Imatges de pÓgina


which we are apt to admire the author for draw: ing, owe to the manner in which they are presented : And on the other hand, the plays of Moliere in France, and those of Beaumont and Fletcher with us, abound in characters which are scarce ever play'd with justice. We are not therefore to wonder that these do not always bring full houses, and of consequence, that they are feldom perform’d. The managers may depend on it, they wou'd fee no empty benches on the nights such pieces were play'd, if they wou'd employ as many of their principal performers in them as are necessary; and allot the characters of consequence to such persons as are able to give them all the force and expresion they require. They tell us they don't play these, because the town is more fond of novelty : Let them do what we are recommending to them, and they will give us one of the greatest and most acceptable kinds of novelty in their power.


Observations on the two principal Things essential

to the Truth of Aition.


S action and recitation compose the essence

of what we call expression in the player ; so the judicious changes in the countenance, and those in the attitude and gesture form the truth of action. That the changes of the actor's countenance may appear just, and sufficiently expressive to an audience, it is not enough that the passion which he is to describe to them barely discover itself in his eyes; it must be seen there with an uncommon force and vivacity. The


face that can mark a passion but weakly on the stage, is to be rank'd with those which cannot mark it at all: That very degree of expression in the countenance, which is capable of affecting us elsewhere, is not enough to strike us in the player.

The paintings expos'd upon the stage, are seen at a certain distance by the greater number of the audience : they must therefore have a strength in the touches somewhat too bold for a near view; but yet so moderated, that it inay

be overlook'd by those who have that situation, in consideration of the necessities of the rest.

The paflions must all thew themselves with life and spirit in the countenance of the player ; yet they are not to distort or disfigure it. "It is the misfortune of one of the best actresses of the present or perhaps of any age, that a too great sensibility in scenes of distress throws her features out of all form, and excites our diftafte instead of our compaffion; and 'tis the peculiar advantage of another of the modern favourites of that sex, to acquire a beauty in the height of forrow, which she wants at other times. We cannot but regret the fortune of one of these ladies, as much as we admire that of the other; but we are not to expect that we shall find in others so fingular a charm in a face of forrow,

we discover in the latter of them. It is not the good fortune of every tragedy princess to have a face that misery fits well upon ; much less to have such an one as we adore in the heroine of another house, for charming us equally under all the difguises the poet for the night chooses to thew it in. We have at least a right, however, to expect that anger is not represented to us by convul


sions, and that sorrow and distress are not made shocking, when the poet intended they should be interesting and affecting.

Whatever exceptions may be made in regard to the justly celebrated actress hinted at above, it is certain that in general the players only fall into these excesses, from their not being affected in such a degree as the circumstance and fituation of their characters require. Does the player feel sensibly and strongly the passion he is to express to us? It will then paint itself in his eyes, without his distorting them to make it do so. But is he oblig'd to teize and torture his soul, to rouze it out of the stupid and lethargic state he finds it in? The constrain'd state of his mind, will shew itself in all his action, his very features, as well as his gestures and motions, will discover it, and he will appear rather a fick man harrass’d with a fit of some strange malady, than a player affected by a common passion, and endeavouring only to express it.

It sometimes happens that the countenance of a performer, is only fitted by nature for the expression of some one peculiar passion or affection of the soul. There are countenances naturally dismal which seem form'd only to shed tears, and to draw them from other people ; and there are others which feem calculated only for mirth and jollity; to be joyous themselves and to make every body else fo. In the first, gaiety never fits easy ; they never laugh but with constraint ; and they tell you too evidently that they are merry only because they are bid to be fo. Sorrow fits upon the face of the others in the fame unnatural and forc'd manner;

one wou'd take it for a stranger endeavouring by force to feetle


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itself in a country where every native is an enemy. A judicious regulation in the attitude, gestures and manner of the player is as necessary, and of as much consequence to the truth of his action, as all that can be done by the countenance. The general deportment and proper attitudes in the several scenes a performer may be engag'd in, have been sufficiently treated of in the preceding chapters; we shall therefore avoid repetitions, and content ourselves with some general remarks on the particular gestures neceffary under peculiar circumstances.

Gestures have a determinate fignification, as much as words; and, when properly apply'd, they add a vast deal of life and force to the action.

The most significant of them will even serve to express to an audience every passion that we are capable of being agitated by, and raise in the spectators every sentiment that we wish to inspire them with : Without the affiftance of words, we are able to fignify by gestures and signs our hopes, our fears, our satisfaction, or our difpleasure. We can entreat by them, and obtain our requests as readily as if words were added to them. We can lament and express our distress and sorrow by them, and that in so plain and intelligible a manner,

as to force others to weep with us; and finally, we threaten by them, and by those threatnings excite terror.

The signs which we use to express these few veral intentions of the soul are not however merely arbitrary, they are dictated by nature's self, and are common to all mankind. The language of signs we all speak without having been


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taught it; by means of which we are able to converle with people of all nations; and nature has been so determinate in the sense of every particle of it, that art would attempt in vain to make it either more intelligible or more expressive. The utmost that can be done by the nicest hand, is to polish and ornament it; and all that the player needs, or indeed is able to do, is only to avoid improprieties in it, and to be careful to use it only in such parts as nature shews it to be necessary and useful in.

The judgment of the player must inform him, that when he acts the part of a man of high rank and quality, he is to use fewer geftures, and those less violent than when he acts a clown ; nor is it difficult to guess from whence this necessary distinction arises. Nature left to herself, is under less restraint, and runs into more irregular emotions, than when curb’d and regulated by a proper education.

People in high lite have the same affections with the vulgar; but they have more hypocrisy. Their very passions put on the air of cisfimulation, which has been inculcated into them in all their other actions, and appear moderate and reasonable even when they are the most inordinate and ungovern'd. A man of high rank , is in a manner fedate and tranquil even in his resentment, while a cobler under the same circumstances wou'd be outrageous, kick the tables and chairs about the house, and half murder his wife and children, tho' they did not even know what it was that put him in this fury.

If the frequent use of passionate gestures is on this account not allowable in genteel comedy,


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