Page images

Dennis objects to the characters, that they are not natural, or reasonable; but as heroes and heroines are not beings that are seen every day, it is hard to find upon what principles their conduct shall be tried. It is, however, not useless to consider what he says of the manner in which Cato receives the account of his son's death.

« Nor is the grief of Cato, in the fourth act, one jot' more in nature than " that of his son and Lucia in the third. Cato receives the news of his “ son's death not only with dry eyes, but with a sort of satisfaction; and “ in the same page sheds tears for the calainity of his country, and does “ the same thing in the next page upon the bare apprehension of the danger “ of his friends. Now, since the love of one's ccuntry is the love of one's

countrymen, as I have shewn upon another occasion, I desire to ask these questions : Of all our countrymen, which do we love inost, those whom

we know, or those whom we know not? And of those whom we know, "s which do we cherish most, our friends or our enemies? And of our friends, « who are the dearest to us, those who are related to us, or those who

are not? And of all our relations, for which have we most tenderness, “ for those who are near to us, or for those who are remote? And of our

near relations, which are the nearest, and consequently the dearest to us, " our offspring or others? Our offspring, most certainly; as nature, ot'in other words providence, has wisely contrived for the preservation of man" kind. Now, docs it not follow, for what has been said, that for a man ** to receive the news of his son's death with dry eyes, and to weep at the

same time for the calamities of his country, is a wretched affectation, and "a miserable inconsistency? Is not that, in plain English, to receive with

dry eyes the news of the deaths of those for whose sake our country is 2

name sa dear to us, and at the same time to shed tears for those for whose “ sakes our country is not a name so dear to us?”.

But this formidable assailant is less resistable when he attacks the probability of the action, and the reasonableness of the plan. Every critical reader must remark, that Addison has', with a scrupuloşity almost unexampled on the English stage, confined himself in time to a single day, and in place to rigorous unity. The scene never changes, and the whole action of the play passes in the great hall of Cato's house at Utica. Much therefore is done in the hall, for which any orber place had been more fit; and this impropriety affords Dennis many hints of merriment, and opportunities of triumph. The passage is long; but as such disquisitions are not common, and the objections are skilfully formed and vigorously urged, those who delight in critical sontroversy will not think it tedious.

" Upon the departure of Portius, Semprorfus makes but one soliloquy, “ and immediately in comes Syphax, and shen the two politicians are at Vol. 1.



[ocr errors]


" it immediately. They lay their heads together, with their snuff-boxes ir § their hands, as Mr. Bayes bas 'it, and feague it away. But, in the midst of that wise scene, Syphax seems to give a seasonable eaution 'to Sem

pronius :

16.06 Syph. But is is true, Sempronius, 'that your senate

“ Is call'd together? Gods! thou must be cautious ;
“ Cato has piercing eyes.

* There is a great deal of caution shewn indeed, in meeting in a governor's

own hall to carry on their plot against him. Whatever opinion they have

of his eyes, I suppose they had none of his cars, or they would never Co have talked at this foolish rate so near :

“ Gods! thou must be cautious.

« Oh! yes, very cautious: for if Caro should overhear you, and turn you " off for politicians, Cæsar would never take you ; no, Cæsar would never

s take you.


“When Cato, Act II. turns the senators out of the hall, under pretence “ of acquainting Juba with the result of their debates, he appears to me to *** do a thing which is neither reasonable nor civil. Juba might certainly “ have better been made acquainted with the result of that debate in some

private apartinent of the palace. But the poet was driven upon this abo

surdity to make way for another; and that is, to give fuba 'an opportu- tunity to demand Marcia of her father. But the quarrel and rage of Juba " and Syphax, in the same Act, the invectives of Syphax against the << Romans and Cato; the advice that he gives Juba, in her father's hall, " to bear away Marcia by force; and his brutal and clamorous rage upon « his refusal, and at a time when Cato was scarce out of sight, and perhaps

not out of hearing, at least, some of his guards or domesticks must neces* sarily be supposed to be within hearing; is a thing that is so far from

being probable, that it is hardly possible. «Sempronius, in the second Act, comes back once more in the same " morning to the governor's hall, to carry on the conspiracy with Syphax

against the governor, this country, and his family, which is so stupid, that

it is below the wisdom of the 0-'s, the Mac's, and the Teague's; even « Fustace Commins himself would never have gone to Justice-hall, to have “ conspired against the government. - If officers at Portsmouth should lay “ their heads together, in order to the carrying off * J- G-'s niece or

The person meant by the initials J. G. is Sir John Gibeon, Lieutenant-Governor of Portsmouth in the year 1910, and afterwards. He was much beloved in the army, and by the common soldiers cailed Johnny Gitscr. H.


ço daughter, would they meet in l

mGs hall, to carry on that conspiracy? << There would be no necessity for their meeting there, at least till they came

to the execution of their plot, because there would be other places to meet “ in. There would be no probability that they should meet there, because " there would be places more private and more commodious. Now there « ought to be nothing in a tragical action but what is necessary or procc bable.

“ But treason is not the only thing that is carried on in this hall: that, " and love, and philosophy, take their turn in it, without any manner of « necessity or probability occasioned by the action, as duly and as regularly, “ without interrupting one another, as if there were a triple league between " them, and a mutual agreement that each should give place to and make

way for the otherin a due and orderly succession.

" We now come to the third Act. Sempronius, in this Act, comes into " the governor's hall, with the leaders of the mutiny : but as soon as Cato " is gone, Sempronius, who but just before had acted like an unparallel'd u knave, discovers himself like an egregious fool, to be an accomplice in <- the conspiracy.

Semp. Know, villains, when such paltry slaves presume
“ To mix in treason, if the plot succeeds,
“ They're thrown neglected by ; but, if it fails,

They're sure to die like dogs, as you shall do.
“ Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth
" To sudden death

cc' 'Tis true, indeed, the second leader says, there are none there but friends; " but is that possible at such a juncture? Can a parcel of rogues attempt

to assassinate the governor of a town of war, in his own house, at midcc day, and, after they are discovered and defeated, can there be none near " them but friends ? Is it pot plain from these words of Sempronius,

[ocr errors][merged small]

oc and, from the entrance of the guards upon the word of command, that << those guards were within ear-shot? Behold Sempronius then palpably «c discovered. How comes it to pass, then, that, instead of being hanged up

with the rest, he remains secure in the governor's hall, and there «c carries on his conspiracy against the government, the third time in the same day, with his old comrade Syphax, who enters at the same time " that the guards are carrying away the leaders, big with the news of the “ defeat of Sempronius ; though where he had his intelligence so soon is “ difficult to imagine ? And now the reader may expect a very extraordinary

Ss 2


scene : thers is not abundance of spirit indeed, nor a great deal of passion, “ but there is wisdom more than enough to supply all defects,

& Syph. Our first design, my friend, has prov'd abortive; .
“ Still there remains an acr-game to play:

My troops are mounted, their Numidian steeds
“ Snuff up the winds, and long to scour the desart ;
"Let but Sempronious lead us in our flight,
"We'll force the gate, where Marcus keeps his guard,
6. And hew down all would oppose our passage ;

A day will bring us into Caesar's camp,

Semp. Confusion! I have fail'd of halfmy purpose i

“ Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind. “We!!! but though he tells us the half purpose he has failed of, he does pot tell us the half that he has carried. But what does he mean by

Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind ? “ He is now in her own house, and we have neither seen her. nor heard of "her any where else since the play began. But now let us hear Syphax:

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

“ But what does old Syphax mean by finding her out? They talk as if she “ were as hard to be found as a hare in a frosty morning,

Semp. But how to gain admission !

"Oh! she is found out then, it seems.

“ But how to gain admission! for access

“ Is giv'n to none, but Juba and her brothers. “ But, raillery apart, why access to Juba ? For he was owned and received " as a lover neither by the father nor by the daughter. Well ! but let that “pass. Syphax puts Sempronius out of pain immediately ; and, being a " Numidian, abounding in wiles, supplies him with a stratagem for admission, that, I believe, is a non-pareille :-

Syok. Thou shalt have Juba's dress, and Juba's guards ;
" The doors will open, when Numidia's prince
“Seems to appear before them.

“ Sempronius

** Sempronius is, it seems, to pass for Juba in- full day at Cato's house, « where they were both so very well known, by having Juba's dress and his “ guards; as if one of the marshals of France could pass for the duke of " Bavaria, ar noon-day at Versailles, by having his dress and liveries, “ But how does Syphax pretend to help Sempronius to young Juba's dress? Does he serve him in a double capacity, as general and master of his “ wardrobe ? But why Juba's guards ? For the devil of any guards has Jubą " appeared with yer. Well! though this is a mighty politick invention,

yet, merhinks, they might have done without it: for since the advice " that Syphax gave to Sempronius was,

" To hurry her away by manly force,

“ in my opinion, the shortest and likeliest way of coming at the lady was by “ demolishing, instead of putting on an impertinent disguise to circumvent “ two or three slaves. But Sempronius, it seems, is of another opinion. “ He extols to the skies the invention of old Syphax :

Scmpr. Heavens! what a thought was there!

“Now I appeal to the reader, if I have not been as good as my word, “ Did I not tell him, that I would lay before him a very wise scene?

“ But now let us. lay before the reader that part of the scenery of the “ Fourth Act, which may shew the absurdities which the author has run “ into, through the indiscreet observance of the Unity of Place. I do not “ remember that Aristotle has said any tbing expressly concerning the Unity “ of Place. 'Tis true, implicitly he has said enough in the rules which he “ has laid down for the Chorus. For, by making the Chorus an essential

part of Tragedy, and by bringing it on the stage immediately after the s opening of the scene, and retaining it there till the very catastrophe, he “ has so determined and fixed the place of action, that it was impossible for “ an author on the Grecian stage to break through that unity. I am of opi“nion, that if a modern tragick poet can preserve the unity of place, with« out destroying the probahility of the incidents, 'tis always best for him to 46 do it ; because, by the preservation of that unity as we have taken notice “ above, he adds grace, and cleanness, and comeliness, to the representatiis on. But since there are no express rules' about it, and we are under no c. compulsion to keep it, since we have no Chorus as the Grecian poet bad; «c if it cannot be preserved, without rendering the greater part of the inci“ dents unreasonable and absurd, and perhaps sometimes monstrous, 'tis s certainly better to break it.

« Now

« PreviousContinue »