Timon of Athens "Life's Uncertain Voyage"

William Shakespeare

"Life's Uncertain Voyage"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Timon, a good and generous man, spends all he has on fair-weather friends. When convinced that he is bankrupt, he tries to borrow from them and is repulsed. Deeply affected by such ingratitude, Timon invites his friends to a banquet but serves only water, which he throws in their faces, and leaves Athens for self-imposed exile in a cave near the sea. His joy in life and giving turns to bitter misanthropy. The play, a study in the tragedy of ingratitude, offers another example of thanklessness. Alcibiades, general of Athens, and true friend of Timon, pleads for the life of a soldier who has served Athens faithfully. He is not only refused, but banished by a short-sighted and ingrate Senate. Alcibiades gathers an army of discontents and threatens Athens. Meanwhile, Timon, digging for roots as food, finds gold. Alcibiades comes to him, and when Timon discovers that Alcibiades marches against Athens, he shares the gold with him. Word reaches Athens that Timon is rich again, and two senators come to him to ask his aid against Alcibiades. He tells them that for all he cares Alcibiades may sack Athens and kill all its citizens. Then he raises their hopes.


TIMON
Commend me to them,
And tell them that to ease them of their griefs
Their fears of hostile strokes, their aches, losses,
Their pangs of love, with other incident throes
That nature's fragile vessel doth sustain
In life's uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them. . . .