Quotations from Addison’s “Cato”

in about Warren

Date: 1713

Author: John Addison

“A day, an hour of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity in bondage.” (Act II, Scene 1, lines 99-100)

“What pity is it than we can die but once to serve our country!” (Act IV, scene 4, lines 81-82)


Addison, John. Cato: A Tragedy – as It Is Acted at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, by Her Majesty’s Servants. London: J. Tonson, 1713. Full text at Google Books here.

Henderson, Christine Dunn, and Mark E. Yellin, eds. Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy and Sources: Selected Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004.

Litto, Fredric M. “Addison’s Cato in the Colonies.” The William and Mary Quarterly 23, no. 3 (1966): 431-49.

Commentary:  Cato was an influential play in 18th century Colonial America. It extolled a virtuous and actively involved citizenship in the face of tyranny. Cato chose suicide rather than accede to Julius Caesar’s triumph and the fall of the Roman Republic. The play was frequently performed and impressed many American Patriots, including George Washington. Nathan Hale’s (June 6, 1755 to September 22, 1776) last words, prior to his hanging as a spy by the British army under General William Howe, closely follow those of Addison’s character Cato.

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