Imatges de pÓgina

very hearts of an audience. It is not enough, on these occasions, that it raise our passions, it must 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 must so unnatural a scene inspire: us with; and, on the other hand, what an. impression do we feel from a part of this kind, work'd up by the author's art so as to move the paflions of an audience in the utmost degree ; ? and, to this, play'd by an actress in the bloom of life, and pride of voice and beauty, whose victorious accents might have niade it natural in a: Lothario to become constant, or in an Altanant: to be unfaithful ?

Those actors who, in comedy, are to rec: present even people of rank and condition, are: not indeed under a necessity of having a majestic voice; but it is requisite that they have: an easy and a graceful one. It is in regard to: the voice, just as it is with the figure of persons of quality and consequence, when represented on the stage. There is a sort of voice, by the modulations of which we are able to judge, if we hear a person speak, tho' we do not fee him, that he is above the common rank of mankirid: this ought to be a distinction always preserv'd tu us upon the stage. Unquestionably, in the real world, nature deals with the people of birth and


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fashion no better than with those who want these accidental preeminences; and persons of the greatest quality are no more sure of always having a better voice, than a better figure than other people: but when the poet proposes to himself to represent such persons on the stage, 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 person of rank and quality; and it ought to be interesting 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 expressive accent, is more striking than all that it can have from the strongest expression, or the utmost energy. Discourse makes no impreffion on the heart, otherwise than by means of the understanding; but there is fomething in an elegant command of the voice which strikes immediately, and of itself, nor waits for the heart's receiving any notice from the sense of what it delivers. There are some people whose organs of voice are so favour'd by nature in their construction, that they have a secret power of moving our affections, even when we are not able to

determinate idea at all to the sounds that proceed from them ; and we are, in real life, often more affected by the complaints of a person who delivers them in a language wholly unknown to us, than we should have been by any thing he would have been able to say to us,

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if he had spoke in a language we were both ac“. quainted with, but with a lefs perswasive accent.

It is sufficient, in comedy, that the voice of the actor, who plays the part of a lover, be an engaging and an interesting 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 perswalive accent, all that engaging tone of voice, by means of which she can do what she 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 testimonies of our ears carrying us beyond those of our other senses ; and many a woman, who has appear'd indifferent to us when we have only seen her, has charm'd us, has commanded our utmost adoration when we have heard her speak.

An elocution of this kind is not, indeed, necessary to those actresses who perform the other parts in comedy ; but they must, at least, bave a voice that does not shock or hurt the ear. A woman cannot be destitute of any one grace wichout our being depriv’d, by that means, of at least one kind of pleasure when we see her on the ftage'; and the more they seem form’d to excite in us only the agreeable, the pleafurable sensations, the less are we able to pardon in them their producing what is contrary to such 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 harsh founds proceed from delicate lips.




An Audience expects to find in the Person who acts

the Part of a Lever, in Comedy, an amiable figure ; and in him who afts tbe Part of a Heró in Tragedy, a majestic and striking one.

HE elevated sentiments of a princess may,

in some cases, make her overlook the im,perfections in the face and figure of the hero who enjoys her love, on occasion of his exalted merit, and superior virtues. According to this principle, while a tragic actor shall appear only in the parts of those lovers or husbands with whose character his age and figure are not incompatible, we have no right to quarrel with him for being ten years less young, or a few inches less tall than the man who acts a Pyrrhus, or an Alexander.

It is odd that we should be more rigid and severe in this case, in regard to the performers in comedy ; but if we will impartially examine our hearts, we shall find that we evidently are fo. As comedy presents us with nothing that is vastly above the common sphere, in the fentimeors, or in the actions of the characters it gives us, we are never able to persuade ourselves that the heroes in these plays are form’d for triumphing over the hearts of the ladies they court, without charming their eyes; nor that the ladies are of such elevated sentiments, as not to consult a little with those 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 absurd paffion, we


always expect, not only that the figure and perYon of the lover be not contradictory to the emotions the lady is to feel for him, but that it be elegant enough to justify to us the passion she has conceived for him; which as we are to esteem, not to ridicule, we expect to see 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 expression, the passion the is to be possess’d of in her character: we expect to find that it is probable she should be as much in love with the man as she tells us she 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 some of the tender expressions in the part of Juliet, as play'd by Mrs. Cibbor, as of the number of the highest beauties of the English stage: we are senfible how much the poet owes to the actress on these occasions; and we may add, as to this particular instance, that it is not a small share of the ap: plause that this excellent performer receives in them, that is owing to the graceful person of the player who acis Romeo. Let us imagine all the merit in that lady that she has always shewn us in this part; and let us suppose 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 absurdity of a fine young creature, fixing her in, 'clinations in fo violent a manner on fuch very inadequate objects, would rise in judgment with us against all the merit of her tenderness and expression: we should lose the sense of her paffiona to laugh at her abfurdity, when we heard her


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