Imatges de pÓgina
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represents it; tho' it is certain they were never intended to be so.

Let us put the merit of Mrs. Cibber in this way, in a yet fairer light of comparison. We remember to have seen Mrs. Ward, in the character of Cordelia, receiv'd with the utmost ap: plause : Shakespear has thrown into the mouth of this lady expressions, as full of love for Edgar, as those he has given to Juliet for Romeo ; perhaps the most affecting of those we have just quoted from that character, scarce equal those in which Cordelia, after she has discover'd her unhappy lover in his madman's habit, avows her love to him.

Come to my arms, thou dearest, best of men, And take the kindest vows that e'er were spoke By a protesting maid.

By the dear vital stream that bathes my heart, These hallow'd rags of thine, this naked virtue, Ridiculous even to the meanest clown, To me are dearer than the richest pomp Of purple monarchs,

We all allow Mrs. Ward capable of great expression, and even of great tenderness in many cases ; but when we hear these passionate declarations from her, we cannot but perceive, that she wants that native tenderness, that peculiar turn to love in the very heart, which gives Mrs. Cibber a superiority in all these characters, to whoever did, or perhaps ever will speak them; a superiority which every body has acknowledged, tho' few have known the source of.

We will readily allow (some body will perhaps observe) that people who are themselves in love, or who are form’d by nature with a tendency to that passion, are more proper than others to perform tender and amorous parts; but we cannot see why they should be the only ones who are proper for them. To this we thall answer, that if we will be at the pains of enquiring but a little into the history of the stage, we shall find that the highest scenes of love in our best plays have never been so expressively represented as when the actor and actress were not only of amorous tempers, but were actually at the time of their playing these parts heartily in love with cach other.' The Psyche of Moliere, among the French, ow'd its prodigious succes, at the time when every body feen'd mad after it, to this peculiar accident, that all the love which the audience suppos'd so excellently pretended between the principal characters, was real, and they were speaking their own proper sentiments to one another, under the advantage of that excellent poet's language.

But are we to conclude from this, and a few other such singular instances, (our objector will perhaps continue) that because the parts have succeeded very well where the persons who represented them were in earnest, therefore all actors and actresses must have the same passions in their hearts, at least in general, if not for one another, in order to their playing the same fort of chasacters with the like success ? Must a performer have a natural tenderness of soul, in order to his playing a tender part expressively? We see every day people of good natural difpofitions representing tyrants, and persons full of cruelty, on the Aage, with general applause; and we have an

eminent

eminent instance of an actor who is very far from having any thing of the ridiculous turn of the fribbles of the age, in his real character, who yet is able to represent them inimitably to us upon the stage ; nor is it necessary for a man to be a favage in his nature, in order to his playing with great justness and expression the Jew of Venice. Why therefore (he will conclude) may the case not stand with love, just as it does with the other passions ?, and why may not an actor or an actress, without being susceptible of all the foibles of that passion, represent very fairly, very faithfully, and very expressively, all its transports ?

The man who is capable of arguing in this strain, may be assur’d that he has never been in love himself, and probably has never had an opportunity of seeing two people who were fo: when such a man has obtain'd a true notion of love from experience, he will be sensible that whatever may be the case in regard to the other passions, the expression of this peculiar one is not to be had from art. Whatever attempts the bėse actress in the world, who has it not from nature, can make to catch the genuine address, the affecting air and deportment of the truly enamour'd maid, they will be always as different from nature, as the cold pretences cf a common creature whom a man purchases for the night, are from the passionate tenderness of a woman who really loves him.

It is at best but very imperfectly that the player counterfeits the other passions, when he docs not really and naturally give himself up to them'; but they are all less imperfectly copied by him, from what he sees in others, than love can be.

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A man will but very badly imitate the tone of voice cf a person in a rage, if his own blood is perfectly cool and calm at the time ; but he may take in cther assistances, and borrow from nature some of the other figns by which that passion generally manifests itself; and nothing is more certain, than that several of the modern actors, in some of their best parts, have this trick of deceiving the eyes of their audience, when they have not merit enough in the character to please their ears. The player in this case saves himself, by addressing his art to one of the senses, when he is senfible he cannot do his business by the other. But this resource is wholly lost in love: when that is the passion to be represented, the player can no more deceive the eyes than he can the other fenses of his audience, if nature has not given him a foul form'd to receive the paffion.

The truth of this principle may be evinc'd without giving the objector the trouble of much reflection : nay, we shall perhaps be led, whether we will or not, merely by observing facts, to acknowledge, that an actor and an actress who play together a scene where the two characters they represent are desperately in love with one another, can never execute their parts with any degree of perfection, if they do not really feel in their own hearts, at least for that instant, all the tenderness, all the transports for one another, that the persons they represent are endowed with by the poet.

In effect, if it were not necessary in order to the doing justice to such a scene, that the performers mutually feel the sentiments for each other which the poet describes in their several parts, at least for the moment while they are playing thein,

why why is it that we fee an actress appear so very different from herself when the plays such a part, and has the man she really loves for her pretended admirer; and when she plays the same part without this advantage ? or why is it that we see the very best of our actors, and those in particular who, under proper circumstances, succeed best of all in love-scenes, yet inake nothing of it when the character to whom they are to pay their addresses is given to some female performer, who, from her age or figure, is wholly incapable of charming them ?

If it is not sufficiently evident from this, that not only a man must be capable of, and form'd for love, in his private character, but must even be capable of taking it up occasionally, in order to play the part of a lover well, we may yet add a third question, Why is it that a tender lovescene, tho' ever so well apply'd on both sides, is yet perfectly cold and insipid to us, when the person who represents the lover, is a woman in the habit of the other sex? Is it not evidently from the persuasion we are under, that the tenderness that character expreíses, is all affected and forced, from the natural impossibility of one woman's feeling for another all that paffion which she is to represent to us in the scene?

If we would know the reafon, why it is poffible for the player to borrow the appearances of the other paffions, without being naturally posfeiled of them ; and yet impossible for him, unless he can love himself, to copy, with any degree of success, the transports of that tender affection of the soul, we may venture to propose the following conjeciure on the subject.

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