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Heauton Timorumenos (The Self-Tormentor) is a play written by Publius Terentius Afer, known in English as "Terence", a dramatist of the Roman Republic. The play has presented academics with some problems. Firstly it is not entirely clear whether Heauton Timorumenos is Terence's second or third play. More importantly, due to the scant survival of Menander's play of the same name, there is no simple way to judge how much Terence's version is translation and how much is invention. It is set in a village in the countryside of Attica.
Menedemus - an Athenian nobleman, newly moved to the countryside, father of Clinia
Chremes - Menedemus' neighbour, father of Clitipho
Clinia - Menedemus' estranged son, in love with Antiphila
Clitipho - Chremes' son and a friend of Clinia, in love with Bacchis
Syrus - Clitipho's slave
Dromo - Clinia's slave
Antiphila - a girl raised by a weaveress, beloved of Clinia
Bacchis - a wealthy courtesan, beloved of Clitipho
Sostrata - Chremes' wife
Phrygia - Bacchis' slave
The prologue serves to defend Terence's method of playwriting. He asks the audience to judge the play by its merits, rather than by the opinions of critics.
Menedemus, a wealthy farmer, explains to his neighbour Chremes why he is punishing himself by working hard in his fields. Menedemus explains that he had reproached his son Clinia for his having a relationship with a penniless girl, and had held up his own youth as a soldier as a virtuous contrast. Clinia, shamed, has taken Menedemus more literally than he intended and has gone to live as a soldier in the East. By coincidence, immediately after Menedemus exits, Chremes encounters his own son, Clitipho with Clinia, who has returned from the East. Clitipho tells Chremes not to tell Menedemus, as Clinia is still afraid of his father's wrath. Chremes agrees for the moment but adds that a father's duty is to be severe. Once alone, Clitipho swears he will never be a tyrant in the mould of his father.
Clinia has sent for his lover, Antiphila, who has been in mourning for the old weaving-woman who brought her up. Antiphilia arrives accompanied by Bacchis, the wealthy courtesan with whom Clitipho is in love. Clitipho is angered that his slave, Syrus, has presumed to invite his mistress to his father's house, as his father will disapprove of her. Syrus conceives a ruse for the meantime where Bacchis will pose as Clinia's mistress and Antiphila as her servant. The women arrive; Bacchis praises Antiphila for her virtue and beauty but warns that beauty and men's attention fade, and that she ought to find a man to love who will be constant for life. They meet Clinia and the young lovers are overcome with joy at the reunion.
Chremes informs Menedemus that his son is returned, but believing that Bacchis is Clinia's mistress, he warns Menedemus against welcoming him home, explaining that Clinia is now in love with a spendthrift mistress. He advises Menedemus to wait while Syrus works out a plan. When Menedemus exits, Chremes is surprised to find Clitipho embracing Bacchis, and tells him off. Syrus agrees to help Chremes, but only because it dovetails with his own scheme directed against Chremes: Syrus needs money because he had promised Bacchis money for her part in the deception. Syrus tells Chremes that Antiphila had been pawned to Bacchis by the old weaverress, and Bacchis now wants to sell her, and he advises Chremes to tell Menedemus to buy Antiphila as she is a good bargain: a captive from Caria whose friends will pay handsomely for her release. Chremes thinks it unlikely that Menedemus will go for this.
Sostrata, Chremes' wife, has discovered, by way of a ring that Antiphila has given to her for safekeeping while she bathes, that Antiphila is her long-lost whom she had given away to be exposed on Chremes' direction. Syrus realizes that his deception may thus be found out and he may lose the chance to pay off Bacchis, and may be punished. He withdraws to consider a better plan. Clinia, on the other hand, is overjoyed because Antiphila is now revealed to be a suitable wife for him, so he will be able to abandon the deception. But Syrus says that while Clinia may tell his father the truth, he must keep up the pretense to Chremes for a while longer because Clitipho will be in trouble if Chremes discovers that Bacchis is Clitipho's mistress. When Clinia objects that Chremes will not allow him to marry his daughter while he believes Bacchis is Clinia's lover, Syrus persuades him to maintain the ruse for a day to give Syrus the time to get Bacchis' money. Syrus then tells Bacchis, who is threatening to expose him, to go to Menedemus' house where she will get paid. Syrus then tells Chremes the truth as if it is a trick: he tells him that Clinia has told his father that Bacchis is Clitipho's mistress and that he wishes to marry Antiphila. Syrus advises Chremes that he should go along with this 'trick' and offer to give Clinia dowry money, as well as giving Clitipho money to give to Bacchis to pay off her pledge. Meanwhile, Menedemus has been reunited with Clinia, but he then encounters Chremes who tells him that his son is deceiving him with a false declaration that he wishes to marry Antiphila so that he can extract more money for his mistress Bacchis. Menedemus is dismayed and agrees to pretend to believe his son's plan while Chremes engineers a plot to entrap him.
Following his agreement with Chremes, Menedemus tells his son that his match with Antiphila will go ahead. Chremes is puzzled that Clinia does not respond by trying to extract expenses for the nuptials but then realises that it is he and not Menedemus that is the subject of Syrus' plot. He is in despair as he only has sufficient money to keep up his family for ten days. Menedemus repeats the advice that Chremes gave to him at the start of the play: he should make his son abide by his wishes. Although Chremes approves of the match now between Clinia and Antiphila, because of his financial woe the dowry he can offer is too small. He asks Menedemus to help save his son by pretending that he, Chremes, is giving away all his estate to make a sufficient dowry. Clitipho is distraught when he hears this news, but his father tells him he would rather have his estate be thus disposed of than go to Bacchis by way of his heir. Menedemus upbraids Chremes for treating his son too harshly and Chremes relents, but on the condition that Clitipho give up Bacchis and take a different wife. Clitipho, preferring a full stomach to passion, agrees to marry a respectable girl. In the last lines of the play, Clitipho begs Chremes to reward Syrus for everything he has done for them.
- Lawrence Richardson, Jr., "The Terentian Adaption of the Heauton Timorumenos of Menander", Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 46 (2006), 13–36