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very justly censured, as ill suiting that simplicity of style and manner, with which Augustus expressed himself, the following lines :
Cet empire absolu sur la terre et sur l'onde,
“ This absolute empire over the earth and ocean, this sovereign power that I have over
, the whole world, this greatness without limits, and this illustrious rank which has heretofore cost me so much labour and so much blood; in fine, all that the troublesome crowd of flattering courtiers adores in my high fortune, is but a piece of pageantry whose lustre dazzles, and that one ceases to admire as soon as one possesses it." Such ostentatious expressions are perfect
ly ridiculous to those, who are acquainted with the character of the speaker : but there is another fault much more detrimental to the drama ; which is, the aversion we conceive at the black treachery of Cinna, who, when Augustus consults him as his friend, whether he shall lay down his power and restore liberty to the commonwealth, advises him not to do it, with a great appearance of personal attachment to him, and zeal for his country; but in reality, that he may not lose a pretence to sacrifice him to the revenge of Emilia. This holds forth Cinna to the spectator as a perfidious friend, a wicked counsellor, a profligate citizen. A more atrocious conduct was perhaps never ascribed to any character on the stage, where the guilty person was intended to excite indignation and abhorrence; and is therefore the most flagrantly absurd, in a case where the character is that on which the interest of the play is to turn.
Augustus having intimated to Cinna, at the conclusion of their conference, that he was willing to give Emilia to him, he beP 2
gins gins then to reflect upon his perfidy, ana urges to Maximus the remorse he feels for the intended assassination. The poet seems to be afraid he has not yet sufficiently disgraced his hero, and therefore makes Maximus reply to him thus :
Formez vos remors d'une plus juste cause,
“Derive your remorse from a juster cause, from
your base counsels, which alone put a stop to the felicity of reviving liberty. "Tis you alone that have now deprived us of it. From the hand of Cæsar, Brutus would have accepted the liberty of Rome; and never, from a paltry interest of love or revenge, would have again put it to hazard.'
As every movement in this play is to turn
on mean and selfish passions; as soon as Maximus apprehends his rival is to receive Emilia as the reward of his enterprise, he suffers his slave to betray the plot to Augustus. He then endeavours to persuade Emilia to escape with him. All this is very awkwardly conducted.
It is strange that a dramatic writer should not have studied human nature enough, to perceive, that the only character which cannot interest upon the the stage, is that which is mean, low, and contemptible. Great spirits, though of a bad kind, engage our attention to aļl their operations, because they are capable of producing great events. We are curious to see, what the audacious vil. lain will dare to do, what the cunning one will contrive: but when a man is presented to us as a scoundrel, un lâche, we disdain to attend to his actions. However well therefore the great scenes of this play may be written, considered singly, they are very injudiciously managed. We shall now see Cinna appear so despicable, that to punish him would be below the dignity of Augus
tus ; and to retain him as a friend, unworthy of any man. Augustus, informed by the double traitor Maximus, sends for Cinna, and reproaches him with every species of base ingratitude; tells him he first gave biin his life, enriched him with the spoils of Antony; upon every occasion had been profusely liberal and kind to him; preferred his interest even to those, who had fought for him, and by whose blood he had purchased the empire; and had admitted him, upon the death of Mecænas, into the first place in his confidence. Augustus adds too, that it was by his advice he retained his power; ; and after all this, says he, you would assassinate me. Cinna does not barely deny the conspiracy, but exclaims,“ I, sir, have I such a treacherous soul, such a base design !”
Augustus cuts him short in this disgraceful lie, shewing hiin he has full information of the plot; and very justly says, “ The liberty of thy country could not be thy object, for then thou wouldst not have hindered my restoring it. Thou must design therefore to reign in my place. Alas! Rome must be