is to be triumphant in battle. As he is a captain (a position of status in the military) and also very young Our captain in every figure skill, an aged interpreter, though young in days (V.iii.5-6), we can assume that he has been this way since the Happening of his story; when he became a soldier. Somewhere in the course of his military career, Alcibiades came to befriend an unknown soldier. This soldier Complicates Alcibiades story when he is sentenced to death for a revenge killing. In this case, we see the extreme approach to injustice being embraced and met with dire consequences. While this is merely a blip in the overall story of The Life of Timon of Athens, its not to be ignored, as it helps to deliver one of Shakespeares messages in this show. This man took a very aggressive and violently

direct approach to dealing with his own injustice. As he is to be put to death and the Senators cannot and will not be swayed, we can gather that Shakespeare is likewise condemning this particular method of addressing a wrong. Alcibiades stands before the Senate and explains that he wants to save his friend from his grim fate, as he thinks that what the unnamed soldier did was honorable. He is a man, setting his feat aside, of comely virtues; nor did he soil the fact with cowardice- an honour in him which buys out his fault- but with a noble fury and fair spirit, seeing his reputation touched to death, he did oppose his foe; and with such sober and unnoted passion he did behave his anger, ere twas spent, as if he had but proved an argument ( For all of his pleas and efforts, Alcibiades earns himself the wrath of the senate and is banished, which drastically Pivots his outlook and goals. We see a change in him that can be related to Timons, though it is not as drastic in Alcibiades case; he was already prone to violence and glad for an excuse for it. Alcibiades most recent desire is to attack Athens for treating him so poorly when he has given so much of himself to them. Im worse than mad. I have kept back their foes while they have told their money and let out their coin upon large interest I myself, rich only in large hurtsI hate not to be banished. It is a cause worthy my spleen and fury, that I may strike at Athens (III.vii.104-112). Alcibiades situation is analogous to that of Timon. They have both served their city and friends well, contributing only out of a desire to do so and are each disrespected and taken for granted. The primary differences between the two stories are their response to this scorn, and the results those responses bring about.

Now returning to Timon, we find that his story has taken a Twist, as hes happened upon a mass of gold while digging in his cave and with it, hes also found his new objective. Timon laments upon the evil that gold can do, and swears to use it to do just that. This yellow slave will knit and break religions, bless thaccursed, make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves, and give them title, knee, and approbation with senators on the benchThou common whore of mankind, that puts odds among the rout of nations; I will make thee do thy right nature (IV.iii.34-45). At this point, Timon completely juxtaposes the version of himself that was shown in the first Act. He once saw money as a means to happiness and now intends to use it to bring about ruin. Alcibiades objectives shift after his meeting with Timon and his storys twist- in the woods. Timon grants him and his whores gold from his recent find, instructing them to bring as much death and disease upon the people of Athens as possible. Alcibiades leaves with his company and a new resolve. He is no longer revenging only himself, but he intends to answer Timons injustice as well by not merely attacking the city, instead destroying it. Strike up the drum towards Athens, says Alcibiades resolutely, Farewell, Timon. If I thrive well, Ill visit thee again (IV.iii.168-169). In his new objective, Alcibiades appears to be following the more warlike path of his friend, the unnamed soldier, in terms of dealing with these injustices. It seems hes set to take his problem to the source and deliver whatever punishment he sees fit. Flavius story also takes its Twist when he comes to Timons cave. His selfless request to continue serving Timon with his own funds is denied. Timon has been touched by the kindness of One honest man- mistake me not, but one (IV.iii.489). He gives Flavius gold from his newfound bounty and tells him to Go, live rich and happy

(517). Timon then sends him away and gives him specific instructions to never return. Flavius later ignores these orders, which is very uncharacteristic for him. He always did whatever Timon asked of him, even when it was to Timons detriment. Shakespeare wants us to take note of this unexpected behavior, because listening to Timons command would have been in direct opposition with Flavius new objective. He loves his master and wants desperately to save him from this fate. Even his last words before departing Timons cave are of a loving nature O, let me stay and comfort you, my master (525526). When Flavius returns later, he brings two Senators with him who seek to welcome Timon back. Peace and content be here! Lord Timon, Timon, look out and speak to friends. ThAthenians by two of their most reverend senate greet thee. Speak to them, noble Timon (V.ii.12-15). Even now, Flavius calls him a friend and noble Timon, demonstrating his undying loyalty to his master. We can see that Flavius has brought the Senators in the hopes that this entire situation can be put behind them and that they might be able to return to a sense of normalcy. His hope that he might be able to save or rouse Timon from his ire is finally dashed when Timon declares that he doesnt care for the people of Athens or their fates. Flavius finally sees that his master is beyond saving and gives up Stay not; alls in vain (V.ii.69), he tells the Senators. Trouble him no further. Thus you still shall find him (98). Flavius leaves Timon again, finally accepting that he can do no more as his story comes to a very unsatisfactory resolution. Flavius passive approach to problem solving is shown to be very unsuccessful. He never seeks out the source of a problem, like the unnamed soldier and Alcibiades do and he fails to make known any of his complaints to anyone but himself. No matter what

his goal is, Flavius consistently fails because of his passivity. Shakespeare uses Flavius to demonstrate that in following the polar opposite to the unnamed soldiers method of problem solving, one will never get anything that they desire. Before Timon enters his cave to die, he proclaims Graves only be mens works, and death their gain. Sun, hide thy beams. Timon hath done his reign (V.ii.107-108). Timon has to tell us that hes going to die, because we never get to actually see this Resolution. Shakespeare hides Timons death (most unlike his approach in some of his bloodier tragedies) to express to the audience how completely alone Timon was at the end. Not only has Timon hidden himself away from humanity, now hes completely separated himself from other men, having cut off and refused contact from even those that were loyal to him (Timon tells both, Alcibiades and Flavius to leave and never return). The epitaph that Timon wrote for himself curses all who still live, proving that he clung to his newly misanthropic ideals until he died. Here lies a wretched corpse, of wretched soul bereft. Seek not my name. A plague consume you wicked caitiffs left! Here lie I, Timon, who alive all living men did hate. Pass by and curse thy fill, but pass and stay not here thy gait (V.v.75-78). Even in death he seeks to separate himself from mankind. What is Shakespeare trying to tell us with this? It was this obsessive hatred that actually killed Timon, as there was never any mention of him being elderly or ill prior to his death. Timons bitter, lonely and isolated death is the result of his passive-aggressive nature, and one of the morals that Shakespeare tries to convey. While Shakespeare wants us to understand this consequence, he doesnt want us to focus on Timons death. The play is titled The Life of Timon of Athens, so it is Timons life and the way that he

lived it that we are supposed to pay attention to. This is also a possible reason for Shakespeare to have held Timons death offstage. Timon may rant and rail and make his opinions known, but it is never to the source of the problem and never in a direct fashion. Instead of dealing with the source(s) of his misery (his creditors) directly, he sends liaisons, and finally runs away from his problems altogether, when he isolates himself in the woods. His passive-aggressive nature can also be found in his earliest interactions in the play. He gave gifts, asking nothing in return and merely expecting that his friends offer the same graciousness to him. He lacked the assertiveness that could have ultimately kept him alive. Finally we come to Alcibiades Resolution and the Ending to this play. The Senators inform Alcibiades that those who banished him are already dead and ask that he only punish those who deserve his wrath. They tell him These walls of ours were not erected by their hands from whom you have received your grief; not are they such that these great towrs, trophies, and schools should fall for private faults in them (V.v.2226). No longer having a personal stake in the matter, Alcibiades appears to approach the situation with a clearer head and agrees to enter Athens peacefully, only punishing those that deserve it (enemies of he and Timon). Bring me into your city, and I will use the olive with my sword (86-87). Alcibiades has shown himself to be an assertive (not aggressive, like his soldier friend) individual. He sought out the source of his problems, and didnt simply take action, or shy away. Once his personal stake was removed, Alcibiades rage subsided and gave way to a levelheaded exchange between he and the Senators. By compromising, Alcibiades was able to get exactly what he wanted (and the same could be said for the

rest of the citizens of Athens). Shakespeare shows us that the best outcome by far was with Alcibiades quest to right a wrong. This demonstrates that Shakespeares support was with the assertive method and the power of compromise. Many of the lesser characters in this story also play important roles. Apemantus serves the role of the raisonneur. While he may be bitter and cruel, Apemantus is a font of truth to Timon. When asked what time it is, Apemantus quips that its Time to be honest (I.i.258). Early on, Apemantus suggests that Timon is paying people to flatter him, with his gifts. Yes, he isto pay thee for thy labour. He that loves to be flattered is worthy othflatterer (226). After Timons fall from grace, Apemantus explains to him that his fate was brought about by his own foolishness and that he deserves it. Thou gavst thine ears like tapsters that bade welcome to knaves and all approachers. Tis most just that thou turn rascal (IV.iii.215-217). Apemantus consistently laments the devious and selfish natures of men. Since Apemantus is our voice of reason, we can gather that Shakespeare uses him as a mouthpiece to express the corruption that he saw in his own society. Setting the World of the Play in ancient Greece, instead of Shakespearean England helps to illustrate the timelessness of this quality in men. We can see that Shakespeare regards this selfishness to be as ancient as man, himself. The only characters that seem to escape the terrible flaw of self-interest are the servants. Flavius, Timons servant is one honest man, as Timon remarks, but the other servants too, juxtapose their masters positions. The servants note how strange it is that their masters call in Timons debts while still wearing his gifts to them. Mark how strange it shows. Timon in this should pay more than he owes, and een as if your lord should wear rich jewels and send for money for em (III.iv.25-28). This suggests that the

lower class is more adept at empathy than their financial superiors, and is in alignment with Timons assessment of golds potential to do evil. The servants do not have much in the way of money and so, are not corrupted by its influence. Much like Alcibiades at the end of the play, the servants can also look at the situation more objectively than their masters because they have nothing to lose, personally. Once again, we can see that cooler heads prevail. Another important minor character (as they always are in Shakespeares plays) is the Fool. Shakespeare is notorious for making the Fools in his plays possessed of some intrinsic wisdom. This fool is no different. He explains that he works for a mistress, or prostitute and equates this profession to that of Timons creditors. Indeed, all of the servants that have come to call in Timons debts are somewhat reminiscent of our modern day pimps and enforcers being sent to collect from a client. When asked what a whoremaster is in conversation, the fool replies A fool in good clothes, and something like theesometime t appears like a lord, sometime like a lawyer, sometime like a philosopherHe is very often like a knight; and generally in all shapes that man goes up and down in from fourscore to thirteen (II.ii.103-108). The fool explains that all men may engage in any manner of degenerate behavior, from wise men such as lawyers and philosophers to the most respected and honorable of knights. Whores are used repeatedly as a motif in this play, demonstrating that the self-interest of man that is highlighted throughout this play is a part of mans basest and most innate nature, much like the need for sex. This Shakespeare believes, is how we are programmed. There are a number of themes in this play that help to emphasize the idea that man is selfish at his core. Gold is constantly being given from one character to another, found

and held on to. The gold is really a vehicle to illustrate the finer points of greed and generosity. We are meant to understand that most men are selfish, and those that are not wary of this trait in others are doomed to woe, much like Timon. We also notice that Timon has a steady stream of visitors, only so long as he has money. This suggests that men might only maintain their friendships if there is something for them to gain. The gods (Greek/Roman) are a motif mentioned often in this play. Timon even compares their plight to his own, before he unveils his final feast. The gods are obviously a component of the World of the Play, as their presence was heavily considered in everyday ancient Greece. The Greek gods were notoriously human in their nature; they were far more similar to people in their natures and dispositions than modern, monotheistic deities. When Timon compares his plight to that of the gods, it lacks the same punch felt when for example, the Beatles were said to be bigger than Jesus, because the Greek pantheon was as flawed (often more so) than the people who worshipped them. Setting the play where and when he did and allowing himself to use this pantheon allows Shakespeare to put a heavier focus on the flaws that are inherent in humanity. Still, its not to be forgotten that the gods were to exist on a higher plane, and that Timon was using this comparison to separate himself from the rest of humanity. Men are inherently self-interested and the only way to effectively live among them in society is for one to go after their desires through open discourse and compromises. This is the message that Shakespeare wants us to walk away with. At every turn we are shown that excluding rare exceptions, man cannot be trusted to look out for anything but his own interests. Timon, Flavius and Alcibiades, all of who gave and served unselfishly to their respective causes are not granted the only things that they ask

from those that they serve: Timon his loans, Alcibiades his friends pardon and Flavius Timons welfare. Each of these men has an injustice to right and each goes about it in a different fashion. Only Alcibiades gets what he wants in the end, because he was willing to let his self-interest find balance with reason and comes to a compromise.