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Timon of Athens

In Timon of Athens, Lord Timon discovers the limits of wealth and friendship. He spends freely on others and hosts banquets for many guests. Despite his servants’ warnings, he spends so excessively that his money runs out—and the philosopher Apemantus condemns his flatterers as insincere.

Soon Timon's creditors begin to call in their loans. Timon expects help from his friends, but they all refuse him money. Furious, he invites them again to a banquet, but serves only water and stones before he dismisses them, cursing Athens. He exiles himself to a wilderness.

There the embittered Timon finds gold. He gives some to enemies of Athens and to prostitutes and bandits. When Senators beg him to return to Athens as a military leader to save the city from his banished friend Alcibiades, he refuses and retreats to a cave to die. Alcibiades defeats Athens but promises to protect the city and its citizens. Learning of the despairing inscription on Timon's tombstone, he repeats his offer of bringing peace to the city. 

Early printed texts

Timon of Athens was printed first in the 1623 First Folio, and that text is the source of all subsequent editions.

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Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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Second Folio (1632) 

Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing Timon of Athens

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Timon of Athens is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

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Timon is visited by Alcibiades and his concubines (Act 4, scene 3; 1794)

Item Title: 
Timon of Athens, act 4, scene 3, Woods, Timon, Phrynia, Timandra, Alcibiades [graphic] / painted by Northcote, R.A. ; engrav'd by Stowe.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528t3 no.24
Item Creator: 
Stow, James, b. ca. 1770, printmaker.
Item Date: 
London : Mr. Woodmason, Augt. 1, 1794.

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Edmund Kean as Timon (1816)

Item Title: 
Mr. Kean as Timon [in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens] Nothing I'll bear from thee but nakedness, thou detestable town! [graphic] / Cruickshanks [sic], del. ; Alais, sculp.
Item Call Number: 
ART File K24.4 no.93
Item Creator: 
Alais, J., printmaker.
Item Date: 
London : Pubd. by J. Roach, Russell Court, Drury Lane, Novr. 4, 1816.

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Timon buries the gold (Act 4, scene 3; 1829)

Item Title: 
Timon of Athens, IV, 3, Timon laying aside the gold [graphic] / [Johann Heinrich Ramberg].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box R167 no.26 (size L)
Item Creator: 
Ramberg, Johann Heinrich, artist.
Item Date: 
1829

More images of Timon of Athens can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)