Imatges de pÓgina
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very hearts of an audience. It is not enough, on these occafions, that it raise our paffions, it muft transport and ravish us: it is not enough that it impose, it must subdue and work us entirely to the author's purpose: 'tis not enough that it touch the heart, it must pierce it to the utmost depth.

Where an actress, to whom nature has given. but a feeble voice, plays the character of a Statira, or an Hermione, we are apt to fancy, that we hear the utmost thunder of a full chorus of an Oratorio play'd upon a dancing-master's kit. What.contempt muft fo unnatural a fcene infpire: us with; and, on the other hand, what an. impreffion do we feel from a part of this kind, work'd up by the author's art fo as to move the paffions of an audience in the utmoft degree; > and, to this, play'd by an actress in the bloom of life, and pride of voice and beauty, whofe victorious accents might have made it natural in a: Lothario to become conftant, or in an Altamont: to be unfaithful?

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- Thofe actors who, in comedy, are to reprefent even people of rank and condition, are: not indeed under a neceffity of having a majeftic voice; but it is requifite that they have an eafy and a graceful one. It is in regard to the voice, juft. as it is with the figure of perfons of quality and confequence, when represented on the stage. There is a fort of voice, by the modulations of which we are able to judge, if we hear a perfon fpeak, tho' we do not fee him, that he is above the common rank of mankind this ought to be a diftinction always preferv'd to us. upon the stage. Unqueftionably, in the real world, nature deals with the people of birth and fashion

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fashion no better than with those who want these accidental preeminences; and perfons of the greatest quality are no more fure of always having a better voice, than a better figure than other people but when the poet proposes to himself to represent fuch perfons on the ftage, he is to take the best models he can find to form his resemblances from; and the players are to act in concert with him in this, and to give us copies of fuch original sonly, as are in every respect the best form'd by nature for the rank they are plac'd in.

The voice of the comedian ought to be noble, when he plays the part of a perfon of rank and quality; and it ought to be interefting and affecting, when he performs in character of a lover. The force which a tender sentiment receives from a judicious modulation of voice, or an expreffive accent, is more ftriking than all that it can have from the ftrongeft expreffion, or the utmost energy. Difcourfe makes no impreffion on the heart, otherwife than by means of the understanding; but there is fomething in an elegant command of the voice which ftrikes immediately, and of itself, nor waits for the heart's receiving any notice from the fenfe of what it delivers. There are fome people whofe organs of voice are so favour'd by nature in their conftruction, that they have a fecret power of moving our affections, even when we are not able to adapt any determinate idea at all to the founds that proceed from them; and we are, in real life, often more affected by the complaints of a perfon who delivers them in a language wholly unknown to us, than we fhould have been by any thing he would have been able to fay to us, if

if he had spoke in a language we were both acquainted with, but with a lefs perfwafive accent.

It is fufficient, in comedy, that the voice of the actor, who plays the part of a lover, be an engaging and an interefting one; but more is requir'd in that of the actress; this ought to be a ravishing, an enchanting one. We expect from her all that perfwafive accent, all that engaging tone of voice, by means of which the can do what fhe will with her audience, and obtain every thing she has a mind to from her admirer. The charms of a fine voice may ftand in the place of a great many other advantages: we frequently find the teftimonies of our ears carrying us beyond thofe of our other fenfes; and many a woman, who has appear'd indifferent to us when we have only feen her, has charm'd us, has commanded our utmost adoration when we have heard her fpeak.

An elocution of this kind is not, indeed, neceflary to thofe actreffes who perform the other parts in comedy; but they muft, at leaft, have a voice that does not fhock or hurt the ear. A

woman cannot be deftitute of any one grace without our being depriv'd, by that means, of at leaft one kind of pleasure when we fee her on the ftage; and the more they seem form'd to excite in us only the agreeable, the pleafurable fenfations, the lefs are we able to pardon in them their producing what is contrary to fuch an expectation. Sweetness of voice is one of the common accomplishments of women; and we are ready to quarrel with nature for having cheated us of our right, when we hear harth founds proceed from delicate lips.

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CHAP.

CHA P. II.

An Audience expects to find in the Perfon who acts the Part of a Lever, in Comedy, an amiable figure; and in him who acts the Part of a Hero in Tragedy, a majestic and striking one.

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HE elevated fentiments of a princess may, in fome cafes, make her overlook the imperfections in the face and figure of the hero who enjoys her love, on occafion of his exalted merit, and fuperior virtues. According to this principle, while a tragic actor fhall appear only in the parts of thofe lovers or hufbands with whofe character his age and figure are not incompatible, we have no right to quarrel with him for being ten years lefs young, or a few inches lefs tall than the man who acts a Pyrrhus, or an Alexander.

It is odd that we should be more rigid and severe in this cafe, in regard to the performers in comedy; but if we will impartially examine our hearts, we fhall find that we evidently are fo. As comedy presents us with nothing that is vaftly above the common sphere, in the fentiments, or in the actions of the characters it gives us, we are never able to perfuade ourselves that the heroes in thefe plays are form'd for triumphing over the hearts of the ladies they court, without charming their eyes; nor that the ladies are of fuch elevated fentiments, as not to confult a little with thofe organs about the facrifice which they are going to make of their hearts.

Except, therefore, where the author has meant to figure to us a ridiculous and abfurd paffion, we

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always expect, not only that the figure and perfon of the lover be not contradictory to the emotions the lady is to feel for him, but that it be elegant enough to juftify to us the paffion fhe has conceived for him; which as we are to esteem, not to ridicule, we expect to fee well plac'd, and adequate to the merit of the object. It is not enough that the actress describes to us, with all the beauty of expreffion, the paffion fhe is to be poffefs'd of in her character: we expect to find that it is probable she should be as much in love with the man as fhe tells us fhe is; and that we may have room to praise the playing of the actress, without blaming the bad taste of the lady in her love.

We have already quoted fome of the tender expreffions in the part of Juliet, as play'd by Mrs. Cibber, as of the number of the highest beauties of the English ftage: we are fenfible how much the poet owes to the actress on thefe occafions; and we may add, as to this particular Inftance, that it is not a small share of the ap plaufe that this excellent performer receives in them, that is owing to the graceful perfon of the player who as Romeo. Let us imagine all the merit in that lady that fhe has always fhewn us in this part; and let us fuppofe that Mr. Ray, or Mr. Arthur, with all the merit of Mr. Barry in speaking and deportment, were to play the character of her lover: we cannot but allow that the abfurdity of a fine young creature, fixing her inclinations in fo violent a manner on fuch very inadequate objects, would rife in judgment with us against all the merit of her tenderness and expreffion: we fhould lofe the fenfe of her paffion, to laugh at her abfurdity, when we heard her

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