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Not only many of these people push themselves upon the stage, without having any one of the necessary difpofitions for succeeding in it; but often those who really have the proper requisites, employ the least of their care in fhewing them, or in diftinguishing themselves by the only things which ought to command our notice. They are thrust forward in some part, not that is fit for them, but that it pleases their fancy; they are supported by a body of friends for their firit appearances : they find they have an applause that night, and are not hiss'd the next; and then take it for granted they have done every thing necessary to their own honour and our satisfaction.
We are not to flatter ourselves so far as to fuppose that we can persuade those people who attempt the stage without being form'd by nature for it, to quit it: Nor are we even to suppose that it will be in our power to prevent a multitude of others of the fame stamp, encourag'd by the success of people like themselves, from entering upon it with the same imposfibility of succeeding.
We are not to imagine that we ever can improve our theatrical entertainments by inspiring a set of wretches whom we fee at present upon the stage, with so noble a passion as a just emulation, while they play for no o. ther end but intereft. One might indeed with better of these people, because they are too numerous among our present players; but what have we to hope for from them, when we fee that they have no more love for their profession, than respect for their audience; but come upon the stage to deliver out their parts, as if they were easing themselves of a burthen which they were hir'd for carrying, and in pain till they were rid of. CH A P. I.
In endeavouring to prove the necessity there is, that the players in comedy as well as tragedy, Chou'd have received many peculiar accomplishments from nature; we have not been vain enough to imagine that we shou'd persuade people who are not thus form’d for the stage, to keep off it: We only propos'd to ourselves to disabuse those who have establish'd it as a rule that all that is necessary to the making an actor, is, that the man have a memory, and the power of speaking, walking, and tossing his arms about.
In endeavouring to prove how diligently the player ought to study in order to arrive at perfection in his business; we have not flatter'd ourselves so far as to fuppose we cou'd conquer the idleness of those performers, who every day give us instances enough of their being enemies to industry. We have only meant by this to open the eyes of those beginners in this way of life, who from the seeming ease with which the best players obtain applause, are apt to persuade themselves, that a very little trouble will serve to prepare them for playing both tragedy and comedy. We shall endeavour to fhew in the sequel, to those who wish, and have fome grounds to hope, that they may in time arrive at the art of playing the one or the other with success, what are the talents, and what the means by which they may command our applause.
In what the Truth of a Representation on the
LL dramatic fi&tions please us the more,
the more like they are to real adventures and occurrences. The perfection which we are most of all desirous of seeing arriv'd at in the representation of these pieces, is what the judges of theatrical performances express by the word Truth,
They mean, by that term, the concourse of all those appearances which may affift in deceiving the audience into an imagination, that 'tis a scene of real life they are attending to.
These appearances are naturally divided into two classes. The play of the performer furnishes those of the one kind; the others are foreign to his acting, and we owe them to the disguise we see him under, or to the decorations of the place where he plays.
The appearances of the first kind; that is, those which arise from the theatrical action of the pers former, are of all others the most important to the illusion; and these the nature of our fubject leads us more immediately to the examination of They in general consist in the nice and perfect observation of every circumstance of the character, and every thing requisite to it. The performance of an actor, in whats ever scene or character, is only true, when we. perceive in him every thing that agrees with the age, condition, and fituation of the person he
represents. Does a player enter upon the stage in the part of Sciolto in the Fair Penitent? We shall never allow him to reprefent the character, even to the eye, if we do not see in him the wrinkles of age, and the whole carriage of a man old enough to be the father of the perfons he converses with.
Sciolto is a man of great rank and quality; the actor will therefore never be what we expect in the character, if he does not join to the gravity of the old man the deportment and air of nobility in every part : He is rejoiced at the supposed happiness of his family in the beginning of the play, and carries a mixture of an unconquerable grief and resentment, at the behaviour of his daughter in the latter part of it: The image which the player gives of him, is therefore not at all just, if we have not, in the first part, all the transport of a fond and indulgent parent express'd, and in the latter, all the rage and vengeance of a man of honour wounded in the tenderest point, and seeking the means of vengeance, tho' at the expence of life itself.
The actor who is to express to us a peculiar passion and its effects, if he wou'd play his character with Truth, is not only to assume the emotions which that paffion wou'd produce in the generality of mankind; but he is to give it that peculiar form under which it wou'd appear, when exerting itself in the breast of such a perfon as he is giving us the portrait of. The rage of Bajazet is very different from that of Mr. Alderman Fondliwifr, tho’ both are rais'd from fufpicions of the very fame kind : And the grief of Slatira when the conqueror of the world proves false to her, is very different froni that of Phyllis when she has lost her Damon.
The expression of the actor is also to be varied, as well as his deportment, according to the character he represents. Love in a young man ought to burst forth in transports and impetuofity; in an old fellow it is to Thew itself by degrees, and with a deal of art and circumspection.
A person of a superior quality, throws into his very forrow, into his complaints, and into his threats a sort of decent greatness, and has ever less violence, even in his anger, than a person who has had no education. The affliction conceived for the loss of a sum of money, paints itself in very different colours in the face of an old mifer, and in that of a young extravagant; and the coxcomb does not blush at a reproof in the same manner as the man of merit and modesty.
The truth of exp:ession in the player depends, upon the whole, on the truth of the action, and on that of the recitation,
CH A P. II.
On the Truth of Action on the Stage.
O exhibit True Action in a part, is to do
every thing allotted by the author to the character represented, in a manner exactly conformable to what the person himself wou'd or ought to have done it in, under every circumftance and in every situation thro' which the action of the play successively carries him.
Every scene p:oduces some change in the circumstances of the character, and every change of this kind demands a multitude of other variations in the actor in conformity to it. Many