The Self-Tormentor "Nothing Human Is Indifferent To Me"

Terence

"Nothing Human Is Indifferent To Me"

Context: Terence's comedy, his third play, is based upon a Greek comedy with the same title by Menander. It is a drama of trickery, action, and recognition, with a double plot involving two love affairs. In the play, Menedemus, the father of Clinia, regrets that he has compelled his son to go abroad to the wars and punishes himself for his action by working hard during Clinia's absence. The reason that Menedemus has sent his son away is that he disapproves of the young man's keeping of a mistress, Antiphilia. One day Menedemus is paid a visit by his farmer-neighbor, Chremes, who tells him that he is working much too hard, though he speaks apologetically to Menedemus, since their acquaintance is but recent. Chremes says that Menedemus, a man of sixty years or more, should let his slaves do the work. He ends by giving Menedemus advice, which ends the opening speech of the play. His later comment about interest in people and their affairs, translated in many ways, but with one meaning, became famous in Roman times; many Romans referred to it as expressing the common brotherhood of man.


CHREMES
. . . Why, you would do more good if the time which you waste in labouring with your own hands was spent in keeping your slaves hard at work.
MENEDEMUS
Chremes, does your own business afford you so much leisure that you can attend to other people's, with which you have nothing to do?
CHREMES
I am a human being; I am interested in everything human. You may take it that I am giving you this advice, or asking you the question: if it is right to do so, then I will do so myself; but if it is wrong, then let me dissuade you from it.
MENEDEMUS
I must do so; you may do what you please.
CHREMES
Must any man torment himself?
MENEDEMUS
I must.