MORAL VISION IN THE DRAMA
OF THOMAS OTWAY
JOHN DAVID WALKER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THIE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
3Illllll! 1lllll262 08552 4071
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What is known about Thomas Otway extends but a short distance
beyond his artistic achievements. Records of his life are sparse, and
other than his date and place of birth (3 March, 1652, Milland in the
parish of Trotton, Sussex); his matriculation at Winchester College
(1668) and Oxford (1669); his military service in Flanders (1678); and
his death (14 April, 1685), little else has been uncovered. Scholars,
however, have taken Otway's The Poet's Complaint of his Muse (1680) as
being autobiographical, and without any objective sources to corrobo-
rate the "facts" of the poem, have "constructed" from it a biography,
disregarding the transformation which may occur to a poet's history when
subjected to the pressures of an artistic mold.2
Though there are no extant manuscripts written by Otway, biograph-
ers have assumed that six letters published in 1697 in a volume entitled
Familiar Letters b.y the Earl of Rochester, And several other Persons of
Honour and Quality and "signed" with Otway's name are genuine. The
letters bear no superscription, yet biographers uncritically have
accepted a statement made in 1713 by the original publishers of the
1See J. C. Ghosh, The Works of Thomas Otway (Oxford, 1932), I, 6-29.
All quotations from Otway's works are taken from this edition.
2The practice is coomon to all who have commented on Otway's life.
See particularly Roawell Gray Ham, Otway And Lee: Biography from a
Baroque Age (New Haven, 1931).
"letters" that they were addressed to Mrs. Barry.3 Since they were
impassioned love letters, there was thus concocted a story of Otway's
"pathetic" and "unrealized" passion for the actress, which in turn was
read into Otway's tragedies. Bonamy Dobrde, for instance, referring to
the "letters," declares that Mrs. Barry "kept the unfortunate Otway in
a state of suspense which drove him to distraction. Thin was the
central experience which determined his outlook and his mentality; it
made him the poet he was, though in destroying the man it may have
stifled a still greater poet. . A victim of unrequited love, he
palpably relied upon the expression of the tortures of love for his most
poignant scenes." 4 Roswell Ham goes even further: "[Otway's] plays
are unusually distinct: the hero, forever the man Otway; the heroine,
the transfigured image of the woman he loved." 5 Such is the legend
that has grown from mere supposition and unfounded rumor, and that has
biased generations of readers who find in Otway's tragedies only the
mirror of "poor Otway's" hopeless love.
Until more facts about Otway's life history are discovered, any
biographical approach to his writing is hazardous and misleading. It is
equally hazardous to read Otway's tragedies in the light of the
3See Ghosh, I, 13-14. In fact, the "statement" by the original
publishers is made in an advertisement at the end of volume I of
Nathaniel Lee's works (1713) and repeated in the 1734 edition of his
Familiar Letters, writ by John late Earl of Rochester,
to the honourable Henry Savile, Esqr.; and other
Persons of Honour and Quality: With Love-Letters by
the Ingenious Mr. Thomas Otway, to that excellent
Actress Mrs. Barry.
4Restoration Tragedy (Oxford, 1929), pp. 139-140.
5Otway and Lee, p. 85.
playhouse. As Aline Mackenzie Taylor points out, an interpretation of
Castalio as "ineffectual," or of Jaffeir as "effeminate," "cowardly,"
"indulgent," or of Pierre as an "intrepid" villain is more often than
not the effect produced by the acting of Betterton, Charles Kemble,
George Frederick Cook, or John Philip Kemble--not the effect produced
from a close reading of the plays. Yet even Taylor is unwilling to
rely solely on the text for understanding Otway's meaning, attempting
to mediate between the text and actors' interpretations. Her inclina-
tion, however, is towards the stage: "for Otway perhaps more than for
other dramatists of equal caliber is it true that the reality of his
plays lies not in the printed text, but in 'the soul of lively action'--
in the actors who bodied forth his characters on the stage."7 Yet
Dryden's estimate of where the "reality" of a play lies takes us away
from the playhouse and into the text; in his Dedication to The Spanish
Friar (1681), he writes, "as it is my ambition to please my audience, so
it is my ambition to be read: that I am sure is the more lasting and
the nobler design: for the propriety of thoughts and words, which are
the hidden beauties of a play are but confusedly judged in the vehemence
of action: all things are there beheld, as in a hasty motion, where the
objects only glide before the eye, and disappear." 8
Dryden's premise that the ultimate meaning of a play lies in its
text and not its staging underlies the kind of analysis of Otway's
6Next to Shakespeare: Otway's Venice Preserv'd and The Orphan and
Their History on the London Stage (Durham, 1950), pp. 6-7.
7Ibid., p. 7.
8The Works of John Dryden, ed. Walter Scott and George Saintsbury
(Edinburgh, 1883), VI, 408-409.
tragedies which I attempt in this critical study. I have not hesitated
to take from Otway's intellectual milieu that which casts light on the
meaning of his drama, but primarily the text of his plays is the central
concern. And as one would expect in a dramatic career that lasted only
eight years, it becomes increasingly apparent that a central theme
occupied Otway'a artistic endeavors, a theme which gives coherence and
unity to his tragic vision. Briefly stated, the theme is the paradox of1-
man's nature. At first, the theme is expressed in terms of dualities
which oppose one another within man and which pull him in opposite
directions. Later, in The Orphan and, particularly, in Venice Preserv'd,
the dualities are imaged as alloys which both bless and damn each human
being. In a very real- sense, Otway's theme of man's paradoxical nature
is akin to the medieval vision of man as the nodal point of creation, in
whom the animal and the angelic meet. But seldom have writers before or
after Otway delineated, with such telling effect, the results upon man's
existence of a nature which, like a whipsaw, pulls him between two dif-
I am grateful to my typists, Marion Hanscom and, especially, Althea
Benjamin, who produced the final typescript of the dissertation. I wish
also to acknowledge a large debt to Robert Kalmey, John Fischer, and
Earl Ramsey, whose commitment to the immense statements neo-classical
literature makes acts as a spur to my own efforts. Particularly I wish
to thank John Fischer for helping in a variety of ways to complete the
necessary forms in applying for the degree. My committee, who read this
dissertation at various stages of its development, offered valuable
counsel. But the debt which looms greater than all others is that which
I owe Aubrey Williams, who directed the dissertation and who urged at
every stage of its writing a more precise and thoughtful statement. And
in teaching the scholar's craft, like Pope, he also nurtures the man
within the critic, and for that I a# grateful. Finally, after all the
"Years following Years," there still is None, and for that too I am
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I .................................................... 1
CHAPTER II ................................................... 26
CHAPTER III .................................................. 76
CHAPTER IV ................................................... 115
CHAPTER V .................................................... 158
LIST OF WORKS CITED .......................................... 212
Thomas Otway's first play, an heroic tragedy entitled Alcibiades,
was staged at the Duke's Theater, apparently in late September, 1675.1
Unfavorably criticized at its first performance, ignored by later
scholars, the play was not a particularly auspicious start to a
dramatic career which, though spanning only eight years, was to place
Otway among the foremost of English dramatists.2 Yet if one may judge
by the inscription from Horace on the play's title page Laudetur ab
his Culpetur ab illis -3 the initial critical response of the Restora-
tion audience was at least mixed. Otway in fact claimed in the Preface
to his second play, Don Carlos, that against "the objections some
people may make" about Alcibiades, he was "satisfy'd" that he "had the
greatest party of men of wit and sense on [his] side," a party which
included the Earl of Rochester, "the King, and his Royal Highness."
In the same Preface, Otway implies that the objection which some
J. C. Ghosh, ed. The Works of Thomas Otway (Oxford, 1932), I, 39.
See The London Stage, 1660-1800, ed. William Van Lennep (Carbondale,
1965), I, pt. I, 239.
20tway's last play, The Atheist, was acted not later than July, 1683
(The London Stage, I, 320). Ghosh describes Alcibiades as a poor
example of heroic drama, bearing "every trace of the immature hand"
(I, 39); Edmund Gosse dismisses it as a "mawkish piece of rhyming rant"
(Leaves and Fruit (London, 1927), p. 97).
3Satires, Bk. 1, ii, 1. 11.
4Ghosh, I, 173-174.
in his audience levelled at the play was aimed at his nonhistorical
characterization of an historical person: "...I found my self Father of
a Dramatique birth, which I called Alcibiades; but I might without
offence to any person in the Play, as well have called it Nebuchadnezzar.
for my Hero, to do him right, was none of that squeamish Gentleman I
make him .... This I publish to Antedate the objections some people may
make against that Play, who have been (and much good may it do 'em) very
severe, as they think, upon this."5 Certainly the play's hero bears
little resemblance to the Alcibiades of history. Briefly, Otway's hero
is an Athenian general who, having profaned the shrine of the Almighty
Thunderer, is condemned by the senate and forced to withdraw from Athens,
leaving behind his mistress, Timandra, and his sister, Draxilla. Join-
ing the Spartan army encamped near Athens, he becomes their general,
displacing Tissaphernes and incurring thereby his hatred. After
Alcibiades has left Athens, Timandra, fearful that he has found another
love, becomes jealous, and with Draxilla journeys to the Spartan camp.
There, reconciled with him, they are married. But their happiness is
short-lived, for Tissaphernes plots against Alcibiades, and the Spartan
Queen, enamoured with Alcibiades, murders the king and Timandra, believ-
ing that with their deaths he will marry her. But faced with the loss
of his wife, Alcibiades kills himself. By the play's end, both
Tissaphernes and the Queen have been brought to justice.
Otway's witty acknowledgment that his hero is unlike the historical
Alcibiades, that in fact the play could be called Nebuchadnezzar "with-
out offence to any person in the Play," may act as an oblique reminder
5Ibid., p. 173.
for his critics of the distinction Aristotle makes between poetry and
history. In the Poetics, Aristotle states that history describes what
has been, what, for example, "Alcibiades did or had done to him"; poetry,
on the other hand, describes what might be,' and "though it affixes
proper names to the characters," its aim is not historical accuracy, but
the universal truth of "what such or such a kind of man will probably or
necessarily say or do...." Aristotle insists further that although
tragedians tend to cling to historical names, they should not "aim at a
rigid adherence to the traditional stories on'which tragedies are
based." Otway does incorporate into his plot certain historical inci-
dents from the life of Alcibiades, such as his disfiguring the images of
deity, his joining Sparta in a war against Athens, and his involvement
with the Spartan Queen. 7 But his hero, in accord with Aristotle's
advice, is as remote from the historical Alcibiades as is Nebuchadnezzar,
and it seems surprising that part of his Restoration audience failed to
recognize the poetic validity of the fictional character of the play's
Perhaps Otway's own failure in artistic execution may account for
the mixed reception the Restoration accorded his play. For no matter
how sympathetic a reader may be towards Otway's first drama, he still
must recognize that the play is sometimes awkward in its versification
and plot. Otway does not seem at ease, at least in this play, with the
heroic couplet. On at least six occasions, he substitutes quatrains,
Aristotle, De Poetica, 1451 tr. Ingram Bywater, in The Works of
Aristotle, ed. W. D. Ross, vol. XI (Oxford, n.d.).
7See Plutarch's Life of Alcibiades, Otway's probable historical
source (Ghosh, I, 39).
rhyming a b a b or a b b a; and his rhymes are sometimes trivial,
as in Theramnes' speech, "Stay kind Polyndus here /Whilst I go pay my
just devotion there" (I, 87-88). As for the plot, the love relation-
ship between Draxilla and Patroclus seems awkwardly handled: introduced
in Act III, evidently to parallel the relationship between Alcibiades
and Timandra, it is almost immediately dropped, only to re-emerge
indirectly at the end of the play. But the play's awkwardness, though
it cannot be overlooked, may at least be attributed to the unsureness of
the poet's first dramatic efforts. Otway even admits, rather ruefully,
to the play's haphazard conception and gestation. In the Preface to
Don Carlos., he writes:
I must confess I had often a Tittillation to Poetry,
but never durst venture on my Muse, till I got her
into a Corner in the Country, and then like a bashful
young Lover when I had her private I had Courage to
fumble, but never thought she would have product any
thing, till at last I know not how, e're I was aware,
I found my self Father of a Dramatique birth, which
I called Alcibiades....
The offspring may indeed be somewhat awkward, but it is not devoid of
grace. As Malcolm Elwin says of the play, "The ideas are good but the
execution indifferent." 0 It is with the ideas expressed in the play
that we are here primarily concerned.
8See I, 31-34, 184-187; II, 173-176; III, 127-130; IV, 244-247;
V, 7-14 (a b a b c d c d).
9Ghoah, I, 173.
10Handbook to Restoration Drama (Port Washington, N.Y., 1966), p. 133.
Alcibiades opens with a servant's revelation to Timandra, "Oh all
your hopes are crost, /The Gallant Afcibiades is lost" (I, 1-2); it ends
with Patroclus' lament, "My Friends, my Mistress, and my Father, lost! /
Never were growing hopes more sadly crost" (V, 530-531). Between these
opening and closing scenes, the remainder of the play supports and
amplifies, through a variety of related images, the idea that, at the
very moment of greatest expectation, human hopes, aims, and desires seem
to meet with reversals. Responding to the servant's remark, Timandra
tells Draxilla (I, 31-34):
I, who before had nothing in my Eyes,
But Glory and Love growing to delight,
Like Chymists waiting for their labours prize;
My hopes are dash't and ruin'd in their height.
The suggestion of rising ("growing") and falling ("dash't...in their
height") becomes, in other contexts of the play, an explicit image, con-
veying the notions of sudden reversals which occur to aspirations. In
Alcibiades' absence, for example, Theramnes pursues Timandra, who, for a
moment, seems receptive, but then rejects him. Theramnes tells her,
"Thus Madam Barb'rous Cruelty y'ave shown, /Raising me up only to throw
me down" (I, 123-124). The Spartan King tells Alcibiades (I, 231-234):
By your success th' Athenian greatness rose,
And from that height to which by you th' are grown,
'Tis your success alone must throw 'em down.
Though he defeats the Athenian army, Alcibiades is in turn defeated by
Tissaphernes and the Queen. Displaced by Alcibiades as general of
Sparta, Tissaphernes asks, "Must he at last tumble my Trophies down, /
And Revel in the Glorys I have won?" (I, 285-286), privately vowing, "I
fond Youth will try to work thy fall, / Though with my own I Crown thy
Funeral" (295-296). And pursued by the Queen, Alcibiades, "who but now
did fame and Conquest bring, /And added to the glories of a King," finds
his "Trophyes all thrown down agen, /By the base passions of a lustful
Queen" (IV, 5-8). Thus it seems that hopes, desires, aspirations, and
trophies of personal achievements grow to a certain height only to there
meet frustration and reversal.
In imagery other than that of rising and falling, the play also
suggests that passion may grow to such an excess that it endangers the
very goal towards which it labors. Draxilla seems to recognize this
possibility in explaining to Timandra why Alcibiades fled Athens
Think you his great soul could with patience see
His rifl'd Honours heap'd on's Enemy;
And not his Rage have grown to that excess,
As must have ruin'd all your happiness?
And just as excessive rage may destroy what it intends to protect, even
so love may grow to such an excess that it breeds a destructive passion
that threatens the object of love. Timandra's love for Alcibiades
"breeds.. .Jealousie" (I, 26); and prompted by "Jealousy and Love," she
(along with Draxilla) follows him to the Spartan camp. But before find-
ing him, Timandra contemplates, with a sense of guilt, the strange
effect which her love has produced (II, 1-4):
What uncouth Roads Afflicted Lovers pass
How strange prepost'rous steps their Sorrows traced
Oh Alcibiades, if thou art just,
Forgive th' excess of Love that bred distrust.
Breeding jealous distrust, Timandra's excessive love attacks the very
object it desires, for Timandra sends Draxilla to "wound" (II, 48)
Alcibiades with a false story of her death, Instructing her to say that,
distraught by his absence, she "so wrought sorrow to that height, / That.
her soul grew too tender for the weight" (II, 82-83). Hearing the story,
Alcibiades tries to take his own life, driven unwittingly to do so by a
love which bred distrust.
This general theme that human hopes, aims, ambitions, and pas-
sions seem incapable of realizing, even for a'moment, perfect fulfill-
ment is dramatically developed in depth throughout the play. Before
demonstrating the theme in detail, however, we should be aware of the
moral basis upon which the theme rests. Replying to Timandra's lament
that her hopes are "ruin'd in their height," Draxilla places the frus-
tration of hope in the larger framework of divine order (I, 35-42):
Alas, we but with weak intelligence
Read Heaven's decrees, Th'are writ in Mystick sence;
For were they open lay'd to Mortal Eyes,
Men would be Gods, or they no Dieties.
Perhaps the wiser pow'rs thought fit this way
To give your growing happiness allay,
Lest should it in its high perfection come,
Your soul for the Reception might want roome.
Affirming the existence of a divine government incomprehensible to man,
Draxilla explains that God's ways seem mysterious because man is not
God, and being less than God, he is less than perfect in his natural
powers. His very nature thus renders him incapable of receiving the
"high perfection" of his hopes, passions, and ambitions. These may grow
to a certain height, but there, short of perfection, they inevitably
meet with frustration and reversal the "allays" divinely decreed
through the limitations of man's nature.
In the development of his theme, Otway is aware of the dilemma
man's less than perfect nature creates, for though the human being is
incapable of experiencing the perfect fulfillment of his desires, he
nevertheless has private interests (what he conceives to be his personal
good) which demand satisfaction. The dilemma becomes more intense by
virtue of those limits imposed, not simply by his nature, but by the
private good of others. Desires demand satisfaction, but complete
satisfaction is in every way limited. And to refuse to accept limits
results in personal disaster. Theramnes, for example, desires Timandra,
but this desire is frustrated by her love for Alcibiades. Refusing to
accept this limitation, he uses the opportunity provided by the senate's
condemning Alcibiades "To supplant him, and his own ends promote"
(I, 10). He is made general of Athens, but his principal aim is to
supplant Alcibiades in Timandra's arms. Timandra, however, rejects him,
recognizing his design (I, 130-134):
How poorly did you envy the esteem
I for his matchless Vertues had, and Him]
When finding him abandoned by the State,
You, to advance your interest, did create
New feuds; -
As if my Love were ballanc't by his Fate....
Theramnes confesses, "Thus my mistaking Policy out-run/My Fate; and I'm
by my own Plots undone" (I, 163-164). Desiring Timandra, failing to
accept the limits imposed upon the satisfaction of his desire by
Timandra's love for Alcibiades, he is finally "undone" by the imperfec-
tion of mortal vision, for though he plots to circumvent, at Alcibiades'
expense, the limits to his desire, he cannot foresee the outcome, and
his "mistaking Policy" circles back upon himself, bringing with it
This episode between Theramnes and Timandra is a brief epitome of
the demands and limitations of private interest, as well as the conse-
quences incurred when, in an attempt to circumvent limitations at
another's expense, one employs plots, stratagems, or designs. The
consequences for Theramnes are, for the moment, no more serious than a
rebuff. But urged by his friend, Polyndus, to meet and defeat
Alcibiades in battle, he revives his hopes for success with Timandra,
exclaiming, "How can my aymes but in my wishes end" (I, 190). Pursuing
anew his private interest, he ultimately comes under the influence of
Tissaphernes, who engages him in a plot to murder Alcibiades and to rape
Timandra, a plot which once more turns back upon him, this time to
In a brief portrayal of the Athenian senate, Otway seems to empha-
size the essential impiety of plotting to destroy the good of another.
A democratic body, the senate appears generally to image "States" where
(as the Queen remarks) "those monstrous many-headed pow'rs/ Of private
interest public good devours" (III, 17-18). The Spartan King inter-
prets the senate's action in condemning Alcibiades as their devouring
the good of another in order to satisfy their own interests (I, 213-219)
Thou [Alcibiades] like a tow'ring Eagle soard'st above
That lower Orb in which they faintly move;
A flight too high for their dull souls to use,
Which prompted 'em that honour to abuse:
Thinking their baseness they might palliate,
With the dark Cloud of Policy and State.
But let them that black mistery pursue....
He apparently means that Alcibiades, because of the honors he had won,
soared above the senate, "A flight too high" for them to control and
thus "too high" for Alcibiades to be of use to the interests of the
senate. Their condemning him for having profaned the shrine of the
Almighty Thunderer becomes then a pretext, a "dark Cloud of Policy and
State," a "black mistery" to hide their real intention. The use of the
term "mistery" to describe a secret design, in this and other contexts
of the play,ll seems meant to recall the "Mystick" ways of providential
design (I, 36), suggesting that man's use of hidden schemes to advance
his personal good is a mimicry or impious parody of providence. The
ultimate consequence of the senate's policy, as in the case of Theramnes,
is the turning of that design upon themselves, for Alcibiades, whose
life the senate sought, survives to destroy them. Leading the Spartan
army against Athens, he unleashes his fury "Like thunder from a Cloud.../
On all his Enemies..." (III, 46). The Athenian army, defeated, is
scattered over the plain "Like the sad Ruins of a Hurricane" (III, 39).
The imagery of storm and thunder suggests a divine retribution hurled
against Athens by the Almighty Thunderer through the person Athens had
plotted to destroy.
Otway's most telling portrayal of the consequences which result
from an individual's plots and designs to satisfy the demands of an
unlimited private good may be best observed in the career of Tissaphernes
and the Queen. At one point in the play, Tissaphernes remarks, "Thus to
my aimes no limits I'l allow" (V, 28); and Otway emphasizes his refusal
to acknowledge limitations. For Tissaphernes, there is no moral
behavior imposed by conscience (III, 354-361):
11See III, 217; IV, 502, 372 ("Mystick Policy").
Conscience! a trick of State, found out by those
That wanted power to support their Laws;
That Soul's no Soul which to it self's a slave.
Who any thing for Conscience sake deny,
Do nothing else but give tNfmelvea the lye.
Nor does the fear of divine wrath act as a limitation to his aims.
Towards the end of the play, the ghost of Theramnes rises out of hell to
warn him of "sin": "Short time is here left for thee to remain. / 'Twere
fit that thy repentance soon begin, /For think what 'tis to live in end-
less pain" CV, 12-14). But Tissaphernes dismisses the warning as
merely "an odd speech," boasting that "Hell it self trembles at what I
Certainly Tissaphernes does not limit his private aims in consider-
ation of another's good. Reflecting upon his intent to destroy the King
and Alcibiades, he says (II, 210-215):
Let Cowards spirits start at Crueltie,
Remorse has still a stranger been to me.
I can look on their pains with the same eyes,
As Priests behold the falling Sacrifice.
Whilst they yell out the horror of their moans,
My heart shall dance to th' Musick of their groanes.
The King and Alcibiades are to be "sacrifices" in the attainment of his
own private ends. And the use of religious imagery in his speech may
suggest the impiety which seems implied in his refusal to admit limits
to his aims. Tissaphernes in fact aspires to divinity: "I'l act such
things whilst here I have abode, /Till my own Trophyes raise me to a
God" (V, 32-33). Like a god, he feels himself unlimited in the
potential satisfaction of his desires.
Yet his first attempt both to be revenged on Alcibiades for
displacing him as Spartan general, and to satisfy his ambition to be
king prefigures his own destruction. At the wedding ceremony of
Alcibiades and Timandra, he believes "ev'ry thing does as I'd wish com-
bine, /To give a happy end to my design" (II, 197-198). Having with
"great secresy and care" (202) poisoned the wine cup Alcibiades is to
offer the King, he plans that (206-209),
The poyson and his sudden death will seem
Fully a Trayterous design in him [Alcibiades].
Then must the Crown descend on me, and so
I feast my Rage, and my Ambition too.
But like Theramnes earlier, he is almost undone by his own plot. With h
gesture which seems a rich emblem of the way dark designs turn upon the
plotter to destroy him, the King, having received the cup from
Alcibiades, gives it to Tissaphernes as a mark of honor: "Come drink to
such a depth as may express / Thy wishes for their Joy, and Sparta's
happiness (II, 250-251). To save himself from his own evil,
Tissaphernes pretends faintness and drops the cup.
Tissaphernes' second attempt to realize his aims seems momentarily
more successful. He draws Theramnes (who has been captured in battle
and imprisoned) into a design against Timandra and Alcibiades
(III, 320-337). Although the scheme goes awry when Alcibiades kills
Theramnes, Tissaphernes quickly adapts the new circumstance to fit
another design: he employs murderers to kill Theramnes' guards and then
weaves a web of false evidence around Alcibiades, blaming him with the
murders on the pretext that Theramnes refused to join with him in a
conspiracy against the King (IV, 328-335; 380-390). The King believes
the story, and Alcibiades, along with Timandra who wishes to share his
fate, is imprisoned.
At this point, however, Tissaphernes' private interests come into
conflict with the Queen's. Burning with passion for Alcibiades
(II, 142-143), the Queen is determined to satisfy her desires, even
though, because of his respect for tmt King and his love for Timandra,
he has rejected her (IV, 110-117). Her response, however, to his
rejection is as simple as It is direct (IV, 136-138):
...why should I to fears and sorrows bend,
If only on their fate [Timandra's and the King's] my
A Rival, and a King, I may remove....
To satisfy her desires, she does not balk at devouring the public good
of others. In fact, like Tissaphernes, she refuses to acknowledge any
limits to the fulfillment of her aims. She scorns the restraining
dignity of majesty, that "Ill-natur'd pageant mockery of fate"
(II, 144-145), which raises "us high" only "To barr us of the benefits
below" (147-148); she rejects the restraint of marriage vows, since
husbands "never reach the height of bliss, /But ignorantly with Loves
Magick play, /Till they raise Spirits they want pow'r to lay" (158-160);
she contemns "Honour" as "a very word; an empty name" (183). And in a
speech which reflects her desire for unlimited freedom, she also rejects
the restraint of conscience (185-189):
Give me the Soul that's large and unconfin'd;
Free as the Ayr, and boundless as the Wind:
Nature was then in her first excellence,
When undisturb'd with puny Conscience,
Mans Sacrifice was pleasure, his God, sence.
The Queen in fact equates herself with deity (II, 151-154):
Th' Almighty Pow'r of Heav'n came down from thence,
To tast the sweets of Am'rou's Excellence:
Why then should Princes that are Gods below,
Think that a sin which Heav'n is proud to do?
Like Tissaphernes, her refusal to recognize limits to her desires is
tantamount to an impious identifying of self with deity.
The King's imprisoning of Alcibiades causes the Queen to put into
motion a design of her own (IV, 543-546; 549):
So now or never must my love succeed,
Vainly weak King hast thou his doom decreed.
In this beginning of his fall th'ast shown
But the imperfect figure of thy own.
Timandra's and thy death is one design....
In the following scenes, Tissaphernes and the Queen plot with and
against each other, each moved by the unlimited demands of private
Interests. The Queen plans to "bait" Tissaphernes with a promise of the
Crown in exchange for his murdering the King (V, 37-41):
Then if complacent to my ends he prove,
In seeming to comply with his design,
I'l make him but an instrument to mine:
For when success me to my wishes calls,
I'l shake him off, and then unpropt he falls.
He seems complacent enough, but, knowing her passion for Alcibiades, is
aware that her"trap was dang'rously and subtly lay'd" (V, 90). As a
result he counterplots (98-101):
I'l cherish her in all that she pretends,
So make her ayms but covers to my ends.
For when I'm seated on the Spartan Throne,
Both her and all her Treasons I'l disown....
The Queen's design breeds Tissaphernes' counterplot, and these
conflicting plots seem emblematic not only of the self-destructiveness
of unlimited aims, but of the way evil seems to negate itself.
For Tissaphernes, the "short time," which the ghost of Theramnes
had said was left for repentance, istlmost gone. Agreeing to make the
King a "Sacrifice" for the Queen (V, 136), Tissaphernes finds the King
asleep. The Queen takes his crown and places it on Tissaphernes, but
whether by design or awe of majesty, he is unwilling to stab him.
Taking the'degger, the Queen kills the King, and, seemingly horrified,
Tissaphernes tells her he cannot "conceal" her deed. She falls to her
knees and cries "Treason" (V, 183); to quiet her he grabs the dagger, as
if to kill her. At that moment, however, the lords of Sparta enter, and
Tissaphernes finds himself in a circumstance similar to the one in which
he had placed Alcibiades. The crown on his head, dagger in hand, the
body of the King nearby, and the Queen pleading for her life form such a
web of circumstantial evidence that he is doomed, just as earlier he had
woven a web of false evidence around Alcibiades. The moment which
seemed the fulfillment of his private interests turns out to be the
moment of his destruction, and he is taken away to "Justice" (V, 220),
undone finally by his own plots.
The Queen's design, however, is not complete. With the King dead
and Tissaphernes doomed, she moves next to Timandra, forcing her to take
poison. As Timandra lies dying behind the curtain, Alcibiades, somehow
freed from prison (V, 378), enters the room, and the Queen informs him
that Tissaphernes killed both the King and Timandra. She then offers
herself and the crown to him, but for the second time he rejects her
(405-410). In anger, she pulls back the curtain to reveal Timandra,
boasting that she, not Tissaphernes, was the murderer. Timandra dies,
and Alcibiadea kills himself. Patroclus then enters, having been told
by the Queen's maid of all the Queen's plots against the King and
Timandra. Her dark designs now lie exposed to the light of justice
(V, 499-505), and, like Theramnes and Tiassaphernes, she is, at the
moment of her highest expectation, undone by her own "mistaking Policy."
Although Otway describes at greater length the inevitable conse-
quences which attend the unlimited pursuit of one's private desires, he
also suggests in the course of the play the means by which desires
should be limited. In addition to his implicit affirmation of those
limits Tissaphernes and the Queen reject (conscience, moral behavior,
piety), Otway focuses on love as being a force to restrain and govern
private desires. Theramnes declares that "Love...ne're clog'd his
Proselytes with Law" (III, 90), but elsewhere in the play Otway counters
this statement with images affirming love to be a regulating and govern-
Draxilla, defending Alcibiades' withdrawalfrom Athens, suggests
that love may overrule the demands of other private interests. She
tells Timandra (I, 53-58):
Think you his great soul could with patience see
His rifl'd Honours heap'd on's Enemy;
And not his Rage have grown to that excess,
As must have ruin'd all your happiness?
But he withdrew, and like a Zealous Hermit did forgoe
Those little Toys, to gain a Heav'n in you.
His love for Timandra restrained Alcibiades from defending his "rifl'd
Honours," causing him to sacrifice "Those little Toys" kor a greater
happiness; the religious image of the lover as a "Zealous Hermit" who
sacrifices worldly honor for the sake of Heaven seems suggestive of more
than a courtly love convention, recalling a kind of love that, through
sacrificing worldly interests, laysaup treasure in heaven,
The conception of a kind of love that governs and restrains self-
interest is more fully imaged later in another speech Draxilla makes to
Timandra (II, 13-14; 19-22):
The serving you, my happiness secures,
I'm only something by my being yours;
Your Kindness gave my yielding spirits rest,
And rais'd me to a dwelling in your breast:
Then ought I not in all my soul resign,
To ease her griefs that kindly pitty'd mine?
She suggests that one's private interest ("happiness") is secured, not
through unlimited pursuit, but paradoxically through service to another,
through resigning self-interests in the charitable relief of another's
sorrow. And again in a seeming paradox, she implies that individual
worth is defined by surrender to the confining love of another in whom
one finds a spiritual habitation. It is because of this kind of love
that Patroclus cannot follow his father's evil counsel to murder Alcibi-
ades, since, as he tells his father, "In that I should prove a self-
murderer: /Peircing his Breast I stab m'own image there" (III, 223-224).
And it is this kind of self-effacing love that Tissaphernes rejects.
The King, upon retiring Tissaphernes from the army's leadership, tells
him (l, 250-253):
But if thy spacious soul thou canst confine,
Within this narrow Mansion of mine:
Be this the utmost of thy wishes bound,
Possess his grateful heart, whose head th'ast Crown'd.
Tissaphernes, however, allows no bounds or limits to his aims, and his
boundless pursuit of self-interest becomes ironically the sacrifice of
his own worth.
The paradox that one's interest is secured and defined by its self-
sacrifice is like the Christian paradox that to lose one's soul for the
sake of a self-sacrificing love is to find it, and nowhere in the play
is this paradox better expressed than in Draxilla's definition of love,
made in answer to Timandra's question "how grows Gratitude to that
degree, /To be afflicted thus, and weep for me?" (II, 25-26). Echoing
both the biblical injunction that one should love his enemies
(Math. 5:44) and St. John's statement that "Greater love hath no man
than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13),
Draxilla replies (28-36):
To our worst Enemies our Tears we owe.
Friendship to such a noble height should rise,
As their devotion does in Sacrifice,
Who think they shew a zeal remiss and small,
Except themselves as nobler Victims fall.
With as great courage could I for you dye,
And my Triumphant Soul to Heav'n should fly;
There I again my Friendship would renew,
And lay up chiefest joyes in store for you.
Priest and victim become one in the sacrifice which love demands; but
when the sacrifice is made, love transforms the fall of the victim into
the elevation of the priest. Here, in the sacrifice love requires, the
rising and falling that seem to afflict man's less than perfect nature
are harmonized into an ascent to heaven. Love thus offers the proper
way by which man may imitate deity and ascend to godhead, a way implied
in the chant spoken by the priests of Hymen during the marriage masque,
"by Love alone we see /On Earth the glorys of a Diety" (II, 226-227).
Rejecting the self-sacrifice that love demands, Tissaphernes, in con-
trast, makes others his sacrifice, delighting, like an unholy priest, in
the horrorr Of their moans" (II, 212-215); and choosing unlimited free-
dom, he seeks to achieve godhead by the acquisition of personal glory
Another image reflecting the regulating control of love and the
proper imitation of deity appears in Timandra's speech to Alcibiades
following their decision to marry (II, 126-129):
And when our faithful happy hearts shall be
Nearer united by that sacred tye,
How in an endless Road of bliss we'l move,
Steering our motions by our perfect Lovel
Bound by love, they are guided in their motions by love; and in the
remainder of the speech, the image of planets moving in harmonious con-
junction (an image submerged in the above lines) becomes explicit
There we'll reflect o' th' various hopes and fears,
Of distress Lovers, whilst we'll kindly thence,
Through a strange mystical Intelligence,
Give 'em Redresses by our influence:
Till so by ours, -
Their full-grown Joyes receive a happy birth,
As Planets in their kind Conjunctions bless the Earth.
Made by love to be like planets in harmonious conjunction, they become
also like deity in the "strange mystical Intelligence" by which they
"influence" the growth of other lovers. It is this kind of controlling
love Alcibiades offers the Queen (IV, 124-131):
Our entwin'd Souls each other shall enjoy,
Tread vertues paths, and never loose their way.
But if one in his motion chance to err,
Strait regulate it by the other's sphear:
Till at the last,
When the short Zodiack of this life w'ave past;
With new imp't Zeal beyond the Stars wee'l fly,
There meet, and mingle to a Deity.
But considering herself already a god (II, 153) and desirous of
unlimited freedom, the Queen rejects the love which controls and
The dilemma, however, with which man is confronted because of his
less than perfect nature is complex, for while Otway'affirms that man's
attempt at the unlimited satisfaction of his private interests results
ultimately in defeat, he seems also to affirm that, whether limited or
unlimited, an individual's private good inevitably falls short of its
earthly goal. Timandra, for instance, knows "No greater aymes, nor more
Ambition" than "how...to obliege" Alcibiades (III, 123-124), yet she is
denied the satisfaction of even these limited desires, for, though no
torture can make her "forgo" her "love and interest" (V, 348), she is
deprived of life itself by the Queen. Alcibiades, whose interests lie
in serving the King and in loving Timandra, is falsely condemned by the
King as a traitor, and loses Timandra through her death. The question
asked by Alcibiades early in the play upon hearing the false story of
Timandra's death, seems pertinent, not only to its immediate context,
but to the play as a whole: "Ye Gods! Is't thus your Justice you dis-
pence, / To lay th' reward of Guilt on Innocence?" (II, 88-89). In
view of the loss which attends the private aims of both the guilty and
the innocent, the question demands an answer, one that reaches beyond
the simple, though basic truth that, not being gods, men are imperfect
and "with weak Intelligence /Read Heaven's decrees, Th'are writ in
The answer lies partly in the fact that none of the principal
characters is guiltless. Alcibiades tacitly admits his own guilt in the
lines which immediately follow his questioning of divine justice, for he
refers to his impious overthrowing of the Almighty Thunderer's image
(II, 90-91) and assumes that Timandra's "death" is punishment for his
sacrilegious act (92-93). He also is indirectly responsible for the
Queen's design against the King and Timandra, for when the Queen reveals
to him her passion, Alcibiades employs a "stratagem" to free himself
from her and, at the same time, to protect his manhood (IV, 111-117):
For if these eyes had ne're Timandra known,
You only might have called my heart your own.
But whilst with her I enjoy love, and life,
And you remain the mighty Agis wife;
Know this is all I can in justice do,
I'm ready on your least commands, to shew
I live for her; but yet could dye for you.
The stratagem seems innocent enough, but it turns upon Alcibiades, for
it gives the Queen motive and incentive for murdering husband and rival
(IV, 136-139). And though Alcibiades assumes in his questioning of
divine justice that Timandra is innocent, her guilt lies in an excessive
love which bred a jealous distrust of him, a distrust which causes her
to use a vicious stratagem to test his fidelity. And the false story of
her death she has Draxilla tell Alcibiades succeeds in almost precipi-
tating his suicide (II, 93-98). At the end of the play, Timandra is
placed in a situation similar to the one in which she had placedAlcibi-
ades (just as Tissaphernes also finds himself in a situation like that
in which he had placed Alcibiades), for the Queen tempts Timandra either
tb relinquish her interest in Alcibiades, or to suffer death
CV, 308-309). And choosing death, Timandra indeed precipitates
Alcibiades' suicide as if earlier her false story prefigured what
becomes her punishment for using stratagem.
Yet it is clear that Alcibiades and Timandra are far less guilty
than either Theramnea, Tiasaphernes, or the Queen: and for this reason,
Otway's defense of divine justice is complex. The justice which heaven
dispenses in the play seems, for example, to make evil serve an ultimate
good. Tissaphernes' attempt to make his son, Patroclus, murder Alcibi-
ades has an effect different from that intended. Teaching his son the
mysteryy" of smiling "in's face we mean to wound" (III, 217-218), he
commands him to kill his friend. But Patroclus refuses, and Tissa-
phernes forces his son to choose between himself and Alcibiades: "Give
this unmanly Childish pitty o're, /Or ne're presume to call me Father
more" (250-251). Patroclus sacrifices his own interest for that of his
Then see how I resigned that interest here!
Thus all the bonds of duty canceled are.
Whilst such black horrours in your soul I see,
Y'are not my Father, but my enemy.
Patroclus then asks his father to sacrifice him instead of Alcibiades,
and Tissaphernes is forced to smooth over his design with a pious dis-
guise. He tells Patroclus, "Alas, in this disguise I did but try/ The
strength and vertue of thy constancy" (277-278), meaning ostensibly his
son's constancy toward his friend. Patroclus replies (284-287):
Such mystick wayes fate does our loves confirm,
As rooted Trees stand faster by a storm.
After this shock our friendship's more secure,
As Gold try'd in the fire comes forth more pure.
The mysteryy" Tissaphernes attempted to practice through Patroclus is
given a different effect by the "mystick wayes" of providence which
brings good out of evil. Instead of harming Alcibiades, Tissaphernes'
plot only succeeds in confirming more emphatically the love between his
son and Alcibiades. 'I
In a similar way, Timandra's false and vicious story, though it
nearly destroys Alcibiades, finally causes him to repent his impious act
against the Almighty Thunderer. For when he discovers that Timandra is
alive, his joy leads to repentance (II, 104-110):
This was the greatest bliss Heav'n had to give.
How rashly did my impious rage prophane
Your Goodnessl oh but wash away that stain,
Then I with Victims will your Altars load,
And have a Sacrifice for ev'ry God;
Till by those holy fires, this black offence
Be purg'd and purify'd to Innocence.
Timandra's selfish design serves ultimately to lead Alcibiades into
atonement with the divine good.
Probably the play's most profound vindication of divine justice
lies in heaven's transforming what seems, for the victims of human evil,
irrevocable loss into eternal gain. Timandra and Alcibiades die as a
result of the Queen's plotting, but these deaths are emblematically
portrayed, in the masque of spirits which appear to Timandra, as their
ultimate victories. While asleep in the tent which has become her
prison, Timandra sees in a vision a group of spirits who turn the
darkened prison into the "bright delightful Grove" of "Elizium"
(V, 267-269). The spirits then reveal a "glorious Temple" hovering in
the air in which are seated "Spirits of the happy." After informing her
that she and Alcibiades soon will take their places among the happy
(280-285), the spirits "bless her with a nearer view" of the temple
(294-295), which moves downward to enfoldthe tabernacle where she
sleeps. The masque prefigures the transformation which divine justice
brings to the darkness of human injustice; and the descent of the temple
to enfold the tabernacle seems richly emblematic of divine justice swal-
lowing up death in victory. And what is emblematically protrayed in
this masque is realized at the play's end when, as Timandra dies, her
soul finds an apotheosis. Alcibiades cries: "Yonder she Mounts,
tryumphant Spirit stay: / See where the Angels bear her Soul awayl"
(V, 474-475); he then follows her in death.
From yet another point of view, the gain derived from the seeming
loss that death causes is the exchanging of mortal imperfection for
immortal perfection; through death, desires which have been limited by a
mortal nature are now able to realize perfect fulfillment. Timandra
says as much in answer to the Queen's question, "Madam do you know what
'tie to dye?" (V, 328; 329-330; 337-340):
Yes, 'tis to lay these clogs our bodys by,
And be remov'd to blest eternity.
Death is a blessing, and a thing so far
Above that worst of all our frailties fear;
It claims our joy, since by it we put on
The top of happiness, perfection.
For those guided by a self-sacrificing love, imperfection ends with
death, for there the soul finds roomm" to receive the "high perfection"
of "growing happiness" (I, 40-42).
In other words, Alcibiades ultimately is Otway's attempt to
describe a theodicy, an attempt which seems necessary because, in
Otway's view, man's nature is so contradictory that no matter which way
a human being turns, he seems only to encounter defeat. In Alcibiades,
the contradiction between the demands of man's nature both to satisfy
his private interests and yet to limit that satisfaction forms a basis
* upon which Otway, in his later tragedies, structures his depiction of
opposing impulses in man's nature. And for this reason, if for no
other, Alcibiades is significant as the first stage in Otway's develop-
ment as a dramatic poet.
Otway's second play, Don Carlos, Prince of Spain, acted at the
Duke's Theater in June, 1676, followed Alcibiades by less than a year,
and the great advance now displayed is made the more striking by the
shortness of the interval separating the two plays. His contemporaries
who nine months earlier had criticized him severely now acclaimed Don
Carlos as "the best Heroick Play that has been written of late...,"2
and critics of our own day rate the play among the finest of the age.
The nature of Otway's advance in Don Carlos may be indicated by two
important developments in dramatic technique, both of which may also
help to explain the attraction the play held for the Restoration
audience. Although still an heroic drama, Don Carlos signals.the be-
ginning of Otway's movement away from the declamatory and stylized
rhetoric of conventional heroic drama and towards the freer, more flexi-
ble rhetoric of his blank verse tragedies. Ghosh takes notice of this
development (though his comments reveal an undue bias against heroic
drama): "The language is free from the unnatural violence and inflation
1Ghosh, I, 39. cf. The London Stage, I, pt. 1, 245.
2Ghosh, I, 174. The quotation is from Otway's Preface to Don Carlos.
3Ghosh, i, 40; Montague Summers, ed., The Complete Works of Thomas
Otway CBloomsbury, 1926), I, 111; Elwin, p. 134. John Downes, prompter
to the Duke's Company, records in Roscius Anglicanus (1708) that Don
Carlos "lasted successively 10 days; it got more Money than any preced-
ing Modern Tragedy" (The London Stage I, pt. I, 245).
common to the heroic play .... For the first time in the history of
Restoration tragedy we hear the language of nature and passion instead
of vapid rhetoric.... In this respect, though acclaimed as the best
heroic tragedy of the day, it has reilly nothing of that genre except
the French origin and the rhymed verse, and Is essentially Elizabethan
in spirit."4 This stylistic development may well be part of the reason
for the play's warm reception, for by 1676 heroic drama was on the
wane. Dryden already had announced in the Prologue to Aureng-Zebe
(1675) that he had grown "weary of his long-loved mistress, Rhyme"; and
in 1677 he was to produce his blank verse tragedy, All for Love, marking
a return to Elizabethan models. In one sense, Otway's Don Carlos stands
"betwixt two ages cast": its form is still that of heroic drama, but
its rhetoric anticipates a return to the greater flexibility of blank
A second, less definable development may also be observed in Don
Carlos, an emergence of what one may call the particular grace of
Otway's tragedies. Otway describes its general "effect":
...I thank Heaven I am not yet so vain, but this
I may modestly boast of, which the Author of
the French Berenice has done before me in his
Preface to that Play, that it never fail'd to
draw Tears from the Eyes of the Auditors, I mean
those whose Souls were capable of so Noble a
This effect which Otway claims Don Carlos had on its audience is in
4Ghosh, I, 40.
5The London Stage, I, pt. I, CXXIII.
accord with that which Restoration criticism held to be a principal aim
of tragedy. Dryden, for instance, declares in his "Defence of an Essay
of Dramatic Poesy" (1668): "It is true, that to imitate [nature] well
is a poet's work; but to affect the soul, and excite the passions, and,
above all, to move admiration (which is the delight of serious plays),
a bare imitation will not serve." Later, in the Dedication to Amboyna
(1673), Dryden defines "admiration" as "that noble passion, to which
poets raise their audience in highest subjects, and they have then
gained over them the greatest victory, when they are ravished into a
pleasure which is not to be expressed by words."8 Said more simply, one
effect which Restoration tragedy sought was to create the concernmentt"
of the audience by touching their passions, to "delight" by affecting
No Restoration dramatist was more successful than Otway in achiev-
ing this desired aim, and his success in large measure is due to his
natural affinity for the pathetic mode in writing, an affinity which
becomes manifest for the first time in Don Carlos and achieves its
finest expression in Venice Preserv'd. To write pathetically, moreover,
is to describe the passions; in the Preface to Troilus and Cressida
(1679) Dryden implicitly identifies the art of describing the passions
with that of pathetic writing: "To describe these [the passions]
naturally, and to move them artfully, is one of the greatest commenda-
tions which can be given to a poet: to write pathetically, says
Longinus, cannot proceed but from a lofty genius. A poet must be born
7Sir Walter Scott and George Saintsbury, eda. The Works of
John Dryden (Edinburgh, 1882), II, 295.
8 Ibid., V, 5.
with this quality....'9 Dryden evidently thought that Otway possessed
this "quality" as much as any poet past or present. In his praise of
Otway after the latter's death Dryden declared: "Mr. Otway possessed
this part [the ability to describe tie passions] as thoroughly as any of
the ancients or moderns. I will not defend everything in his Venice
Preserv'd; but I must bear this testimony to his memory, that the pas-
sions are truly touched in it...nature is there, which is the greatest
But not only must a poet (to be successful) have a natural talent
for writing pathetically, he must also, according to Dryden, have "an
acquired knowledge of the passions, what they are in their own nature,
and by what springs they are to be moved"; and he must have judgment,
and skill "in the principles of moral philosophy."11 For though the aim
of tragedy is to excite the soul of the audience, it does so in order to
instruct, and of course it achieves this aim not by emotional appeal
alone, but by discovering and describing, as Sir William Davenant states,
"truth in the passions": "For wise Poets think it more worthy to seek
out truth in the Passions then to record the truth of Actions, and prac-
tise to describe Mankinde just as we are perswaded or guided by
instinct...."12 In other words, with deliberate and thoughtful care,
Restoration tragedians sought for meaning in the passions, and as a
result thought and feeling became peculiarly one in their dramas. Otway
9 Ibid., VI, 274.
0Ibid., XVII, 325-326.
Ibid., VI, 274-275.
12"Preface to Gondibert" (1650), in Critical Essays of the Seventeenth
Century, ed. J. E. Spingarn (Oxford, 1957), II, 3.
particularly is successful in the marriage of the two in Don Carlos, and
the play marks his emergence as a mature dramatist.
With his greater flexibility of versification and with his more
mature comprehension of man's passions, Otway is better able in Don
Carlos than in Alcibiades to bring into sharp focus his vision of man's
contradictory nature. Am it amerges in the play, that vision is one in.
which disorder appears as part of man's estate, where, under the pres-
sure of man's essential "unkindness," degree, relationship, and happiness
are fragmented. Yet even though human nature seems inevitably affected
by disorders, a significant focus of the play is also on moral law.
Though moral law cannot restore order to human nature in this life,
Otway suggests in Don Carlos that law may guide man toward another world
where order, "kindness," and happiness are found.
As though in answer to Don John's question, "Why should dull Law
rule Nature, who first made /That Law, by which her self is now betray'd"
(II, 1-2), Otway argues implicitly and dramatically throughout Don
Carlos that law is necessary to impose order upon nature--specifically
human nature. At the same time, the various conceptions of human
nature, either explicitly held by the characters in Don Carlos or at
least inherent in their actions, indicate that any definition of man's
13The word "Nature" is, of course, capable of varied meanings: see
Arthur 0. Lovejoy and George Boas, Primitivism and Related Ideas in
Antiquity (Baltimore, 1935), pp. 12-13; also Lovejoy's essay, "Nature
as Aesthetic Norm," Essays in the History of Ideas (New York, 1960),
pp. 69-77. The focus of Don Carlos, as I understand'it, is on human
nature is at best uncertain. In the speech which follows his,question,
Don John, for example, describes his particular view of human nature
E're Man's Corruptions made him wretched, he
Was born most nobel that was born most free:
Each of himself was Lord; and unconfin'd
Obey'd the dictates of his Godlike mind.
Law was an Innovation brought in since,
When Fools began to love Obedience,
And called their slavery Safety and defence.
According to his view, man's "true" nature is egotistically self-
sufficient, or "Godlike," though now defaced by a "fall" into the cor-
ruptions of social and moral law. Don John suggests that, in order to
regain his rightful nature, man must once again become lord of himself
and, unconfined by law, be free to do as he wills. His view of man's
nature, of course, is influenced by the fact of his illegitimacy, for
like Edmund in King Lear, whose address to Nature as his goddess is
recalled in Don John's soliloquy, he is a bastard and wishes to appeal
to a "natural" law that will justify the exercise of an egocentric
"freedom" beyond that prescribed by social law and obligation.
But "freedom" to Don John has special significance. In the scene
which follows Don John's account of man's "true" nature, Eboli, whom he
has been awaiting, enters, and he describes her as "the Bright Cyprian
Goddess" and himself as the "Warlike God she Loves" (II, 20; 22). His
reference to Venus and Mars, emblems here, perhaps, of voluptas, espe-
cially the epicurean deities, provides a "primitivistic" context in
which the freedom of Don John's "Godlike" nature receives a sexually
hedonistic emphasis. This freedom is then brought into contrast with
the restrictions of moral law. Eboli asks him (II, 30-32):
...if we could with happiest secresy
Enjoy these sweets; Oh whither shall we fly
T'Escape that sight whence we can nothing hidel
She alludes specifically to the Judeo-Christian belief that "The eyes of
the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Proverbs
15:3), a belief which makes every transgression of moral law an open
sin, for "all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom
we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13). In reply, Don John urges her to set
aside Christian moral law (with its concept of a judging lord) and to
turn to a religion whose god is more pleasing and whose doctrine is more
Alas lay this Religion now Aside;
I'le show thee one more pleasant, that which Jove
Set forth to the old World, when from above
He came himself and taught his Mortals Love.
He makes even more explicit the sexual freedom of man's "true" nature,
once again in contrast with moral law, in his soliloquy following his
love-making with Eboli (III, 1-5):
How vainly would dull Moralists Impose
Limits on Love, whose Nature brooks no Laws:
Love is a God, and like a God should be
Inconstant: with unbounded liberty
Rove as he list.
In short, Don John's view of man's "true" nature is that held by
the libertine. More precisely, it is the view contained in the
"Epicurean" vein of libertine thought. Dale Underwood states that the
"hedonistic ethics with pleasure as the summum bonum was...a central
doctrine for the libertine.... Beyond that the individualistic and ego-
centric aspects of Epicurean ethics were congenial to the libertine....
There was, for example, the denial of an ordained and fixed order in
nature and consequently of any absolute justice and law. On these
grounds among others the libertine could dismiss orthodox morality as
mere custom." 14 Don John's conception of man's "ideal" condition,
where "Each of himself was Lord; and unconfin'd /Obey'd the dictates of
his Godlike mind," is essentially "individualistic and egocentric." And
since law is an "Innovation" upon the "ideal" condition, morality
becomes "mere custom" to be dispensed with at will. Without law, man
has the freedom to find in sexual promiscuity his summum bonum. Don
John says (III, 18-20):
How wretched then's the man who, though al6ne,
He thinks he's blest; yet as Confin'd to one,
Is but at best a pris'ner on a Throne.
Happiness, he asserts, lies in a sexual indulgence which remains uncon-
fined and inconstant.
Underwood also demonstrates that the libertine "was almost as pre-
occupied with the Fall of Man as was the orthodox Christian"; in Don
John's first speech (II, 1-9) there seems present an ironic parallel
between his and the Christian's view of man's fall From a "Godlike" and
individualistic nature, man has fallen, according to Don John, into a
communal form of life, demanding "Safety and defence," and thus into an
"' unnatural world of law and order." 16 As Underwood states, in
libertine thought "man had fallen from his original and primitive state
14Etherege and the Seventeenth-Century Comedy of Manners, Yale Studies
in English, vol. 135 (New Haven, 1957), p. 15.
15 Ibid., p.. 32.
16Ibid., p. 34.
of bliss by following the Ignis fatuus of what the orthodox called
'civilization'. If the libertine were to redeem his fall...he could do
so only by freedom from the artificial and coiruptive restrictions of
custom. 17 Man's "redemption," moreover, is provided in the pattern of
a god who descended, as Don John says, "and taught his Mortals Love."
Don John adds that "Love is a God,." and one recalls (rather hauntingly,
perhaps) that indeed Christian doctrine declares that "God is Love."
Libertine thought, however, was, at best, contradictory concerning
man's nature. For as Underwood says, "if the naturalism of the liber-
tine looked one way toward the primitivist's Golden Laws of Nature, it
looked another way toward the naturalism of Machiavelli and later of
Hobbes.... 18 In contrast with the "state of grace" which Don John's
"soft primitivism" envisioned as man's true condition, Otway places the
"state of war" implied by Gomez's view of nature. Gomez represents a
conception of human nature best described as Homo homini lupus, a con-
ception which reflects the "jungle world of Ii Principe" and the war-
ring "state" of nature described by Hobbes.20 Essentially this world is
one where human nature "is not endowed with any spark of natural reason,
or any natural gregariousness. Instead, it is natural to man to have an
unlimited desire for acquisition, and...self-advancement or self-
assertiveness is commensurate with self-preservation."'21 Though the
18Ibid., p. 26.
19Hiram Haydn, The Counter-Renaissance (New York, 1960), p. 165.
20Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Michael Oakeshott (Oxford, n.d.),
21Haydn, p. 442.
motives for Gomez's duplicity are varied--ambition (I, 114-116); self-
protection (I, 167-173); revenge (I, 197); love (I, 206)--each has its
origin in self-interest, thus reflecting the basic motivation of the
Machiavellian and Hobbeslian "natural& man.
But the conception of man as a wolf to man emerges principally
through the imagery Gomez employs to describe his activities. He tells
Eboli (I, 208-215):
...methinks I view from hence a King,
A Queen and Prince, three goodly Flowers spring,
Whilst on 'em like a subtle Bee I'l prey,
Till so their Strength and Vertue drawn away,
Unable to recover, each shall droop,
Grow pale and fading hang his Wither'd Top:
Then fraught with Thyme Triumphant back I'l come
And unlade all the previous sweets at home.
The bee traditionally has been an emblem of communal life, particularly
the communal life of a monarchy. Furthermore, the bee sipping on
various flowers, even noxious weeds, was an image of the way the good
man, especially the Christian humanist, could extract sweetness and
health out of a variety of earthly contexts.22 But in Gomez's use of
the image, the bee acquires sinister implications, for subtly and with
murderous intent, it saps the life of the flowers. Gomez, of course, is
anticipating his own subtle attack on the King, Queen, and Carlos, which
makes the image even more "unnatural," for bees "preying" on flowers
involves two different "kinds": but man preys upon his own kind. The
22A clear and concise use of the tradition appears in Jonathan Swift's
The Battle of the Books, in Gulliver's Travels and Other Writings, ed.
Louis A. Landa (Boston, 1960), pp. 366-367. See also John Lyly, Euphues
and his England, in English Reprints, ed. Edward Arber (London, 1869),
image of one kind of man as an "unnatural" animal is more explicit when
later Gomez says (II, 81-84):
Thus unaccompany'd I subtilly range
The Solitary paths of dark revenge:
The fearful Deer in herds to Coverts run,
Whilst Beasts of prey affect to Roam alone.
Granted that animals prey upon animals, the words "subtilly" and "dark
revenge" impart a sinister, "unnatural" emphasis to the image. One
recalls Rochester's description of the difference between the "natural"
animal and man:
Birds feed on Birds, Beasts on each other prey;
But savage Man alone, does Man betray.
Prest by Necessity, They kill for Food;
Man undoes Man, to do himself no good.
With Teeth, and Claws, by Nature arm'd They hunt
Nature's allowance, to supply their want:.
But Man with Smiles, Embraces, Friendships, Praise,
Inhumanely, his Fellows Life betrays,
With voluntary Pains, works his Distress;
Not through Necessity, but Wantoness.23
Solitary, subtle, lacking "any natural gregariousness," man becomes a
beast of prey in Gomez's view of human nature, a view not unlike that
considered by Hobbes in his description of the "state of nature" where
solitary men are "apt to invade, and destroy one another..." and
where force and guile become necessary virtues.25 By these means Gomez
"toils" (one of the operative terms of the play), that is, he sets traps
23John Hayward, ed., Collected Works of John Wilmot Earl of Rochester
(London, 1926), pp. 38-39. See also the discussion of man as an
"unnatural" animal in Lovejoy and Boas, pp. 20-22.
24Hobbes, p. 82.
25 bid., p. 83.
and snares for his fellow man. When confronted with this jungle world,
Posa reacts openly by condemning it to Gomez (III, 144-147):
Since what may bless the World we ought to prize,
I wish there were no publijk enemies.
No lurking Serpents poyson to dispence,
Nor Wolves to prey on noble Innocence.
But Gomez responds predictably by later catching Posa in a trap and
treacherously murdering him; honesty seems utterly defenseless before
that man who is a wolf to man.
Along with these two contradictory views of man's nature, held by
Don John and Gomez, Otway suggests still a third view in Eboli. Like
Don John, she is a libertine for whom pleasure is a principal good
(IV, 241-242); and like Gomez, she also is partially motivated by
revenge and political ambition, employing deviousness to gain her ends.
In this sense then Eboli may represent both the "epicurean" libertinism
of Don John (whose duplicity is only a means to sensual gratification)
and the Machiavellian-Hobbesian "naturalism" of Gomez. It is Eboli who
starts in motion the series of events which culminate in the deaths of
Carlos and the Queen, and her motives are a complex mixture of desire
for sexual satisfaction and for revenge. Sensing the King's jealousy,
she advises Gomez to increase it, ostensibly in order that Gomet may be
revenged for past wrongs. But in her soliloquy at the end of the first
act, she implies other motives (216-218):
In thy fond policy Blind fool go on,
And make what hast thou canst to be undone,
Whilst I have nobler business of my own.
By engaging Gomez in a design against the royal family, she provides a
screen to hide her own "nobler bus'nessi" Her motive, however, becomes
more complex, for she then describes what her "nobler business" is
Was I bred up in Greatness, have I been
Nurtured with glorious hope@ to be a Queeni
Made love my study, and with Practic'd Charms
Prepar'd my self to meet a Monarch's Arms;
At last to be Condemn'd to the Embrace
Of one, whom Nature made to her disgrace?
An old Imperfect feeble dotard, who
Can only tell Alasl what he would do?
Sensual pleasure is for Eboli a "nobler business" whose profit is polit-
ical power. But with Gomez, Eboli has neither pleasure nor political
profit; thus her motive in encouraging him to plot against the King is
to trap him in his own designs, to urge him "to make what hast thou
canst to be undone."
As she continues her soliloquy, her motive for encouraging Gomez
reveals yet another aspect (229-234):
No, though all hopes are in a husband dead,
Another path to happiness I'l tread,
Elsewhere find Joyes which I'm in him deny'd:
Yet while he can let the slave serve my pride.
Still I'l in pleasure live, In Glory shine:
The gallant Youthful Austria shall be mine.
The ambiguity in the first line is rather chilling, for in one sense
Eboli's hopes are in the death of her husband. But while he lives, she
still will seek her summum bonum of pleasure for political profit in
Don John, who is both virile and a prince. And alive Gomez may yet
"serve" her "pride," allowing her, in another sense, to shine "In
Glory." For the events Eboli has set in motion by her advice to Gomez
are also motivated by her own desire to revenge herself on the King and
Carlos. In Eboli's confession in the last act of the play, she tells the
King (V, 238-245):
When I perceiv'd my hopes of you were vain,
Led by my lust I practis'd all my Charms,
To gain the Prince Don Carlos to my Arms:
But there too cross't, I did the purpose change,
And pride made him [i.e., Gomez] my Engine for Revenge:
Taught him to raise your gpwing Jealousie.
Then my wild passion at this Prince [i.e., Don John] did fly...
Rejected by King and Prince, Eboli had employed Gomez to revenge her
Primarily, then, Eboli's soliloquy implies a nature in which the
libertine quest for pleasure is merged with Machiavellian ruthlessness
and self-advancement. And the ruthless, devious way in which she
attempts to gain her end indicates her relationship with the jungle
world of Gomez. Eboli in fact in another speech links sexual imagery
with imagery of a hunter's trap (II, 75-80):
Too easily I'le not my self resign,
E're I am his, I'le make him surely mine;
Draw him by subtle baits into the Trap,
Till so too far got in to make escape,
About him swiftly the soft snare I'le cast,
And when I have him there I'le hold him fast.
Pleasure is the tender trap in which Eboli snares her victim.
In Don John, Gomez, and Eboli, Otway thus describes one set of
natures man may assume. The effect of this description is to imply that
human nature is so multifarious as to be definable only in terms of each
individual. And in view of Don John's question, "Why should dull Law
rule Nature...," a further implication seems to be that law is necessary
to impose at least a semblance of order on the disorders of some kinds
of human nature.
Otway enriches his theme of disorder in human nature by embedding
deep within the grain of Do_ SL as the stain of "unnaturalnsas." This
thematic development may be observed in the play through a word pattern
involving the repetition of "unkind," "too kind," and "kind." At the
first of the play, Gomez advises Carlos (I, 87-88):
Let not a Fathers ills misguide your mind,
But be Obedient, though he's prov'd unkind.
In one sense, "unkind" may here be understood to mean "cruel." But
throughout the play, Otway implies that the King's cruelty is a mani-
festation of a diseased sexuality--an unnaturalnesss" which erupts in
cruel behavior. Commenting on the King's jealousy, the Queen says
(III, 204-208): I
His unjust doubts have soon found out the way,
To make their entry on our Marriage day:
For yet he has not with me known a night;
Perhaps his Tyranny is his delight.
And to such height his Cruelty is grown,
He'd Exercise it on his Queen and Son.
And in similar terms, Carlos tells the King (III, 314-316):
And since You take such Joy in Cruelties;
E're of my death the new delight begin,
Be pleas'd to hear how cruel You have been.
With apparent irony, the Queen suggests that since the King's "unjust
doubts" have been the only thing "To make" an "entry" on her "Marriage
day," the cause for his sexual indifference may be that "Tyranny,"
instead of love, "is his delight." Carlos also indicates that the King
finds "Joy in Cruelties," and the effect of these two speeches is the
implication that, for the King, cruelty is a sexual "delight."
Otway in fact seems to suggest that the King's cruelty achieves its
"climax" in the scene where the King visits the Queen as she is slowly
dying from the poison he has ordered given to her. The King seems
insistent that the Queen remain unaware that she is dying, for he orders
Eboli to administer the poison secretly, and then says (IV, 654-658):
...to prevent all sence
Of dying, tell her I've released the Prince,
And that e're Morning he'l attend her: I
In a disguise his presence will supply:
So Glut my rage, and smiling see her dye.
Wanting to be mistaken for his son, the King, upon arriving at the
Queen's room, once more instructs Eboli (V, 31-38):
Quickly then to her: say that Carlos here
Waits to confirm his happiness with her.
Go: that my vengeance I may finish quite,
'Twould be imperfect should I lose the sight.
But to contrive that I may not be known,
And she may still mistake me for my Son:
Remove all Lights but that which may suffice
To let her see me scorn her when she dies.
Horrible as it may seem, the King's desire to be disguised as his son,
the sexual innuendo of the phrase "confirm his happiness with her," the
darkened room, and the embrace he gives her when he enters (V, 119) all
seem to point towards a cruel and "unnatural" wish to have sexual inter-
course with the Queen as she lies dying. The Queen, however, sees
through the disguise, and the King is reduced to taunting her. In a
moment of anger, the Queen returns his taunts, and he exclaims, "I ne're
had pleasure with her till this Night" (V, 190). Though frustrated in
his main design, the King here seems to reach a "climax" of cruelty, and
the darkened room indeed becomes the scene of a perverse wedding night.
It is perhaps the only kind of wedding night the King is able to
experience, for with almost clinical awareness, Otway Implies a relation-
ship between the King's "unnatural" joy in cruelty and him impotency.
In the first scene of Act I, the King tells the Queen (48-51):
Virgins should only fears and blushes show,
But you must lay aside the Title now.
The Doctrine which I preach by Heav'n is good;
Ohl the Impetuous sallyes of my Blood!
But the hint of his impotency (contradicting his assertion of lust in
the above lines) is advanced in Henrietta's reply to the Queen's amaze-
ment at the King's "Gravity" (II, 187-192):
Alas, what can you from old age expect,
When frail uneasie men themselves neglect?
Some little warmth perhaps may be behind,
Though such as in extinguish fires you'l find:
Where some remains of heat the ashes hold,
Which (if for more you open) straight are cold.
A later assertion of his lust seems even more false than the first when,
following their momentary reconciliation, the King gives the Queen to
Eboli's care "Whilst I retiring hence, my self make fit / To wait for
Joyes, which are too fierce to meet" (III, 428-429). In Act V, these
hints culminate in Don John's explicit statement linking impotency with
cruelty (71; 73-76):
I know your Queen and Son y'have doom'd to die,
Why would you cut a sure Succession off,
At which your Friends must grieve, and Foes will laugh;
As if since Age has from you took away
Increase, you'd grow malicious and destroy?
With loss of virility the King's sexuality seems to turn to malicious
Otway increases the scope of the King's "unnatural" sexuality by
suggesting that the King's suspicion of incest between Carlos and the
Queen is another "unnatural" response prompted by impotency. As the
Queen is dying, she tells the King (V, 154-157)1
Not your own Daughter could have lov'd you more:
Till Conucious of your Age my faith was blam'd,
And I a lewd Adulteress proclaimed;
Accus'd of foulest Incest with your Son....
One is tempted to read the first verse as a taunt which the Queen,
scornful of the King's fixation on incest, throws at him, but the last
verses seem more clearly to indicate that the King's consciousness of
his age (i.e., his impotency) motivated his charge of adultery and
incest against Carlos and the Queen. By recalling Gomez's advice to
Carlos ("Let not a Fathers ills misguide your mind, / But be Obedient,
though he's prov'd unkind") which associates the King's "unkindness"
with a disease, the relationship between the King's impotency and his
charge of incest may be more readily discernible. For Otway implies
that the King's suspicions of incest are part of a sexually diseased
imagination whose development is apparently related to impotency. After
Gomez has first hinted at the existence of a passion between Carlos and
the Queen, the King returns to him and begs (II, 127-133):
Quickly what past between 'em more declare.
How greedily my Soul to ruine flyes,
As he who in a Feavour burning lyes,
First of his Friends does for a drop implore,
Which tasted once, unable to give 'ore:
Knows 'tie his bane, yet still thirsts after more.
The "drop" which the fevered, diseased imagination of the King implores
is a description of love-tokens which may have passed between Carlos and
the Queen. The King in fact wants ocular proof of their incest. He
demands of Gomez (III, 71-72):
No, lead me where I may their Incest see.
Do: or by heav'n--do and I'le worship Theel
The tone is difficult to determine, compounded as it is of threat and
sexual excitement, but the implication of a perverted desire of the
imagination to witness their incest is present.
The King concludes this conversation with Gomez with a speech whose
imagery implicitly brings together the three aspects of his "unkindness":
cruelty, impotency, and a diseased imagination (III, 121-128):
No, no: I need not hear it o're again.
No repetitions--something must be done.
Now there's no ill I know that I would shun.
I'l fly, till them I've in their Incest found,
Full charged with rage and with my vengeance hot,
Like a Granado from a Cannon shot,
Which lights at last upon the Enemies ground,
Then breaking deals destruction all around.
The first three lines, being fully end-stopped and the first two being
divided internally by strong caesuras, suggest a tension within the King
which will erupt in cruelty. And that cruelty, joined with his desire
to find or "see" the Queen and Carlos in the act of incest, becomes the
"ill" he will not shun. Otway seems to imply through the phallic sug-
gestiveness in the image of a cannon whose projectile is the King, "full
charged with rage and with...vengeance hot," that the King's cruelty and
desire to witness their incest are expressions of an "unnatural" sexual-
One other possible sexual unnaturalnesss," again associated with
the King's impotency, should perhaps be mentioned. Otway may suggest
that the King is provedd unkind" in the sense that even his cruelty is
more effeminate than manly, for as the Queen is dying, she tells him
Thus having Urg'd your Malice to the head,
You spightfully are Come to rail me dead.
Had I been man and had an impious Wife,
With speedy fury I'd have snatch'd her life:
Torn a broad passage open to her heart,
And there have ransack't each polluted part:
Triumph'd and laugh'd t'have seen the Iss'uing flood,
And Wantonly have bath'd my hands in blood.
That had out-done the low revenge You bring,
Much fitter for a Woman then a King.
The very act by which he destroys her is an emblem of his "unkindness"
in that it suggests the deed of a woman and not a man. And perhaps by
now it may be apparent that by relating the King's cruelty and sick
imagination to his impotency, Otway ultimately is hinting at an essen-
tial negativism of the evil which renders man "unkind."
The motif of sexual "unkindness," furthermore, reappears in con-
texts other than those involving the King's character. Otway provides a
hint that Gomez (who, like the King, is old and impotent (III, 168-169),
a man whom Eboli (I, 226) describes as one who "can only tell Alas! what
he would do") turns to the cruel entrapment of others as a sexual sub-
stitute for pleasing Eboli. When he tells Eboli, fcr instance, that,
like a bee, he will draw the "Strength and Vertue...away" from the King,
Queen, and Carlos, and "Then fraught with Thyme Triumphant" return "And
unlade all the previous sweets at home," there is at least the implica-
tion of a perverted sexuality in his "unkindness." This implication
particularly becomes apparent when one recalls the use of "sweets"
throughout the play to refer to sexual love: Eboli refers to the possi-
bility of adultery "if we could with happiest secresy /Enjoy these
sweets" (II, 30-31); and Don John replies that the nobly born "should
highest prize /Loves sweets" (43-44); the King laments that jealousy
poisons "all Loves sweets" (II, 114); Don John speaks of Eboli's love-
making as "Like too near sweets" (III, 12); and Carlos reminds the King
that once he acted as a father by helping Carlos find a wife, "Then
Loves dear sweets you to me would display" (III, 321). One of the
effects of this persistent word pattern is to illuminate the hint Otway
provides in Gomez's statement, for unable to discharge the sexual sweets
of love, Gomez will unlade the previouss sweets" of cruelty for Eboli.
Sexual "unkindness," however, is expressed as well by being "too
kind"--either extreme becomes a departure from the norm of "kind."
After Eboli sends Gomez to inflame the King's jealousy, she then makes
love with Don John. Gomez returns sooner than she expected, and, some-
what flustered, she upbraids him with his lack of attendance upon her.
He reminds her of the task she gave him, and she replies (II, 91-94):
Your pardon, for I do remember now:
If I forgot, 'twas love had all my mind,
And 'tis no sin I hope to be too kind.
Though deliberately ambiguous, Eboli of course refers in the last two
verses to her love-making with Don John, hopeful that it has been "no
sin...to be too kind." But as if to underscore the "unkindness" of
Eboli's "too kind" encounter with Don John, Otway provides Gomez with
the ironic response (95): "How.happy am I in a faithful Wife!" To be
"too kind" (as Eboli has been) destroys the "kindnesE." of marriage. The
King also employs the term "too kind" to imply the Queen's "unkindness"
when he criticizes the Queen's friendship with Carlos (II, 145-148):
True, she may show promiscuous blessings down
On slaves that gape for what falls from a Crown.
But when too kindly she his brightness sees,
It robs my Lustre to add more to his....
To be "too kind" sexually is to be pkomlseuous and thus "unkind" to the
The theme of "unkindness," permeating the play, has been described
thus far as primarily sexual. But it also appears in Don Carlos in the
sense of a breakdown in family relationships. Gomez's warning to Carlos
to be "Obedient," though the King has "prov'd unkind," may be understood
as referring to the collapse of the "kindness" binding father and son.
Having been robbed by his father of his bride-to-be, Carlos laments, "A
cruel Father thus destroys his Son" (I, 78). And as the King's jealousy
grows, Posa warns Carlos and the Queen, "The King, the King your Father's
jealous grown; /Forgetting her, his Queen, or you his Son" (III, 194-195).
In the confrontation which follows between Carlos, the Queen, and the
King, Carlos attempts to address the King, "Father, if I may dare to
call you so, / Since now I doubt if I'm your Son or no" (III, 309-310),
but the King replies, "Will then that Monster dare to speak again?"
(312). The suggestion is that, at least for the King, "kindness" has
collapsed and son has become "Monster." The loss of "kind" extends to.
include the King's relationship with the Queen, for when Gomez insinu-
ates that against the King's commands Carlos is visiting the Queen, the
King exclaims (IV, 300-302):
0 Woman! Monstrous WomanI
Did I for this into my breast receive
The promising repenting Fugitive?
And finally Carlos, his "heart" poisoned "with the Dishonours" done to
him (IV, 9-10), is brought to deny "kindness" (IV, 160-162):
Henceforth be ever curs't the name of Son:
Since I must be a Slave because I'm one.
Dutyl to whom? He's not my Father: no....
Carlos later will affirm the father-son relationship, but now, under the
pressure of the King's "unkindness," order, degree, and relationship
become fragmented for him.
Don John, however, at least feebly attempts to recognize familial
"kindness." He tells Carlos (IV, 137-142):
The King your Father is my Brother, true,
But I see more that's like my self in you.
Freeborn I am, and not on him depend:
Oblig'd to none but whom I call my Friend.
And if that Title you think fit to bear,
Accept the Confirmation of it here.
Carlos replies, "From you, to whom I'm by such Kindness ty'd, /The
secrets of my Soul I will not hide" (143-144). But even here centrif-
ugal forces tend to destroy kindness. The focus seems to shift for
Don John away from the more central relationship of brother to brother
(almost grudgingly admitted by him) to the more distant relationship of
uncle to nephew. But at the same time, Don John (in accord with his
bastardy) denies any obligation inherent in familial "kindness," shift-
ing it to the distant, self-determined "kindness" of friendship. The
ambiguousness of Carlos's reply makes it difficult to determine whether
Carlos is bound to Don John by the "kindness" of family or friendship;
perhaps he is bound by both, but again the focus seems to be on that of
Yet on another occasion, and rather ironically in view of his
bastardy, Don John appears to affirm the obligations of family
relationship in the face of the King's attempt to dissipate or at least
obfuscate it. The King, trying to win Don John's approval of his inten-
tion to destroy the Queen and Carlos, tells him (V, 77-80):
...Thou my Brother art,
And in my blood I'm certain hast a part.
Onely the Justice of my Vengeance own,
Th' art Heir of Spain. and my adopted Son.
When a half-brother becomes an adopted son in exchange for the approval
of the murder of the natural son, familial kindnesss' seems emptied of
meaning or obligation. But Don John replies (81; 83-84; 87-88):
I must confess therein a Crown are charms,
But in my Nephew's wrong I must decline,
Since he must be extinguish't e're I shine.
Did you we're Love, or have you ever known
The mighty Value of so brave a Son?
Once again the central relationship between father and son has collapsed
and only in the peripheral relationship between uncle and nephew are
degree and order maintained. But even this distant relationship the
King dismisses with contempt, "I guess'd I should be treated thus
before; /I know it is thy Kindness, but no more" (89-90).
Yet even though Don John affirms the bonds of "kindness" with
Carlos, his egocentric view of man's nature causes him to contribute
unwittingly to Carlos's death, for it leads him into sexual promiscuity
with Eboli and thus into becoming part of her motivation in encouraging
Gomez against the King and Carlos. Thus the disorders which may afflict
human nature seem to make it difficult, if not impossible, 'to maintain
"kindness." And even those whose natures are not disturbed by inward
disorders often find themselves forced by the disorders of others into
dilemmas where "kindness" again seems impossible to maintain. The
King's foolish marriage to the Queen creates for Carlos a situation
where he is pulled by opposing loyalties. But these contradictory
loyalties may perhaps be best illustrated by the situation which the
Queen finds imposed on her. If she is "kind" to the King as her husband,
she then must be "kind" to Carlos as her son and "unkind" to him as
lover; and if she is "kind" to Carlos as her lover to whom she once was
betrothed, she must be "unkind" to him as a son and to the King as her
husband. Indeed the world which Carlos and the Queen find themselves a
part of seems very like that John Donne described:
'Tis all in pieces, all cohaerence gone;
All just supply, and all Relation:
Prince, Subject, Father, Sonne, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinks he hath got
To be a Phoenix, and that there can bee
None of that kind, of which he is, but hee.
This is the worlds condition now.... 26
The disorders afflicting human nature extend in the play beyond
man's "unkindness," and the multifarious natures he assumes, to include
human reason as well. Throughout Don Carlos, the characters express
their uncertainty and unknowing:
For Heav'n my Lord, you know not what you do (1, 37)
Alas, my Lord, you know not with what fear / ...I come (II, 23)
26The First Anniversary, 11. 213-219, in Frank Manley, ed.,
John Donne: The First Anniversaries (Baltimore, 1963), pp. 73-74.
I know not what to grant (II, 266)
For half my miseries thou can't not know (II, 321)
I know not what I'd have thee do (III, 52)
I shiver all, and know no what I do (III, 375)
What shall we do? (III, 476)
Alas I'mtorn, and know not what to do (IV, 601).
And if human reason confronts the present with uncertainty, the future
also is uncertain, for Carlos's interpretation of his own intention to
join the rebels in Flanders undergoes alteration. At first he claims
that his intention is to "vindicate their Cause" and by force to gain a
Crown (IV, 21-32); but then he tells Don John that "for Flanders I
intend my way. /Where to th' insulting Rebels I'le give Law, / To keep my
self from wrongs, and them in awe" (IV, 148-150). And finally he tells
the King (IV, 509-516):
At last this only way I found, to flye
Your anger, and divert your Jealousie--
To go for Flanders, and be so remov'd
From all I ever honour'd, ever Lov'd.
There in your right, hoping I might compleat,
'Spight of my wrongs, some Action truly great.
Thus by my Faith and Sufferings to out-wear
Your hate, and shun that storm which threatened here.
The motivation for a future act (which in this instance is never com-
pleted) changes in a flux of uncertainty.
Much of the characters' uncertainty results from their having to
live in a world of appearances, where discrepancies exist between what
seems to be and what is. Gomez exploits this discrepancy for his own
gain, though finally he fails because he too is victimized by Eboli's
duplicity., Aware of the King's jealousy, Gomez increases it by simply
reporting to him what he has seen occurring between Carlos and the Queen,
knowing as he does so that the King will interpret these occurrences in
the light of his diseased jealousy. When the King tells him, "I would
not find my self at last deceiv'd," Gomez replies (III, 115; 118-119)1
Nor would I againstt your reason be believed;
Your Queen and Son may yet be innocent,
I know but what they did, not what they meant.
But as Gomez expects, the King replies, "Meant? what should looks and
sighs and pressings mean?" (120), for, as F. N. Coeffeteau states in
A Table of Humane Passions (1621), "jealousie makes bad Interpretations:'
being "like unto those counterfeit glasses, which never represent the
Though jealousy leads the King to make bad interpretations of
appearances, Otway implies that the King is guilty of perhaps a greater
fault--intellectual pride. The absurdity of the King's intellectual
assertiveness throughout the play is obvious, and it is through this
absurdity that Otway suggests the fallibility of human reason. The King
warns Gomez that he will not endure being tortured by suspicions, and
the latter replies ironically (II, 168-171):
Good Heaven forbid that I should ever dare
To Question Virtue in a Queen so fair.
Though she her Eyes cast on her Glorious Sun,
Men oft see Treasures and yet covet none.
The King answers (172-175):
27tr. Edward Grimeston (London, 1621), p. 178.
Think not to blind me with dark Ironies,
The Truth diaguis'd in Obscure Contraries.
No, I will trace his windings; All her dark
And subtlest paths, Each little Action mark....
The intellectual arrogance in the King's reply is profound, for though
the pronouns "his" and "her" refer to Carlos and the Queen, syntacti-
cally they may also refer to "Truth." Thus the King implicitly reveals
his conviction that he can perceive "Truth" though it be hidden in "dark
Ironies" and "Obscure Contraries"; that he can "trace" and map its
windingg" and "dark...subtlest paths." In other words, appearances do
not present a barrier to the King's perception of true "reality." He
thinks himself able, as he tells Don John, to perceive the "truth" con-
cerning the Queen, "Oh Austria, that a form so outward bright, / Should
be within all dark and ugly night" (III, 35-36). And later he tells the
Queen (III, 258-261):
Holdl let me look! indeed y'are wondrous fair,
So on the out-side Sodoms Apples were.
And yet within, when open'd to the view,
Not half so dangerous, or so foul, as you.
Truth holds no mystery for the King: the without and within, appearance
and reality, yield their secrets to him in the pride of his reason.
The irony is obvious: a slave to the passion of jealousy, mis-
guided by his senses, the King is perhaps more blind than any other
character in the play. By means of the great distance separating what
is from what the King thinks exists, Otway implies the limited vision of
human reason which, directed by the senses, can often only perceive the
appearances of things, and, influenced by the passions, makes distorted
interpretations of appearances. The abundance of visual and auditory
images, especially references to the eyes and ears, implies throughout
the play,furthermore, that all any one knows is dependent upon the
senses. And the senses, as J. F. Sennault describes in The Use of
Passions (1649), are "bad masters":
When I consider the soul as a prisoner in the body,
I bewail her condition, and I wonder not if she so
oft takes falsehood for truth, because it entereth
by the gate of the senses; this divine Spirit is en-
closed in the body, not having any other cognizance
save what she borrowth either from the Eies or the
Eares thereof; and these two- senses which by nature
seem so particularly appropriated to knowledge are
such deceivers, as their devices are for the most
part but impostures .... They consider only the appear-
ances of things; they stop at accidents, their weakness
cannot penetrate into substances....They make us only
see the appearance of objects, and hide their truth
from us. We remain ignorant under these bad masters,
and our Imagination being informed but by their reports,
we can only conceive false opinion.... Hence it is that all
our knowledge is full of error, and that the truth is never
without falsehood, that our opinions are uncertain, and
that our Passions which obey them, are alwaies out of
Reason then is ultimately unable to pierce the dark ironies and obscure
contraries which hide the truth, and the consequence for the human being
is his uncertain sojourn in a world whose realities remain a mystery.
To pretend otherwise is to end in madness--as does the King.
Otway suggests, furthermore, that human nature--indefinable,
various, "unkind," and severely limited in its perceptual powers--has
lost the awareness of what constitutes its final good. Don Carlos
begins with the King's assertion of happiness and ends with Don John's
28Tr. Henry Earle of Monmouth (London, 1649), pp. 75-76.
lament, "Despairl how vast a Triumph hast thou made?" (V, 500). And
between this beginning and end the characters act out their tragic
search for happiness in this life. jor Don John, happiness is synony-
mous with pleasure, but Otway describes pleasure as a transient,
illusory happiness at best, as evidenced by Don John's statement to
Eboli (XI, 44-49):
...Oh let me fly into those Eyes,
There's something in 'em leads my Soul astray,
As he who in a Negromancer's glass
Beholds his wish't for fortune by him pass,
Yet still With greedy Eyes--
Pursues the Vision as it glides away.
The libertine view of man's nature provides a happiness whose chief good
is as brief as it is illusive, for (as the King "prophetically" implies
in his madness) age, disease, and impotency ultimately destroy it
Look to 'tl strange things I tell thee are designed.
Thou Austria shalt grow old, and in thy age
Doat, Doat, my Heroel oh a long gray Beard,
With Eyes distiling Rheum, and hollow Cheeks,
Will be such charms thou can't not want success:
But above all beware of Jealousie.
It was the dreadful Curse that ruin'd me.
His "prophecy" is his own painful awareness and acceptance--now too late
--of his age and impotency; it is "strange" and unacceptable only to the
man, like Don John, whose final good lies in physical pleasure.
Eboli takes "Another path to happiness" (I, 230), not altogether
different from that taken by Don John, but one whose end includes not
only pleasure but political advantage. And for Eboli, pleasure's
happiness is as illusive as it is for Don John: she tells Gomez,
"Whilst with your absence tortur'd, I in Vain/ Pant after joys I ne're
can hope to gain" (II, 87-88). Otway infuses her statement with degrees
of irony, and perhaps the most profound is the futility of the libertine'?
search for sexual happiness. Having found happiness with Don John, it
quickly slips away, for both of them, vanishing with the novelty af it.
first experiences. Eboli says of Don John (IV, 240; 244-247):
H'has reapt his Joys, and now he would be free,
Yet will I hold him; Tho' enjoyment tyres,
Though Love and Appetite be at the best;
He'll serve as common meats fill up a Feast;
And look like plenty though we never taste.
Political advantage and revenge, like pleasure, are also self-defeating,
for Eboli's "path to happiness" ends with her death at the hands of
Gomez and the public exposure of her self-interested motives. At that
point, Don John's first description of her as "the Bright Cyprian
Goddess" (II, 20) is stripped of ambiguity by his last description--
"vile prostitute" (V, 310). Eboli's path of pleasure for political
profit leads only to the "happiness" of the common whore.
The duplicity and Machiavellian craft by which Gomez. pursues his
happiness is just as self-defeating. When Eboli asks him why he loses
"the pleasure of this happy night" by toiling "with the dull business of
the State" (I, 175-178), Gomez replies (I, 179-183):
Only my fair one, how to make thee great:
Thou tak'st up all the business of my heart,
And only to it pleasures canst impart:
Say say, my Goddess, when shall I be blest?
It is an Age since I was happy last.
Impotent as Gomez is, happiness must lie elsewhere for him than in
sexual delight, and he implies that it lies in making Eboli great.
Eboli then prompts him to scheme against the royal family, declaring,
"Nay Sir, I'l try what mighty Love you show: /If you will make me great,
begin it now" (1, 205-206). And from that moment the business of his
heart becomes the Machiavellian attempt to make Eboli great and thus
make himself happy. But his business becomes a "toil" in which he him-
self is caught and destroyed. Discovering Eboli embracing Don John, he
says (IV, 443-445):
...Whilst I was busie grown
In others ruines, here I've met my own.
Ohl had I perish't e're 'twas understood.
Shortly afterwards he does perish at the hands of the King.
Still another path to a false happiness is taken by the King.
Quickly losing the seeming happiness he possesses at the first of the
play, he moves into the torments of jealousy. Happiness for the King
resides in a release from those torments, and that release he seeks
through the destruction of Carlos and the Queen. Poison having already
been given the Queen, the King tells Don John (V, 57-60):
...I'm all that can
Be counted miserable in a man:
But thou shalt see how calm anon I'le grow,
I'le be as happy and as gay as Thou.
But Don John replies (61-64):
No Sirl my happiness you cannot have,
Whilst to your abject passions thus a slave.
To know my ease you thoughts like mine must bring,
Be something less a man, and more a King.
The King, impotent and old, cannot know the libertine's happiness, but
the irony of course is that both he and the libertine are slaves to
.passion. Don John, however, may mean that the King, by being "a slave
to th' vilest that obey" and following "blindly...as they lead astray"
(V, 95; 97), has abdicated reason's rule over the passions; and that
only by reasserting his kingly control of himself will he be able to
show less human frailty. But the King misunderstands, and him r mponsa
indicates that he means to "grow" into Don John's kind of happiness by
becoming, not lord of himself as Don John would have, but a tyrant whose
jealous passions will utterly destroy "pleading Nature" and "Love"
I'm growing so: 'Tis true that long I strove
With pleading Nature, combated with Love.
Those Witchcrafts that had bound my Soul so fast,
But now the Date of the Enchantment's past:
before my rage like ruined down they fall,
And I mount up true Monarch o're e'm all.
Through the cruel assertion of a tyrannic authority which reduces
"Nature" and "Love" to "ruines," the King mounts towards a happiness
which, like that of the others, is self-defeating, being purchased "at
so dear a rate" (IV, 667).
Otway seems to suggest in Don Carlos that true happiness is
unattainable by anyone in this life: political interest misguidess our
wills, /And with false happiness smooths o're our ills" (II, 195-196);
Fate seems to work against happiness;29 even law and moral order may
deny happiness (Carlos can find happiness only with the Queen, but moral
law, imposed by the Queen, keeps him at a distance.) He tells her
29See III, 96; III, 452-456.
How difficult's the path to happiness!
Whilat up the Precipice we climb with pain,
One little slip throws us quite down again.
Their dilemma brings the Queen finally to lament (III, 469-473)1
Oh that we had never met,l
But in our distant Clymates still been freely
I might have heard of you, and you of me:
So towards happiness more safely mov'd;
And never been thus wretched, Yet have lov'd.
But Otway leaves the impression in Don Carlos that all pathways to hap-
piness in this world seem doomed to end in failure.
Otway, nevertheless, implies also that there is a path which, lead-
ing through death, ends in a restoration of happiness in another world.
By means of a pervasive image of happiness as a treasure man either
loses or has stolen from him,30 Otway perhaps recalls Christ's statement
that man should not lay up for himself treasures upon the earth, but
rather he should lay up treasures in heaven: "For where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). The happiness which
Don John, Eboli, Gomez, and the King seek is a treasure of this world.
And so it is for Carlos, but the Queen, by imposing moral law on him,
forces him to remove his hope for treasure on earth to treasure in
heaven, where, as the Queen says, "without spot hereafter we above/May
meet when we shall come all soul all love" (II, 297-298). Though law
cannot provide happiness for man in this life, it may lead him to where
happiness can be achieved. Paradoxically, that time and place where
happiness may be found are in death, for only then do Carlos and the
30See 1, 12-13; 227-228; II, 170-171; 270-275; 311-314; III, 116-117;
321-322; 426-427; V, 200.
Queen find happiness in the anticipation of an imminent life together in
The focus thus far in this analysis of Otway's Idramatic argument
for law as a necessary guide for human nature has been on the disorders
which may afflict individual human nature, the dilemmas such disorders
create for others, and on man's search to find his lost felicity, all of
which reveal the need for some ordering principle. It now remains to
describe Otway's more positive affirmation of law as that principle of
order. His affirmation, moreover, is twofold, encompassing the under-
lying principles of both the Christian and Hebraic views of moral law.
On the one hand, confronted by uncertainties and the limited scope of
human reason, Otway implies that man must walk by faith and not by sight.
By following what one may call a law of faith, furthermore, man may find
the path to true happiness. Defending the Queen, Carlos tells the King
If to her Cause you do not credit give,
Fondly against your happiness you'll strive,
As some loose Heav'n because they won't believe.
And the King then tells the Queen (402-405):
Oh wert thou true how happy should I bel
Think'st Thou that I have Joy to part with thee?
No, all my Kingdom fot the bliss I'd give:
Nay though it were not so but to believe.
But his diseased jealousy makes the King unwilling to believe the virtue
of his Queen, and he loses the path to.happiness, his Queen, and heaven
itself, for his disbelief turns his world into a hell. He tells Don
John (V, 103-107):
...why, is there any Truth
In Women Vowes, or DiaobAient Youth?
I sooner would believe this World were Heav'n;
Where I have nought but Toyles and Torment met,
And never comfort yet to man was given....
Faith will not change the miseries of life, but it may provide a fore-
taste of the happiness of heaven: by his disbelief, the King is left
with only the "Toyles and Torment" that prefigure hell.
If faith is required in the midst of uncertainties, Otway also sug-
gests through the dilemma confronting Carlos and the Queen that moral
law is required to govern the disorders within human nature. Their
dilemma is one in which the principal conflict is between passionate,
individual desires and the moral law requiring honor to one's father
(Exodus 20:12) and forbidding incest (Lev. 18:8). In the latter, the
conflict is made more intense (and Otway's affirmation of law more
emphatic).because only by law are Carlos's desires "unnatural,"' since
only by law is the Queen related to him. The emphasis then is not on
the unnaturalnesss" of his desires, but rather upon the demand for
obedience to law.
As the play opens, Carlos reveals his rebelliousness towards
authority (I, 14-17):
Cursel What's obedience? a false Notion made
By Priests, who when they found old Cheats decay'd,
By such new Arts kept up declining Trade.
A Father ohl--
The imagery indicates that his rebelliousness is not only towards the
authority of the King, his father, but towaids moral authority
itself.31 Similar imagery appears in Carlos's response to the advice
Gomez offers to "Let not a Fathers ills misguide your mind, / But be
Obedient, though he's prov'd unkind": Carlos replies, "Hence Cynick to
dull Slaves thy Morals teach, /f have no leisure now to hear thee
Preach" (I, 87-90). The obedience towards which Carlos moves throughout
the play may be described as a submissiveness both to parental and moral
This movement begins with the first, private interview Carlos has
with the Queen. She attempts to avoid him, bdt he stops her and asks
Is Carlos sight ungrateful to you grown?
If 'tis, speak. In Obedience I'le retire.
When the Queen answers, "No, you may speak, but must advance no nigher"
(220), Carlos replies (221-226):
Must I then at that Awful distance sue,
As our forefathers were Compel'd to do
When they petitions made at that great Shrine,
Where none but the High Priest might enter in?
Let me approach; I've nothing for your Ear,
But what's so pure it might be Offer'd there.
The imagery on one level portrays the Queen as love's temple whose
sanctum sanctorum only the King (as High Priest) may enter. And on this
level, Carlos reveals his disregard for parental and legal authority.
But on another level the imagery of the Hebraic Temple suggests the
larger dimensions of Carlos's rebellion. One may recall that because of
the disorder within human nature occasioned by the Fall, God becomes a
31See Il, 41: "My Son! That Rebel both to Heav'n and mel"
hidden God, veiled in the obscurity of the holy of holies. The commnnon
worshipper's being forced to remain outside emblems the "Awful distance"
separating him from Deus absconditus, and it is only by ritual of law
that he is enabled to approach throdkh petitions what once the first man
beheld. Carlos wants (like Don John) to "lay this Religion now Aside"--
in effect to deny the Fall and law, implying that his nature is "pure"
and thus rightfully able to speak directly to his deity. The virtue of
the Queen, however, restrains him (245-248):
If e're you lov'd me you would this forbear;
It is a Language which I dare not hear:
My Heart and Faith become your Fathers right,
All other passions I must now forget.
They both have lost the "kindness" of lovers: she may no longer hear
his language of love, and he may not enter the shrine of love's temple.
And the implication is present--in contradiction to Don John's assertion
of man's "Godlike" nature--that man has lost his "kindness" with deity,
and only through obedience to law may the "Awful distance" be bridged.
The Queen, however, finds "That still at least I cannot be unkind"
(II, 267), and then proceeds to a statement of the only possible
"kindness" permissible within the "unkindness" her marriage to the King
imposes between her and Carlos. In response to Carlos's plea, "Let me
love on" (285), she replies (295-298):
Love then Brave Prince, whilst I'l thy Love admire,
Yet keep the Flame so pure, such chest desire,
That without spot hereafter we above
May meet when we shall come all soul all love.
Their profane love must image holy love, and in this sense the Queen
describes a type of caritas, the only "kindness" they may experience,
and one which may infuse restrictive moral law with a foretaste of that
love they may find when their "kindness" is restored in heaven.
But though the Queen may be an emblem of both human and divine law
(perhaps even grace), she herself is subject to the same temptations
that face Carlos. For while speaking to Carlos (as the stage directions
indicate), she "Gives her hand, which D. Carlos during all this speech
kisses eagerly." The stage effect thus emblems the conflicting demands
of desire and moral law which clash within Carlos and for the moment
within the Queen. Recognizing her danger, "Oh whither am I run astray"
(II, 299), she leaves. But Carlos is overcome, telling Posa, "I'm more
Impatient than before, /And have discovered Riches, make me mad" (311-
312). Posa tells him that "those Treasures are not to be had" and
advises that he "correct desires" which lead him "Beyond that duty which
becomes a Son": "The Brave may by themselves be happy made. /You to
your Father now must all resign" (313-318). Posa seems to counsel
Christian patience, which, according to Lactantius' Divine Institutes.
is a virtue that, by acquiescing to divine decrees, "recalls the dis-
turbed and wavering mind to its tranquility; it mitigates, it restores a
man to himself." 32 But Carlos replies (319-324):
But we're he rob'd me of her she was mine.
Make my self happy bid the damn'd do so;
Who in sad Flames, must be for ever tost,
Yet still in view of the lov'd Hea'vn th'ave lost.
His refusal to submit in lawful worship before the shrine he cannot
32The Ante Nicene Christian Library, eds. Alexander Roberts and
James Donaldson (Edinburg, 1867-1872), XXI, 347.
enter increases that "Awful distance" separating the obedient worshipper
from the holy of holies to the still more "Awful distance" separating
the damned in hell from heaven.
Yet guided by the Queen, Carloamoves closer to obedience. Having
urged to Carlos the necessity of submission and of a holy love, the
Queen next urges the need for hope. Informed of the King's jealous rage,
Carlos expresses a desire to die in her defense, but she replies
Talk not of death, for that ev'n Cowards dare,
When their base fears compel e'm to despair.
Hope's ,the far nobler passion of the Mind,
'Fortune's a Mistriss that's with Caution kind,
Knows that the constant merit her alone;
They, who though she seem froward, yet court on.
Hope should stand between Carlos and despair, but Otway seems to suggest
in Don Carlos that hopes are fulfilled only in that world where man
exists "all soul all love." Through perseverance and constancy, man may
be led by Fortune to the place where the treasure of his desire may be
granted, but not in this life. Not until their deaths do Carlos and the
Queen recognize this truth. Yet Carlos replies, "To wretched minds thus
still some comfort gleames, /And Angels ease our griefs though but with
Carlos has now reached the point where, in defense of the Queen, he
confesses to the King his disobedience (III, 354-360):
I love the Queen, I have contest 'tis true:
Proud too to think I love her more than you;
Though she by Heav'n is clear--but I indeed
Have been unjust, and do deserve to bleed.
There were no lawless thoughts that I'did want,
Tho' I ne're yet found hopes to raise 'em on....
That his confession, however, is not a true submission is indicated by
the Queen: "No Sir, he through despair all this has said, /And owns
Offences which he never made" (370-371). Yet his movement towards
obedience is implicit. The scene ends with the reconciliation between
the King and Queen, and with Carlos's exile from the court. With this
exile and their reconciliation, any hope for his present poeeession of
the Queen is extinguished (515-518):
Thus long I wander'd in Loves crooked way,
By hope's deluding Meteor, led astray:
For e're I've half the dangerous desert crost,
The glimm'ring light's gone out, and I am lost.
Carlos now recognizes, if not accepts, the impossibility of fulfilling
his hope of love--that hope which is a false light. Relinquishing this
hope, Carlos is left with the alternatives of obedience through exile or
But whether Carlos leaves the court or not, he recognizes his loss.
Act IV begins with his resigned lament (1-6):
The next is the Apartment of the Queen;
In vain I try, I must not venture in.
Thus is it with the Souls of murder'd men;
Who to their Bodies would agen repair,
But finding that they cannot enter there,
Mourning and groaning wander in the Aire.
His refusal to enter her apartment may imply a growing acceptance of his
condition. But rebelliousness is yet present (7-10):
Rob'd of my Love, and as unjustly thrown
From all those hopes that promised me a Crown,
My heart, with the Dishonour's to me done,
And Carlos has Posa write to the Rebels in Flanders, intending at this
point an armed rebellion to gain the Crown. Yet this intention is only
momentary' (as we have seen) and his motives change as he draws nearer
In another image, Carlos describes his loss and what now appears to
be hie acceptance of it. Eboli offers him her love, and Carlos, think-
ing she refers to the Queen's love, replies (IV, 51-54)t
No Madaml what's my due none e're can pay,
There stands that Angel Honour in the way
Watching his Charge with never sleeping eyes,
And stops my Entrance into Paradice.
The imagery on one level brings to mind lo, whom Zeus loved yet lost
through circumstance, and her guardian, the never-sleeping Argus.33
More clearly perhaps the imagery may recall the garden of Hesperides,
guarded over by the ever-watchful dragon. And on this level the Queen
is imaged as a lost lover and an earthly paradise which "Honour," the
imperative of moral law, prohibits Carlos from enjoying. On another
level, the imagery recalls the garden of Eden from which, Otway implies,
Carlos is exiled, a paradise where, because of man's disordered, fallen
nature, entrance is prohibited by an angel. Whatever else "Honour" may
mean, it serves both as a voice of law to govern fallen nature and as a
reminder of man's lose of Eden, the seat of his true nature.
33See Ovid, Metamorphoses, tr. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington, 1958),
In Shakespeare's Pericles, a play which also concerns incest, though
in a considerably different manner, Antiochus describes his daughter to
Pericles (I, i, 29-31):
Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,
With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touch'd;
For death-like dragons here affright thee hard:
Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view
Her countless glory, which desert must gain....
With this apparent resignation to his exile from his paradise,
Carloe, when once more pursued by the renewed rage of the King, accedes
to the Queen's request (IV, 379-383):
Yet then be kind; your angry Father's rage,
I know the least submission will asswage.
You're hot with Youth, He's cholerick with Age.
To him: and put a true obedience on;
Be humble, and express yourself a Son.
But when he kneels in submission before his father, the King disowns
him, casting doubt on the faithfulness of Carlos's mother, and Carlos
exclaims, "Submission, which way got it entrance here" (IV, 471). The
King then reveals the body of Posa, charging Carlos with treason, and
Carlos draws his sword in vengeance. But at this crucial moment Carlos
rejects armed rebellion and thus is left with the other alternative of
submission. Throwing away his sword, he recognizes the King as father:
"No: Tho' unjust, you are my Father still. /And from that Title must
your safety own" (488-489).
In the justification which Carlos then gives the King for intending
to go to Flanders, he reveals the beginning of his true obedience.
Admitting that, because of the'dishonor the King had done him, his "Duty
Long with Nature was at strife" (IV, 500-503), Carlos interprets his
intention to join the Rebels as an attempt to escape the King's anger
and jealousy and, at the same time, to complete "There in your right...
some Action truly great" (509-514). His intention then (at least in the
light now of Carlos's submission) was to confirm the'demands of "Duty"
or law over the demands of his rebellious nature. But the King in his
jealousy refuses his obedience, and Carlos is condemned to death. Once
more Carlos returns to the Queen to stand in opposition to his Father,
but the situation is somewhat different, for Carlos now opposes the
King, not through willful choice, but because the King's cruelty has
forced it upon him.
This obstacle of the King's jealousy and cruelty, however, is
removed for Carlos in the last act through Eboli's confession and the
King's realization that he has been misled. The scene is set in a
darkened room "With one dim Lamp that yields imperfect light" (V, 40)
where the Queen lies dying. The setting is a fit emblem for the limita-
.tions of human reason of which the King now becomes tragically aware.
Into this setting, Carlos is brought, having opened his own veins and
having been secretly poisoned by Gomez. He tells the King (348-350):
I come to take my farewell, e're I go
To that bright dwelling, where there is no room
For Blood, and where the Cruel never Come.
But the King has lost his cruelty, and when Carlos asks to be placed by
the Queen's side, the King, no longer jealous, leads him. Carlos says
Y'ave thus more kindness shown,
Then if y'ad Crown'd and plac't me on your Throne.
Methinks so highly happy I appear,
That I could pity you, to see You there....
The paradoxes involved are Otway's indication of the ultimate tragedy of
the human predicament. The King's return to "kindness" is met by the
ruins caused by his "unkindness"; Carlos finds happiness only when
dying. And finally his true act of obedience is made when it has become
too late (406-414):
I was a wicked Son, Indeed I was;
Rebel to Yours as well as Duties Laws.
By head-strong will too proud to be confined;
Scorn'd your Commands, and at your Joyes repin'd.
When to my love your Royal Claim was layd,
I should have born my Inj'ries and obeyd;
But I was hot, and would my right maintain,
Which you forgave; yet I rebell'd again,
And nought but death can now wash off the stain.
The human predicament, Otway seems to suggest, is that the limitations
and disorders of human nature are finally understood only through the
tragedies they cause.
Though law may not avert tragedy, Otway also implies that law may
lead to a life beyond tragedy. Carlos, guided by the Queen's virtue,
has progressed to within the boundaries of moral law and order, and
through their tragedies they both discover a greater life. The Queen
From all my Injuries and all my fears,
From Jealousie Love's bane, the worst of Cares,
Thus I remove to find that stranger rest.
Carlos thy hand; support me on thy breast:
Within this minute how shall we be blest!
Death paradoxically becomes their marriage rite and the beginning of
their life together; Carlos replies (440-443):
Oh far above
What ever wishes fram'd, or hopes designed;
Thus where we go we shall the Angels find,
For ever pressing, and for ever kind.
In that place where they will become "all soul all love," happiness is
reached, hopes are fulfilled, and "kindness" for ever restored.
Otway thus implicitly answers in Don Carlos the question, "Why
should dull Law rule Nature...." Arj if his answer centers primarily on
the disorders within man which need the ordering rule of law, perhaps it
is because Otway sees human nature as fallen from the state of its crea-
tion. The result of that fall, as Pascal states, is disorder: "Man
does not know in what rank to place himself. He has plainly gone astray,
and fallen from his true place without being able to find it again. He
seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in impenetrable dark-
ness" (427).35 Or as Otway describes it, man's disorder is imaged in
his "unkindness": he seeks his true nature, but only succeeds in assum-
ing multifarious, often contradictory, natures. And no matter what
nature he assumes, he carries with him always an essential "unkindness"
which serves only to discover the "impenetrable darkness" of his uncer-
tainty and the loss of his happiness.
If ever the human being is to return to his true nature, Otway sug-
gests that it must be by way of obedience to law. But since disorder
seems to be an almost inescapable condition of human life, Otway suggests
that law serves ultimately to instruct and guide man toward a time and
place beyond death where order is finally restored and man's true place
re-established. As man's guide and instructor, law may act, Otway
implies, as an agent of divine providence. When the King realizes his
injustice in destroying the Queen, he asks, "Heav'n where is now thy
sleeping providence, /That took so little care of Innocence?" (V, 288-289).
35Blaise Pascal, Pensees tr. W. F. Trotter (New York, 1941), p. 135.
But part of the King's blindness is his inability to perceive the work-
ing of providence in a world where he has met only "Toyles and Torment."
Otway, however, has shown throughout Don Carlos that providence has been
actively attempting to lead, not only Carlou end the Quesn, but also the
King through the appeal of moral law. But the King rejects the plea of
providence that he should submit to the law of faith, a plea uttered
through Carlos as he stands in defense of the Queen. Yet providence
pursues the King, incorporating the tragic results of his disbelief into
a design to bring him into an awareness of his infidelity. Tormenting
the dying Queen, the King asks, "How comes it that above such mercy
dwels, /To permit Sin, and make us Infidels?" (V, 143-144). Though his
question is an ironic and blasphemous attack on divine mercy, providence,
moved no longer by mercy but now by justice, is in effect guiding the
King toward a tragic recognition of his own infidelity. This design of
providence to bring the King into an awareness of his sin may be illumi-
nated by the following quotation, expressive of a Christian commonplace,
from The Heptameron of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre:
"I confess," replied Longarine, "that if the
word of God doth not show us by faith the leprosy
of infidelity that is hidden in our hearts, God
does us good service when we fall into some open
sin, by the which the secret plague becomes
clearly manifest. And happy are they whom faith
has so humbled that they have no need of making
trial of their sinful nature by its outward
36tr. Arthur Machen (Philadelphia, n.d.), II, 25. cf. Saint Augustine,
Confessions, [VIII,vii], tr. F. J. Sheed (New York, 1943), p. 169: "And
You [God] set me there before my own face that I might see how vile I
was, how twisted and unclean and spotted and ulcerou. .... You were set-
ting me face to face with myself, forcing me upon my own sight, that I
might see my iniquity and loathe it."
Having rejected faith, the King is brought by the "outward effects" of
his infidelity into an awareness of his sin and into an acceptance of
faith, an acceptance, however, which now serves only to render him
But providence has also been active, through the medium of law, in
leading Carlos and the Queen toward the happiness which their dilemma
renders impossible of attainment in this life. And while being led
herself by law, the Queen also serves a figurative purpose in the play
by becoming the human agent through whom providence guides Carlos into
obedience to law. "She is the Star that rules my Destiny" (IV, 530),
Carlos says, and in light of the implications Otway associates with the
star image in the play, one may say that providence rules Carlos's
destiny. The implications concerning the star image emerge ironically
through the King's speeches. Before giving in altogether to jealousy,
the King asks "...she's all divine: /Speak Friends, can Angels in per-
fection sin?"; Gomez replies, "Angels that shine above do oft bestow/
Their Influence on poor Mortals here below" (II, 139-142). The Queen
seems "divine," an Angel "in perfection," and Gomez says that as such
she is a star who bestows heaven's influence on "Mortals here below"-
a reference perhaps to the tradition that each star had its angel or was
an angel, and thus exerted influence in a kind of astrological provi-
dence. Later, the King tells the Queen (IV, 590-595):
37See C. S. Lewise The Discarded Image (Cambridge, 1964), pp. 115-116.
Th' art Woman, a true Copy of the first,
In whom the race of all Mankind was curst.
Your Sex by Beauty was to Heav'n ally'd;
But your great Lord the Devil taught you pride.
He too an Angel till he durst rebel;
And you are sure the Stars that with him fell.
The King's misinterpretation of the Queen leaves the impression that the
Queen may be, in her obedience to divine law, an angelic star yet stand-
ing in the firmament. And as the star which rules Carlos's destiny, the
Queen ultimately is a figure of that divine providence which sheds its
influence on Carlos to lead him into obedience to moral law. In con-
trast to the Queen, Eboli perhaps emblems a "fallen" star, whose influ-
ence leads away from heaven's light into lawlessness. She is, as Gomez
says, "the Star by whom my Course I steer" (I, 174).
Guided then by providence into an awareness of moral order and law,
Carlos and the Queen are led into an apotheosis (V, 444-446) where they
become "all soul all love." For the King, however, providence, though
leading him to a "conversion" to faith, seems primarily to lead him into
a profound awareness of his spiritual disorder. In brilliant contrast,
Otway turns from the apotheosis of Carlos and the Queen to the sinking
despair of the King (448-456):
Th' are gone, th' are gone, where I must n'ere aspire.
Run, sally out, and set the World on fire.
Alarum Nature, let loose all the winds;
Set free those spirits whom strong Magick binds.
Let the Earth open all her Sulph'rous Veins,
The Fiends start from their Hell and shake their Chains,
Till all things from their Harmony decline,
And the Confusion be as great as mine.
Here I'l lye down, and never more arise....
The King describes the "Confusion" within his own nature in terms that
.image an apocalyptic vision of the ultimate disorder which will bring on
the world's final ruin and conflagration. By means of this contrast
between apotheosis and despair, Otway seems to suggest the dual role of
providence, guiding through law the obedient to a new heaven and earth,
and condemning through law, and man't tragic awareness of his violation
of it, the disobedient to final ruin.
According to its epilogue, The History and Fall of Caius Marius,
Otway's first blank verse tragedy, was "made" when he "Had nought but
Drums and Trumpets in his head. /H' had banish'd'Poetry and all her
Charms, /And needs the Fool would be a Man at Arms" (8-10). On Febru-
ary 10, 1678, Otway was appointed, by recommendation of the Earl of
Plymouth, ensign in a newly formed regiment under the command of the
Duke of Monmouth, and probably it was while serving with his regiment
in Flanders that Otway either designed or wrote the play. When England
recalled its troops early in 1679,2 Otway returned to London with his
play possibly yet unfinished, since it was not performed until the
autumn of that same year.
Caius Marius is significant in Otway's growth as a dramatic poet
(it reveals the presence both of an awakened political consciousness
and, consequently, of a larger awareness of man's enigmatic nature)
but, curiously enough, the play is now read chiefly for reasons which
have little to do with any intrinsic interest in Otway's thought. The
play is a partial/ adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and the effect which
this "arrant pilfering"4 has had on critics is best illustrated by
Ghosh, I, 23.
3The London Stage, I, pt. 1, 281-282.
4Malcolm Elwin, p. 137.
George Odell's reaction: "Otway...conceived the really astounding idea
of grafting the romantic story of Romeo and Juliet on a situation
involving strife between Marius and Sylla.... For sheer ingenuity, this
device eclipses the glory of any the most venturesome flight conceivable
in this domain of adaptation; one can merely admire (in the sense of
wonder at) the mental perversity that could plan such a union of seem-
ingly discordant elements. No amount of familiarity with the resulting
work can quite dim one's astonishment at it."5 One readily concedes
that the kind of use Otway makes of Romeo and Juliet--the bold intrusion
of whole blocks of verbatim dialogue from Shakespeare into another con-
text--is disconcerting, but there can be no mistaking that Otway's
adaptation, as Malcolm Elwin remarks, "has deluded critics into con-
temptuous condemnation" of a play that has power, craftsmanship, and
meaning worthy of serious consideration.
In an attempt to offset the uncritical response which Otway's
adaptation seems to illicit, Montague Summers, despite his own disquiet,
claims that "Having made due allowances, it is still possible, I think,
to regard Caius Marius as an excellent play...," 7 and these allowances,
it seems, are as follows:
It is probably impossible for us to appreciate Otway's
Caius Marius as the poet intended it, and as the
spectators of 1679 received it. Yet surely if we can
disassociate our minds from so extraordinary a conjunc-
tion [between scenes from Romeo and Juliet and those
Otway devised], the scenes of the strife between Marius
and Sylla, the dramatic flight from Rome, the eerie
5Shakespeare--From Betterton to Irving (New York, 1963), I, 51-52.
6Handbook to Restoration Drama, pp. 137-138.
7The Complete Works of Thomas Otway, I, Ixxv.
apparition of the Syrian Hag, the massacres, and the
sudden crashing of despotism..., all form a series
of striking pictures drawn with no little power and
force of imagination.,
But as charitable as Summers is in making his own particular allowances,
it is difficult to see how he is able to regard Caius Marius as an
"excellent play." In effect he argues that Caius Marius is no longer
meaningful to the modern reader or that it is so only in some few of
its parts, and that we should "disassociate our minds from," that is,
ignore those scenes from Romeo and Juliet. The result of such "din-
association" is of course to reduce the play by less than half and
render it meaningless.
Perhaps the best way to approach the play seriously then is to
assume, at least for the moment, its structural integrity and to read
it, with its adaptation, as essentially a new creation. By doing so we
may be able to come to an understanding, not only of the play's meaning,
but even of Otway's bold use of Romeo and Juliet.
The significance which Summers admits The History and Fall of
Caius Marius probably held for its Restoration audience may reside
partly in the play's description of political disorder. Acted in the
autumn, 1679, the play appeared during what David Ogg calls "one of the
really critical years in the history of England, when the Commons were
fighting a fierce battle against the King...."9 Ogg states that "Had
9England in the Reign of Charles II, second ed. (Oxford 1963), II,
Charles died at any time in 1679 there would probably have been a
revolution; this was brought within measurable distance by the sudden
and serious illness of the King in August of that year, when the duke
of York had to be sent for from his exile; and for a moment it seemed
that the monarchy itself would disappear in the whirlpool by which it
was surrounded." It was precisely during this critical time of the
King's illness (which Otway (L. 35) makes brilliant thematic use of in
his prologue) when England seemed on the verge of chaos that Otway's
politically charged play was performed. Perhaps few plays have been
acted at a time more advantageous to their themes.
To appreciate the political scope of the play, we should recall
that a large part of the difficulty between Charles II and Parliament
was due to a fervent republicanism which had steadily spread since his
coronation. For even though the Restoration, to all practical purposes,
had destroyed the grand design of classical republicans to build
republican Rome anew in England, the vision of that design yet lingered
to re-emerge in the 1670's as the "ideal" of those who, for what ever
reason, opposed arbitrary monarchy. Not quite two decades, in fact,
followed Milton's despairing lament on the eve of Charles's return to
the throne--"Where is this goodly tower of a commonwealth which the
English boasted they would build to overshadow kings and be another Rome
10Ibid., p. 591.
T11he classical republicans' were such men as Milton, James Harrington,
Henry Nevill, and Algernon Sydney who looked to the republics of Athens,
Rome, and Venice as models for the government they desired to see
established in England. See Zera Fink, The Classical Republicans,
second ed. (Evanston, 1962).
in the west?" --before England (in 1678-79) once more seemed headed
towards "revolution or republicanism." 13
Zera Fink advances several conjectures in The Classical Republi-
cans to explain-why republicanism, after so resounding a defeat in 1660,
again became an "issue in English politics."14 Probably his most sig-
nificant observation is that Charles II was extremely lenient towards
his republican foes: the most notorious were imprisoned; others were
allowed to enter obscure retirement; still others were permitted to
live abroad. In effect, while scattering his enemies, Charles allowed
them to live and thus remain able to renew their teaching should oppor-
tunity permit. In addition, Fink observes that such an opportunity
seemed destined to arise because of the "failure of the Restoration to
produce a really effective attack on the political reputation either of
the classical states to which republicans looked or of their supposed
modern counterpart." 15
Royalist attacks of course were made, both before and after the
Restoration, on the reputation of republican states. These attacks
generally employed the charge, which classical histories made obviously
true, "that Rome under the republic was torn by internal dissentions....
The Ready and Easy Way, in John Milton. Complete Poems and
Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York, 1957), p. 884.
13Ogg, II, 459.
14Fink, The Classical Republicans, p. 123.
1bid., p. 124.
Sir Robert Filmer, for instance, describes republican Rome in Patriarchs
as "a sanctuary for all turbulent, discontented and seditious
spirits";17 and in his Observations Uvon Aristotle's Politics Touching
Forms of Government (1652), he maintained that in the republican inter-
lude between the time of Rome's Kings and Emperors "there lasted a con-
tinued strife, between the nobility and Commons .... But the classi-
cal republicans took the sting from the charge by admitting that it was
true and claiming that Rome's disorders were due to defects in the
balance of power and not in republicanism.19 Nevertheless, Otway's
Caius Marius is a dramatic portrayal of the internal strife of republi-
can Rome, and (Fink to the contrary) his play does seem to constitute a
truly effective attack on republicanism, for, at the center of Rome's
disorder and his play, Otway places those passions of hatred, pride,
ambition, and fickleness to which human nature seems inevitably prone
and which finally make all attempts to achieve a genuine balance of
power impossible of fulfillment.
But the political scope of the play extends beyond an attack on
republican Rome as an "ideal" government to include a more urgent
depiction of the disorder within England itself. And indeed the "Rome"
17Patriarcha and Other Political Works of Sir Robert Filmer ed.
Peter Laslett (Oxford, 1949), p. 89. Patriarchs was first published
in 1680, though Laslett states that "It is known that Patriarcha
circulated in various manuscript copies after its composition [1640?]
and before its first printing" (p. 44). See p. 3 for Laslett's dating
of the composition.
1Ibid., p. 210.
19Fink, p. 124.
of the play is a thin disguise for England during 1678-79. Ogg
describes, for example, the apprehension felt by many in England during
The summer of 1678 abounded in omens that great
events were impending. "There seems a more than
usual concernment among all men," wrote Andrew Marvell,
"as if some great, and I hope good thing were to be
expected."...In the heavens something uncommon was
afoot; for in that year there were three eclipses of
the sun and two of the moon, and in April of the pre-
ceding year there had appeared a blazing comet, the
effects of which were still awaited with apprehension.
Astrologers prophesied "frenzies, inflammations and new
infirmities".. as well as "troubles from great men and
Similarly, ill omens seem to abound in the play's "Rome." Sulpitius
tells Caius Marius (1, 417-425):
Play tricks with us. Our Ensigns, as they stood
Display'd before our Troups, took fire untouch'd,
And burnt to tinder.
Three Ravens brought their young ones in the streets,
Devouring 'em before the people's eyes,
Then bore the Garbage back into their Nests.
A noise of Trumpets rattling in the Air
Was heard, and dreadfull Cries of dying men.
And later two herdsmen discuss the "sad times" (IV, 192-200):
Nay, I thought there was no good Weather
towards, when my bald-fac'd Heifer stuck up her
Tail Eastward, and ran back into a new Quick-set,
which I had just made to keep the Swine from
2. Herds. And t'other night, as I was at
Supper, in the Chimny-corner, a whole Family
of Swallows, that had occupy'd the Tenement these
200gg, II, 559.
seven years, fell down, Nest and all, into the
Porridge-pot, and spoil'd the Broath. Sad
times sad times, Brother!
Anticipating both the public and private tragedy which Caius Marius
will bring upon "Rome" and his family, these omens seem also to serve
as indications of some divine displeasure with "Rome."
But probably of greater consequence to Charles II than the omens
of his own day was the "Country Party's" attack on his prerogatives.
His reign, as Ogg states, stood "between two worlds":21 absolutism, on
the one hand, where authority resided in the crown; and representation,
on the other, where authority resided in Parliament. These two
worlds impinged on one another during Charles's reign, and though "by
sheer political genius" Charles kept intact (for the most part) his
prerogatives, the central conflict he faced was between the rights of
the monarchy and the rights of the subject.23 The result for England.
was at least a theoretical uncertainty as to where the center of
The opening speech of Caius Marius, in which Metellus presents the
uncertainties plaguing "Rome," just as aptly describes the uncertain-
tied within England (I, 1-6):
When will the Tut'lar Gods of Rome awake,
To fix the Order of our wayward State,
That we may once more know each other; know
Th' extent of Laws, Prerogatives and Dues;
The Bounds of Rules and Magistracy; who
Ought first to govern, and who must obey?
21Ibid., p. 445.
Ogg states that "It was in 1679 that the word 'representation'
first came into general use as a political term..." ibidd., p. 479).
Ibid., p. 459. See also pp. 450-460 for Ogg's discussion of
Parliament's attack on the various prerogatives of the King.
The factions which historically (and in Otway's play) set the Roman
senate, assembly, and consuls at odds with one another succeeded, in
the days of Caius Marius, in eliminating the center or at least the
balance of authority. And the situation undoubtedly seemed to Otway
roughly analogous to the confusion which the strife between Charles II,
the House of Lords, and the Commons brought about. These uncertainties
become in the play an image of a dark wilderness--Metellus states
(I, 147-150) that "Rome" has become,
Confusion's Night, where in the dark Disorders
Of a Divided State, men know not where
Or how to walk, for fear they lose their way,
And stumble upon Ruine.
Yet England's political disorder was equaled by a corresponding
moral disorder. It is well-known that Charles II had been bought by
Louis XIV to keep England neutral in France's wars. Moreover, large
sums of French money were also employed to bribe Parliament. In 1677,
Louis sent 200,000 livres to his ambassador in London with instructions
"to direct his efforts at embroiling the two Houses so that nothing
definite would result from the session."24 And in 1678, when Charles,
having yielded to public pressure to send troops to Flanders (of which
Otway was an officer), called Parliament into session to secure appro-
priations, "Louis...set in motion a vast organization for sowing dis-
sension among his enemies," sending money to his ambassador who, with
the help of such men as "Buckingham, Holles, Russell, and...
Shaftesbury," handed out bribes.25 At the same time, Danby, Charles's-
24Ibid., p. 540.
25bid., p. 551.
chief minister, secured sixty thousand pounds "for a campaign of
counter-bribery...." Ogg adds that "There were also Dutch and Spanish
paymasters, and in consequence only the ultra-scrupulous remained
unbribed." 26 By 1680, Louis was emlently successful, his only problem
being a rather ironic inflation of the price of bribery; as Ogg states:
"Louis had begun by bribing the king; he was now spending money in
bribing parliament...and as each party was subsidized against the other,
everybody's terms went up. The money was there, butnot even Barrillon
[the French Minister] was sure how it should be spent."27 But bribery
had thus eliminated England "from decisive influence in European
politics." 28 And against this background of bribery, the pervasive
imagery of selling in Caius Marius gains added significance, for while
it reflects historically accurate conditions in Rome,29 it makes the
play's "Rome" seem even more like England. Cinna remarks that in "Rome"
are yet men able to govern, "Were we not sold to Ruine" (I, 12-17).
Metellus replies (17-20):
Thou'st hit my Mark: We are to Ruine sold;
In all things sold; Voices are sold in Rome:
And yet we boast of Liberty.
Yet the faction led by Caius Marius describes Cinna (I, 187-190) as,
2Ibid., p. 599.
29 See E. Heitland, The Roman Republic (Cambridge, 1923),
...one whose Gain's his God;
And to that cursed end he'd sacrifice
His Country's Hohour, Liberty, or Peace,
Nay, had he any, ev'n his very Gods.
But not only were members of the English Parliament subject to
bribery; the populace as a whole "became accustomed to [the] associa-
tion of their vote with some return, either in money, or privilege, or
(at least) entertainment; and so the expenses of elections increased
considerably." 30 An election in Bedfordshire in the spring of 1679,
Ogg reports, cost the candidates six thousand pounds. And at Bucking-
ham, "the rival candidates (one of them a peer) danced all night with
the wives of the burgesses, and the noble competitor assured his dance
partners that his lady would welcome their acquaintance."31 That Otway
was concerned by the implications of this "democratic" process seems
implied in Metellus's remark concerning similar situations in "Rome"
That Guardians of an Empire should be chosen
By the lewd noise of a Licentious Rout I
The sturdiest Drinker makes the Ablest Statesman.
Antonius replies (24-27):
Would it not anger any true-born Roman,
To see the giddy Multitude together,
Never consulting who 'tis best deserves,
But who Feasts highest to obtain their Suffrage?
He then describes a recent election in "Rome" where two candidates
30Ogg, ii, 479.
311bid., Ogg does not identify the location of Buckingham, but it
seems quite clear that he refers to the town in the county of Bucking-
"stood equal" for the consulship. Each sought to gain the popular vote
by bribing the people, who thus were continually "Changing their Voices
with their Entertainment," until one candidate thought of a "Stratagem."
bringing "A mighty Vsaaell of alerni n Wine" into the lorum, "t' at
both ende'tapt his Butt, and got the Consulship" (I, 28-44). The
Restoration audience of 1679 probably saw more in Antonius's description
than merely a case of simple bribery in republican "Rome."
The effect which Otway thus achieves is like a double exposure:
the moral and political disorders in monarchal England may be seen
through the image of the strife-ridden republic of Rome. It should not
matter greatly that the correspondence between the two states is not
exact, for as we shall see, Otway's dramatic argument against republi-
can forms of government rests ultimately on disorders within human
nature which make any form of government liable to internal strife.
Republican government, however, in his play seems particularly suscepti-
ble to human disorder, because it depends entirely for success on a
balance of power among the executive, legislative, and popular estates.
Polybius provides the classic text for this dependence; commenting on
Lycurgus's legislation creating a mixed state, Polybius states that
"Lycurgus...combined together all the excellences and distinctive fea-
tures of the best constitutions, that no part should become unduly pre-
dominant, and be perverted into its kindred vice [i.e., the monarchy
becoming absolute, aristocracy becoming an oligarchy, and democracy, a
lawlesaa mob]; and that, each power being checked by the others, no one
part should turn the scale or decisively out-balance the others; but
that, by being accurately adjusted and in exact equilibrium, the whole
might remain long steady like a ship sailing close to the wind."32 The
republican ship of Rome sank, however, though seventeenth-century
exponents of the mixed state in England were quick to point out that
Rome's failure was due to defects in the balancing of power and not in
republican theory.33 But by focusing on the ungoverned passions of
Caius Marius, Metellus, and the Roman citizens, Otway suggests implic-
itly in Caius Marius (as indeed Swift later was to do)34 that a govern-
ment which depends on an "exact equilibrium" between its estates will
fail because the nature of man is prone to excesses of passion which in
turn adversely affect the "scale of power" in government.
The opening speech of the play makes it evident that the "temp'rate
poise" of Rome's "Scale of Pow'r" has been lost. Describing the die-
orders afflicting Rome--disorders which render it difficult to know who
"ought first to govern, and who must obey" (I, 6)--Metellus adds
32The Histories of Polybius, tr. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London, 1889),
33See Milton, The Ready and Easy Way. p. 890; James Harrington, The
Commonwealth of Oceana (London, 1887), pp. 35, 37, 44.
34Swift states that "it is hard to recollect one folly, infirmity,or
vice, to which a single man is subjected, and from which a body of
commons, either collective or represented, can be wholly exempt. For,
beside that they are composed of men with all their infirmities about
them, they have also the ill fortune to be generally led and influenced
by the very worst among themselves.... Whence it comes to pass, that
in their results we have sometimes found the same spirit of cruelty and
revenge, of malice and pride, the same blindness and obstinacy and un-
steadiness, the same ungovernable rage and anger, the same injustice,
sophistry, and fraud, that ever lodged in the breast of any individual."
A Discourse of the Contests and Dissensions Between the Nobles and Com-
mons in Athens and Rome (1701), in The Works ef Jonathan Svift, ed.
John Nichols (New York, 1812), II, 315.
It was not thus when God-like Scipio held
The Scale of Pow'r; he who with temp'rate poise
Knew how to guide the People's Liberty
In its full bounds, nor did the Nobles wrong,
For he himself was one -
In thins scene, Metellus and his fellow senators place the blame for
Rome's troubles (Otway closely following classical authorities)35 on
the ungoverned ambition of Caius Marius. Six times consul, Marius is,
at the time of the play's action, seeking to be consul once more, and
Metellus rightly asserts that "Our harassed State is Crippled with the
weight /Of his Ambition" (I, 56-57). Another senator, Antonius,
bitterly declares, "Ambition, raging like a Daemon in him, /Distorts
him to all ugly forms, sh'as need to use" (I, 66-67). And though now
an old man, "Ev'n Age can't heal the rage of his Ambition" (I, 97).
Later, Caius Marius exclaims (I, 428-430; 434-436):
Ambitionl oh Ambitioni if I've done
For thee things great and well...shall Fortune now
Else why have I thus bustled in the World,
Through various and uncertain Fortunes hurl'd,
But to be Great, unequall'd, and alone?
The state's temperate poise is bound to collapse under the weight of
:Otway relies chiefly on Plutarch's Life of Caius Marius, but he
presents in the play a more balanced view of Marius's good and bad
qualities than is found in Plutarch's hostile account. He may be
influenced by the moderate and more sensible estimate of Marius found
in Sallust's The Jugurthine War. Sallust emphasizes the ambitiousness
of Marius, but his account (as well as Otway's play) is more in line
with Livy's summation of Marius as "a man about whom it would be hard
to say, if his vices and virtues are scrutinized together, whether the
excellence of his services in war outweighed the damage he did in
peace, or the reverse. So true is it that as a soldier he saved the
state, and as a civilian first confounded that same state...and in the
end made devastating war on it." Livy, tr. Alfred C. Schlesinger, Loeb
Classical Library (Cambridge, 1949)T7p. 103.
Marius's ambitious passion to be absolute in power.
Otway does not, however, fix the blame for Rome's disorder
entirely on Caius Marius. Throughout the play appears the ubiquitous
ficklanes of the citizen. Swayed by flattering oratory, catering to
bribes, the populace has become a lawless mob, a "riotous unruly
Rabble, /That bear down all Authority before 'em" (I, 15-16). And just
as important as a cause for Rome's disorder is the perverseness which
afflicts the senate. The classical historian Sallust records that
Metellus (the play's chief representative of the senate), "though
eminently distinguished by virtue, honour, and other qualities valued
by the good, had yet a haughty and disdainful spirit, the common fail-
ing of the nobility." 36 Beneath the civic anxieties expressed in his
opening speech lie other, less patriotic promptings. His praise of
Scipio as an able consul who maintained the balance of power by guiding
the people and not wronging the nobles, "For he himself was one,"
offers a hint of aristocratic pride which is then picked up and ex-
pounded by another senator, Cinna (I, 11-14):
He was indeed,
A Noble born: and still in Rome there are
Moat worthy Patrons of her ancient Honour,
Such as are fit to fill the seat of Pow'r....
Caius Marius is a plebeian, and it becomes apparent in the play that
the opposition which the senators express towards him is largely
prompted by their contempt towards the political aspirations of one who
is low born. Discussing Marius, Metellus tells his fellow senators
36The JUrpurthine War, in Sallost, Flotus, and VeliEs PAteraclus.
.tr. John Selby Watson (London, 1852), p. 155.
(1, 54-55; 57-65):
Let uB consult and weigh this subject well.
0 Romans, he's the Thorn. that galls us all.
...We're ot safe in Marlus.
Do I not know his Rise, his low Beginning,
From what a wretched despicable Root
His Greatness grew? Godsl that a Peasant's Brat,
Born in the outmost Cottages of Atoos,
And foster'd in a Corner, should by Bribes,
By Covetousness, and all the hatefull means
Of working Pride, advance his little Fate
So high, to vaunt it o're the Lords of Romel
But his appeal to an objective assessment of Caius Marius ("Let us con-
sult and weigh this subject well...") is undercut by the haughty pride
of the aristocrat which disdains the low birth of Marius. And it is
this- pride which leads the senators to reject Caius Marius, with his
"Ill manners, Ignorance, and all the Ills /Of one base born" (I, 95-96)
and to support for consul Sylla, "...a Roman Noble.../...sprung from
the ancient Stock /Of the Cornellii" (I, 112-114).
The blame for Rome's disorder then may not be placed exclusively
on any one person or faction: instead, the ambition of Caius Marius,
the pride of the nobility, and the fickleness of the multitude seem
equally responsible for the loss of equilibrium in Rome. Otway, how-
ever, probes beyond the ills which have brought about the collapse of
balance in Rome's government to expose a deeper infection that will
prove mortal to the republic: the unrelenting hatred that makes recon-
ciliation impossible between the factions led by Metellus and Marius.
Metellus bears a large share of the guilt, for at least it was he who
was first infected with hatred. He tells the senators, "I must confess
it burthens much my Age, /To see the,Man I hate thus ride my Country"
(1, 79-80), and then relates that in the war "against Jugirtha," where
he took Marius as one of his lieutenants, "'Twas there his Pride first
shew'd it self in Actions, /Opprest my Friends, and robb'd me of my
Honour" (I, 89-92). Metellus here refers to Marius's leaving the war
to return to Rome in order to stand for his first consulship. Winning
the election, Marius returned to Africa and "robb'd" Metellus of his
-"Honour" by taking away his command. Concerning this incident, Sallust
writes that Metellus "had too little firmness in bearing trouble of
mind. His irritation [at Marius's election to consul] was by some
imputed to pride; others said that a noble spirit was wounded by
insult.... But to me it is well known that he was more troubled at the
honour bestowed on Marius than at the injustice done to himself...." 37
This resentment of a haughty spirit becomes in the play a hatred which
burthenss" his age and burdens Rome as well. Metellus now supports
Sylla for consul, not only because of aristocratic pride, but because
Sylla "hates Marius, still has crost /His Pride, and clouded ev'n his
brightest Triumphs" (I, 116-117). And later when Sylla leaves Rome to
quiet a disturbance in the Roman army at Capua (IV, 127-128), Metellus
supports Cinna for consul because he "Hates Marius too: that, that's
the dearest point" (IV, 117).
Metellus may bear the larger share of guilt in the hatred between
himself and Marius because twice he rejected Marius's offers of alli-
ance between their two houses through the marriage of young Marius with
Lavinia, Metellus's daughter (I, 235-238). The extent, moreover, to
which hatred dominates his nature is indicated in his willingness to
37Ibid., p. 171. The play's Marius also imputes the beginning of
Metellus's hatred to incidents in the Jurgurthine War which wounded
Metellus's pride (I, 230-235).