"Titus and Berenice is a
pared down version of Racine's Berenice and Cheats
is based on Moliere's Les fourberies de Scapin. John
Crowne was working on a ten-act version of Berenice,
and Edward Ravenscroft was writing a commedia
dell'arte form of Les fourberies, works which were
performed in 1677... Titus and Berenice dramatizes
the parting of true lovers. Titus had just become
emperor of Rome and by law and custom is debarred
from marrying a foreign monarch Berenice, queen of
Palestine. Titus must decide between his conflicting
desires for rule and glory and love and happiness...
Unlike Racine's more resolved hero, Titus's eventual
decision to repudiate Berenice is not treated as the
triumph of duty over desire but rather as a
sacrifice that distorts Titus's character. Alone and
unhappy, he decides to "make the world's as wretched
as I am" (III. 479). .. Titus and Berenice was
Otway's last verse tragedy... " [Oxford DNB]
TITUS AND BERENICE
Grandis Oratio non
Sed naturali pulchritudine exsurgit. Pe. Arb.
G Allants, our Author met me here to Day,
And begg'd that I'd say something for
You Waggs that judge by Roat, and damn
Taking your measures from some Neighbour
Who has Impudence a Coxcombs useful
That always are severe you know not why,
And would be thought great Criticks by
With very much ill-Nature, and no Wit,
Just as you are, we humbly beg you'd
And with your Silly selves divert the
You Men of Sence, who heretofore allow'd
Our Author's Follies, make him once more
But for the Youths that newl' are come
Who's Heads want Sence, though heels
abound with Dance:
Our Authour to their Judgment won't
But swears that they, who so infest the
With their own Follies, ne're can judge
'Tis thence he Chiefly favour would
[to the Boxes.
And Fair Ones pray oblige him on my
Confine his Foes, the Fops within their
For Ladies you know how to manage Fools.
ACT I. SCENE I.
THOU my Arsaces art a Stranger here:
This is th' Apartment of the Charming
That Berenice, whom Titus
The Universe is his, and he is hers:
Here from the Court himself he oft
And in her Ears his charming story
Whilst I a Vassal for admittance wait,
And am at best but thought importunate.
You want admittance! who with generous
Have follow'd all her Fortunes
Whose Fame throghout the World so loudly
One of the greatest of our
As once you seem'd the Monarch of her
Too firmly seated to be dispossest;
Nor can the Pride she doth in
Already so severe a distance make.
Yes! still that Wretch Antiochus
But Love! Oh how I tremble at the name;
And my distracted Soul at that doth
Which once was all the pleasure of my
Since Berenice has all my Hopes
And an Eternal silence on me laid.
That you resent her pride, I see with
'Tis that which does her gratitude
But Friendship wrong'd should into
And you methinks might learn her Art to
Arsaces, how false Measures dost
Remove the Poles, and bid the
Sun go back;
ACT III. SCENE
Enter Berenice in Disorder.
Of my Wrong too well am
To see the perjur'd
twice I try'd;
Twice for admittance to him
begg'd in vain,
Nor is Phænicia yet
Phænicia has no answer to
Ingrateful Titus will not
hear her speak:
But hides himself, and from my
Nor will have sense tho
Phænice, Well, my
Titus hast thou seen?
What will he come and make me
Madam, the Emperor I alone did find;
And saw in his the trouble of your mind;
I saw the tears he would have hid, run
But was he not asham'd they shou'd be
Lookt he not as he thought his Love
And was not all the Emperor in his face?
Phæ. Doubt it not, Madam, he will soon
But wherefore will you this disorder
Your rifl'd dress let me in order place,
And these dishevel'd locks that hide
Forbear Phænice, let it all
No, he shall see the triumph he has won;
How vain those foolish ornaments must
If neither faith, nor tears, nor means
unruly sorrows! Oh, my Fears!
Arsaces, Berenice in tears;
Ber. Antiochus! Phænice,
To let him see my torments I'le
Now whither's all my resolutions gone?
Arsaces) who could see't and be
I said I'd never see her face again:
But come and find my boastings all were
Seeing her sufferings, all her scorn
The Poet's Complaint of his
|I am a Wretch of honest Race:
My Parents not obscure, nor high in Titles were;
They left me Heir to no Disgrace.
My Father was (a thing now rare)
Loyall and brave, my Mother chast and fair.
Their pledge of Marriage-vows was onely I;
Alone I liv'd their much-lov'd fondled Boy:
Thomas Otway was born on
3rd March, 1652, in the small village of Milland,
Sussex. He was the only son of Humphrey Otway's first
marriage but he had a stepsister Susanna, daughter of
Humphrey Otway and his second wife Elizabeth. Nothing is
known of Thomas' own mother except that she must have
died when he was very young. Humphrey Otway was rector
of All Hallows at Woolbedding, Sussex, and the family,
though not great, was of some distinction, being of old
Yorkshire stock, with the inevitable Irish connections
of the English comic dramatist.
At the age of 13 he was
entered for Winchester College. Once there, he struck up
an acquaintance with Anthony Cary, later Lord Falkland.
This friendship was to last all Otway's life; and indeed
at Winchester Falkland seemed to have exerted more
influence on Thomas than his master, especially urging
him "not to be ashamed of idleness". Not surprisingly,
Thomas twice missed a scholarship and went to Oxford as
a commoner of Christ Church in 1669. His father died in
1671 and at the age of 19 Tom moved on to the more
immediate rewards of London.
His first play, "Alcibiades"
was published in 1675.
|To Britain's great Metropolis I stray'd,
Where Fortune's generall Game is play'd;
I mist the brave and wise, and in their
On every sort of Vanity I fed.
first job in the theatre was as an actor in a play by
Mrs. Aphra Behn. She had given up her voluntary services
in Continental espionage in order to revive her first
play "The Forced Marriage". Betteron, already
middle-aged, played the youthful lover while young Otway
was cast as the doddering old king. He was a notable
"Mr. Otway the Poet
having an Inclination to turn Actor; Mrs. Behn gave
him the King in the Play, for a Probation Part, but
he being not us'd to the Stage; the full House put
him to such a Sweat and Tremendous Agony, being
dash't, spoilt him for an Actor."
Some say that this was
his first and last appearance on the stage but it is
thought he went on playing bit-parts for two years.
However, that particular show resulted in something much
more personally disturbing than' the bad notices of his
from A Session of the
Poets by the Earl of Rochester, 1647-1680
|Tom Otway came
next, Tom Shadwell's, dear Zany;
And swears for Heroicks, he writes best of any;
Don Carlos his Pockets so amply hath fill'd,
That his Mange was quite cur'd, and his Lice,
were all kill'd.
But Apollo, had seen his Face on the Stage,
And prudently did not think fit to engage,
The scum of a Play-house, for the Prop of an
The part of Draxilla in
that play was played by a 17-year-old girl called
Elizabeth Barry, eventually to be the English Theatre's
first leading lady. Despite, or possibly because of, a
plump, unhandsome appearance and a strong tendency only
to speak with one side of her mouth, it is said she did
have a considerable presence and was thought a
remarkable tragedienne. Thomas fell in love with her; a
passion that was to last all his life. She, however, was
the mistress of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the poet
to whom Otway dedicated "Don Carlos", a heroic tragedy,
his first success. But like other poets, Dryden, Settle
and Crowne, who had sought the Earl's patronage, Otway
was soon to be the object of his ridicule and satire.
enjoyed a certain popularity especially with the ladies;
5' 7" "but with a thoughtful speaking eye; inclineable
to fatness" (a feature later to prove something of an
oddity, since the less he had to eat, the fatter he
became.) Mrs. Behn said, "Everyone knows Mr. Otway's
good nature, which will not permit him to shock any of
our sex to their faces." But there were some whose
feelings were less warm. Otway and Dryden lived in
houses which faced each other and, one night Otway
inscribed on Dryden's front door:—
"Here Dryden lives — a
poet and wit".
Next evening appeared on
his own door:—
"Friendship in Fashion",
his first comedy, had a small but warm first night at
the Duke's Theatre in 1678 but was hissed off the stage
at the only known revival in 1708 at Drury Lane. Of the
three comedies he wrote, only "The Soldier's Fortune"
boasts several revivals and that was last seen in London
in 1935 at the Ambassadors Theatre.
Early 1678 sees Otway
obtaining a commission through the Earl of Plymouth, one
of the natural sons of Charles II and Louise De
Querouaille, to whom he dedicated "Venice Preserv'd".
With his regiment Otway sets out for military service in
Flanders. An unexpected peace treaty soon interrupted
the course of the war, causing the troops to be
disbanded and Otway's return to England with "naught but
drums and trumpets in his head", materially no better
off than before. Such a frame of mind brought him into
contact with Jack Churchill who was to become the first
Duke of Marlborough. "Churchill, for beating an orange
wench in the Duke's Playhouse, was challenged by Captain
Otway (the poet) and were both wounded, but Churchill
most". This pugnacity along with a strong resentment to
the general treatment of disbanded troops finally found
an outlet in the autumn of 1683 in "The Soldier's
Fortune", with Betterton as Beaugard and Mrs. Barry as
When the Earl of
Rochester died in 1680, he assumed, not unreasonably,
that his turn with Elizabeth Barry had come at last.
However, Rochester's death only revealed that Elizabeth
was also the mistress of Sir George Etherege, who wrote
one of the earliest Restoration comedies "The Man of
Mode", based on the personality of the Earl of
Rochester. Elizabeth, it seemed, preferred her poets to
in 1682 "Venice Preserv'd" was produced for the first
time with Mrs. Barry in the lead as Belvidera. It was a
huge success; partly due to its bearings on the Popish
Plot and because of its portrait of the Earl of
Shaftesbury as the kinky old Senator, Antonio. It is the
only tragedy of its period to have been played
consistently ever since.
On the verge of
theatrical and financial prosperity Thomas had a last go
with Elizabeth. She promised to meet him in the Mall
but, like so many times before in the early years in St.
James's Park, she stood him up. He sent her a letter:—
You were pleased to send
me word you would meet me in the Mall this evening,
and give me further satisfaction in the Matter you
were so unkind to charge me with; I was there, but
found you not, and therefore beg of you, as you ever
would wish yourself to be eased of the highest
Torment it were possible for your Nature to be
sensible of, to let me see you some time to Morrow,
and send me word by this Bearer, where, and at what
Hour you will be so just as either to acquit or
condemn me; that I may hereafter, for your sake,
either bless all your bewitching Sex; or as often as
I henceforth think of you, curse Womankind for
Eventually Otway gave up.
Desperate want and poverty followed. "The Atheist", a
sequel to "The Soldier's Fortune" and his last play,
appeared in 1683. He died at the age of thirty-three.
There are many colourful
accounts of his death; the most popular, but not
necessarily authentic, is that of Theophilis Cibber in
Dr. Johnson's "Lives of the Poets". Hiding from his
creditors in a pub on Tower Hill, Otway
"driven at last to the
most grievous necessity, ventured out of his lurking
place, almost naked and shivering, and went into a
coffee-house on Tower Hill, where he saw a
gentleman, of whom he had some knowledge, and of
whom he sollicited the loan of a shilling. The
gentleman was quite shocked, to see the author of
"Venice Preserv'd" begging bread, and
compassionately put into his hand a guinea. Mr.
Otway, having thanked his benefactor, retired, and
changed the guinea to purchase a roll; as his
stomach was full of wind from excess of fasting, the
first mouthful choked him and instantaneously put a
period to his days."
He is buried in the
churchyard of St. Clement Danes.
On King Charles,
ascribed to the Earl of Rochester, for which he
was banish'd the Court and turn'd Mountebank.
and his P—— are of a length,
And she that plays with one may sway the
And make him little wiser than his Brother.
I hate all Monarchs and the Thrones they sit
From the Hector of France to the Cully of
Poor Prince, thy P—— like the Buffoons at
It governs thee, because it makes thee
Tho' Safety, Law, Religion, Life lay on't,
'Twill break through all to it's way to C——.
Restless he rolls about from Whore to Whore,
A merry Monarch, scandalous and poor.
Redux John Dryden, 1631-1700
Age! Oh times like those alone,
By Fate reserv'd for great Augustus throne!
When the joint growth of Arms and Arts
The World a Monarch, and that Monarch You.
- a tragedy, 1675;
- "Don Carlos"
- a tragedy, 1676;
- "Titus and Berenice"
- a tragedy, 1676,
adapted from Racine's "Berenice";
- "The Cheats of
- adapted from
Moliere's "Les Fourberie de Scapin", 1676;
- "Friendship in
- a comedy, 1678;
- "Caius Marius"
- a tragedy, 1679;
- "The Orphan"
- a tragedy, 1680;
- "The Soldier's
- a comedy, 1680;
- "Venice Preserv'd"
- a tragedy, 1682;
- "The Atheist"
- or "The Second Part
of the Soldier's Fortune", 1683.
[See also the
Thomas Otway biography from the
Venice Preserv'd programme.]