A Comparative Reading of Sejanus and Cato


It seems that William Shakespeare’s Macbeth bears more similarities to Ben Jonson’s Sejanus. However, the two tragedies are even more different than Joseph Addison’s Cato and Jonson’s Sejanus as in Macbeth witchcraft and violent murder are involved. And Macbeth’s wife is even more vicious than the protagonist. Undeniably, there are more differences between Ben Jonson’s Sejanus and Joseph Addison’s Cato. The themes are different as Jonson’s Sejanus focuses on the protagonist’s conspiracy to the emperor Tiberius while Addison’s Cato praises the hero’s nobility and wisdom, though both die in the end of the tragedies. Triangular love is woven and being one of the main themes in Cato while adultery takes a small portion in Sejanus. Despite of the differences in these two tragedies, and the fact that the two dramatists belong to different eras, there are five main similarities between them: both tragedies being entitled with their protagonists’ names and setting in the ancient Rome, traitor ministers and conspiracy taking great proportion in the plots, the falls of the traitors in both tragedies, and the conflicts between the noble and evil parties. One can hardly fail to observe the judgments of the heroes by the characters within the tragedies. These similarities between the themes and structures of the plots lead to the similarities between the portrayals of the characters. Both Sejanus and Cato are heroic plays and political tragedies of Rome. The textual comparison between these two tragedies reveals an obvious influence of Jonson to Addison, who is also creative and develops this type of tragedy with the plot of triangular love.

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Guo, H. and Wang, Q. (2015) A Comparative Reading of Sejanus and Cato. Advances in Literary Study, 3, 41-48. doi: 10.4236/als.2015.32007.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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