Cato "The Woman That Deliberates Is Lost"

Joseph Addison

"The Woman That Deliberates Is Lost"

Context: Addison's play relates the story of Marcus Porcius Cato (95–46 B.C.), who opposed Caesar on the question of the Catilinian conspiracy and, later, opposed the triumvirate. His daughter, the Marcia of Addison's play, was actually named Portia; she married Marcus Junius Brutus, one of Caesar's famed assassins. In Act IV, scene 1, of Cato Marcia talks with one of her friends, Lucia, the daughter of a Roman senator. As two young girls will, they discuss the men in their lives. Two men love Marcia: one is Sempronius, a senator; the other is Juba, Prince of Numidia. She characterizes Sempronius as a loud and boisterous man, whom she does not like at all, and Juba as a brave hero who is also loving and sweet. She adds, however, that though she would prefer to marry Juba she must wait to see which man her father chooses for her, commenting, "While Cato lives, his daughter has no right/ To love or hate, but as his choice directs." Lucia then asks Marcia what will happen if Cato gives Marcia to Sempronius in marriage. Marcia replies:

I dare not think he will; but if he should–
Why wilt thou add to all the griefs I suffer
Imaginary ills, and fancied tortures?
I hear the sound of feet! They march this way!
Let us retire, and try if we can drown
Each softer thought in sense of present danger.
When love once pleads admission to our hearts
(In spite of all the virtue we can boast)
The woman that deliberates is lost.