35 pages 1 hour read

Joseph Addison

Cato, a Tragedy

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1713

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Character Analysis

Cato

Cato, whose full name is Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, is a Stoic Roman senator who values virtue, honor, and individual liberty above all else. This perspective ultimately compels his decision to commit suicide rather than surrender to the tyrannical Julius Caesar. “Let me perish, but in Cato’s judgment / A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty / Is worth a whole eternity in bondage,” he declares (20). The play’s other characters frequently praise Cato; Juba comments on “what a godlike height / the Roman virtues lift up mortal man” (11).

 

Cato prizes virtue over passion and his own suffering; when his son Marcus dies in battle, he doesn’t mourn him; instead he responds, “Thanks to the gods, my boy has done his duty” (50). He is not a personally successful man: Marcus laments his father’s “poor fortune” and says it makes him tempted to “renounce his precepts” (6), and Cato tells Juba that he can only learn “success and fortune” from Caesar, who is diametrically opposed to Cato (25).

 

Though his values are steadfast, Cato shows much compassion toward his friends and is consumed with worry over what will happen to them once he resolves to die rather than surrender to Caesar.

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