Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Athens is become a forest of beasts.”
Timon of Athens is one of the most depressing Shakespeare plays I’ve read this year. Timon is a wealthy and generous nobleman of Athens who goes bankrupt from his generosity. His “friends” flee and refuse to loan him money in his need. Timon changes from a naïve optimist to a hardened cynic overnight. He hates all mankind and lives out in the woods. Even when the Athenians come and offer him dictatorship of the city, he refuses. He kills himself, and leaves an epitaph that rails against the reader to go away and curses him to be consumed by a plague.
Apart from God’s revelation, men have a hard time staying balanced in their view of man. Are people basically good and well-intentioned, to be trusted until proven otherwise? Or are they sinners who should always be suspected? The truth is in between. Because of our sinful nature inherited from Adam we do need accountability, checks and balances, or we will try to get away with anything. But God also gives common grace to all men, and His Spirit at work in believers, to pursue the good, true and beautiful. Total depravity doesn’t mean we should always suspect everyone’s motives to be malicious. Grace doesn’t mean we can expect all sweetness and roses all the time.
Timon’s quote above assumes Athens changed. But what had really changed was Timon’s situation, giving him new information about his supposed friends. God brings changes into our lives to reveal our character and teach us new things. Timon is a classic bad example of how NOT to respond. It’s true that he needed to grow in his view of others, but he learned the wrong lesson.
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