Even geniuses need to redraft. Shakespeare was a jobbing writing, so I imagine he had to pick his creative battles, and Timon of Athens was not one of them. Narrative rules of thumb exist for a reason. Rules such as: ‘If you have a character arc, don’t give the first half to one character and the second half to another.’ If you start a play with a character learning to hate all humanity because a few people have wronged him, and you end the play with a character learning to put his hate away when he realises that those few people don’t equal all humanity, then you should ensure they are the same character. And if you are going to have a character realise that not all people are despicable, you should obey the parroting of creative writing manuals, and show us these non-despicable people, rather than just telling us they exist.
There is a rich Athenian called Timon, who gives much charity, gifts, and feasts. He is popular. It has slipped Timon’s mind that he’s paying for these charities, gifts, and feasts with debt. Because Athens has no credit rating authority, Timon’s creditor’s come calling long after he’s lost all ability to repay them. Believing his past beneficiaries will become his present benefactors, Timon asks his friends to bail him out. They refuse, given it is a very large debt, which is primarily his fault. After throwing rocks at his ‘mouth-friends’, he moves to a forest, where he moans about how terrible people are to every passer-by. Meanwhile, an Athenian general called Alcibiades tries to appeal the death sentence of a friend who killed a man in a pub fight. Alcibiades is refused, banished, and so decides to bring an army to destroy Athens. Meanwhile, Timon dies off-stage. In the end, two senators surrender to Alcibiades, and convince him not to kill everyone.