Cato "What Dire Effects From Civil Discord Flow"

Joseph Addison

"What Dire Effects From Civil Discord Flow"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This tragedy of a banished leader of unimpeachable integrity held great attractions to both Whigs and Tories in the complex political situation of the early eighteenth century. Cato, the stern and austere champion of constitutional government, stands for Roman virtue against the popular military dictator, Caesar. But in the end truth and virtue fail against the forces of ambition and greed, and the efforts of Cato to save Rome from Caesar and from herself are doomed to failure. His cause lost, one son dead in battle, and his friends endangered, Cato, in true Stoic fashion, commits suicide. His corpse is discovered by his remaining son, Portius, and his friend, Lucius, who closes the play:

There fled the greatest soul that ever warmed
A Roman breast. O Cato! O my friend!
Thy will shall be religiously observed.
But let us bear this awful corpse to Caesar,
And lay it in his sight, that it may stand
A fence betwixt us and the victor's wrath;
Cato, tho' dead, shall still protect his friends.
From hence, let fierce contending nations know
What dire effects from civil discord flow.
'Tis this that shakes our country with alarms,
And gives up Rome a prey to Roman arms,
Produces fraud, and cruelty, and strife,
And robs the guilty world of Cato's life.