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and which are owing to the addrefs and merit of the performer.
CHA P. II.
Whether this Quality of the Heart be more important to the Performers in Tragedy, or in Comedy ?
E almoft want a word in the English language to exprefs a very effential qualification in an actor, and one which more than any other enables him to affect and please us. The French, who efteem it one of the greatest requifites to every player, of whatever kind, call it Sentiment, a term that carries much the fame meaning with the word Senfibility, by which we have chosen to exprefs it; and by which we would be understood to mean, a difpofition to be affected by the paffions, which are the fubjects of dramatic writing.
It is evident that different people have this quality of the heart in a very different degree : if we look round among the audience at a Tragedy, we fhall find people variously affected by the fame words, delivered by the fame voice, and under the fame circumftances; and in the reading, the same scene in a play fhall pafs off fmoothly from the tongue of one perfon, while the difturbance of the heart of another, as he goes thro❜ it, fhall render the organs of his voice incapable of pronouncing the words articulately. The de
gree of understanding is not concern'd in this difference of the effect from the fame words; the perfon who feels leaft from them often underftanding their true meaning, and entering into their beauties perhaps better than the other. 'Tis Senfibility, a peculiar quality in the mind, that determines the force of the fcene; and 'tis evident that this is a quality of more confequence in playing than in any other profeffion. In what road of playing it is most important, remains to be enquired into.
People who find themfelves naturally of a tender difpofition, are apt to believe that they are therefore form'd for playing well in tragedy; and, on the contrary, thofe who are of a lively, jocund, and fprightly turn, commonly flatter themselves that they fhall therefore be able to fhine in comedy. It must be allowed, that a turn to seriousness, tenderness, and melancholy in the tragedian, and a natural gaiety of temper in the comedian, are two as confiderable advantages as we could wish in them. They are not, however, of that confequence the poffeffors of them are apt to imagine; nay, they are fo far from alone furnishing out the player, that, at the very beft, they make only a part of that qualifi cation which we have here called fenfibility. The sense of this term is very extenfive; it takes in not only the natural turn of mind in the player, but that pliantnefs of difpofition by means of which the different paffions are made eafily to fucceed to one another in his foul. The heart that enjoys this, in a proper degree, is like foft wax, which, under the hands of a judicious artist, is capable of becoming, in the fame minute, a Medea and a Sappho; an eafy ductility
dulity in the wax is not more requisite to fit it for the purpose of the modeller, than is this fenfibility in the heart of the actor, by means of which it is to receive whatever modifications the writer pleases, and that in an eafy, an unconstrain'd fucceffion. Whoever, on a candid examination of himself, finds that he cannot eafily fubmit his mind to all these changes, let him not think of offering himself to the public as a player. The performer, who does not himself feel the feveral emotions he is to exprefs to the audience, will give but a lifelefs and infipid reprefentation of them. All the art in the world can never fupply the want of Senfibility in the player; if he is defective in this efiential quality, all the advantages of nature, all the accomplishments he may have acquired by study, are thrown away upon him; he will never make others feel what he does not feel himself, and will always be as different from the thing he is to reprefent, as a mask from a face.
The being able to fubject the foul to fucceeding paffions, tho' they be contrary ones, as is frequently the cafe, is univerfally allowed to be neceffary, in the highest degree, to the tragedian : the common opinion feems to judge it lefs effential to the comic performer; but, in reality, it is not only equally neceffary to the laft, but even more fo.
The dignity of tragedy does not permit it to reprefent to us any other than great and ftriking incidents. The actions of the perfons it reprefents are all to be of this kind; and it is therefore reduced to a neceffity of conftantly having recourse to thofe paffions which are the most proper to produce them.
The three great refources of these actions are love, hatred, and ambition; and it is in confequence of tragedy's being ty'd down to these narrow bounds, that the principal characters it gives us are tender and paffionate lovers, who generally water with their tears the paths by which they are to arrive at the period of their misfortunes; generous avengers of injuries, whose fouls are bent to appease the manes of their murder'd fathers, relations, or friends, or to give liberty to their native land, by the death of fome murtherer or ufurper; or glorious crimina's, who tread under foot the most facred ties to raise themselves to a throne, from which they are afterwards to be thrown down in their turni Sometimes, indeed, the tragic poet has made a maternal, or a conjugal affection, the fubject of his most interesting scenes: The first of thefe never fails to engage the attention and the hearts of an audience in an uncommon manner; but the fame fuccefs has not always attended the other.
The affection of an Andromache for her fon, has never fail'd to draw tears from even the less tender part of an audience. Who ever heard, without this filent, this moft fincere applaufe, Mrs. Cibber deliver the maternal affection of the widow of Hector, in the natural, the expreffive words of
my fwoll'n heart is fullI have a thousand farewels for my fon, But tears break in-grief interrupts my fpeech; My foul o'erflows in fondnefs- let him know, I dy'd to fave him, and wou'd die again. Seafon his mind with early hints of glory;
Make him acquainted with his ancestors.
Let him reflect upon his royal birth With modeft pride: Pyrrhus will prove a friend; But let him know he has a conqueror's right. He must be taught to ftifle his resentments, And facrifice his vengeance to his fafety. Should he prove headstrong, rafh, or unadvis❜d, He then will fruftrate all his mother's virtue, Provoke his fate, and I fhall die in vain.
Or thofe often celebrated, but never too often repeated ones, which close the first act.
I'll go, and in the anguifh of my heart,
Yes, my Aftyanax, we'll go together;
It may not be amifs to obferve, in regard to thefe laft lines, a thing which will however be treated of more at large hereafter; viz. that it is often neceffary for the actor to facrifice the measure of the verse to the fenfe. The three first lines of this laft quotation, perhaps, never were spoke without commanding the tears of the audience, except by Mrs. Roberts; but he, tho' in the whole, far from a despicable player, always deftroyed the force of them by keeping fo