Imatges de pÓgina
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rigidly to the measure as to make some sort of pause at the end of each line, tho’ the sense evidently runs into the succeeding ones.

After recollecting the constant effect of this maternal affection on the audience, let us compare with it that of the conjugal love, express’d in no inferior manner, and in a no less favourite play, in the character of Belvidera, in the Venice Preferv'd of Otway. Perhaps this honest and noble passion has never been touch'd in a more masterly manner than in that speech of this lady; where, after her husband's representing to her the miserable condition they should shortly be reduc'd to, the answers,

O, I will love thee, even in madness love thee;
Tho' my distracted senses shou'd forsake me,
I'd find some intervals, when my poor heart
Shou'd 'swage itself, and be let loose to thine:

Tho' the bare earth be all our refting-place,
Its roots our food, some cliff our habitation;
I'll make this arm a pillow for thine head,
And as thou sighing ly’st, and swelld with forrow,
Creep to thy bosom, pour the balm of love
Into thy soul, and kiss thee to thy reft;
Then praise our God, and watch thee till the

morning.

We have a fair comparison in thefe almost inimitable passages, both spoken by the same inimitable actress, between the effects of one of these passions and the other; and the case is soon decided, when we perceive, that tho' a whole audience feels the first, no tears are ever shed for the last, except by a few ladies who have not been long married. If we would ask the reason

for

for this partiality in regard to the poet and the performer, tho’ both equally great in each case, perhaps it is that the former is more in nature, and that there are more affectionate mothers than affectionate wives among us.

Tragedy not only takes in but few passions, but all that it does employ, bear a sort of natural conformity to one another ; they are all violent, and all serious ones ; its heroes are always either in the most vehement transports, or in the deepest melancholy. Some of them are, thro' the whole play, furious, raging, and thirsting as it were for blood; others are continually bent down be. neath the weight of their own misfortunes, or of those of some other person who is dear to them : both are continually agitated by rage, or by afflict on; by an impatience to see their intents accomplish’d; or by a despair on se ing the execution of them retarded by some powerful obstacles. If the poet suspends for a few moments the rage, or the misery of his principal characters, to relieve for a time the audience and the player, it is generally done with design to engage them immediately afterwards in scenes yet more affecting than those out of which he has for the present reliev'd them. A few only of the passions, for these reasons, fall to the share of the tragedian the conic player, on the other hand, has the whole series of them within his province; and he will be esteem'd a man of no consequence in his profession, if he cannot, with equal strength and propriety, express the transports of a fond and foolish joy, and those of the most excruciating · uneasiness; the ridiculous doating of an old and impotent lover, and the suspicious resentments of a jealous husband, or infulted rival; the noble boldness of a daring, generous mind; and the contemptible timidity of a pufillanimous heart : if he cannot represent to us with the same strength and spirit, a stupid admiration, and an insolent disdain ; all the extravagances of the most interested self-love, when flatter'd with circumstances that favour it, or hurt by contrary accidents : In fine, if he be not able to give a due force to every emotion of the heart; to every species of passion that human nature is capable of being affected by.

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It is not sufficient for him that he be able to put on the image of every one of the palfions that fall within the reach of his author, if he have not, beside this, the power of throwing himself readily and easily out of one into another of them. The business of comedy is to raise and to keep up a pleasurable sensation, to give joy to an audience; and the poets who excel in this species of writing, well knowing that a dull uniformity in the scene is one of the greatest enemies to this, have ever been attentive to the necessary variety; and taken care to make every capital character in the same piece, and not unfrequently in the same scene, the sport of a number of different paffions; they have always given it an infinity of contrary impreffions, the one of which suddenly drives away another, to be, in its turn, as suddenly banished by a third.

Mr.Garrick, who is as amiable in the character of a player, as censurable in another capacity in which he has too much connexion with our theatrical entertainments, gives us an excellent instance of what perfection an actor may arrive at in this way, in his Archer : in this, tho' not one

of

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of the characters in which he makes the greatest figure, how readily does he run through the several artful transitions which the author of the Stratagem has thrown into his character, from one paffion to another, most foreign, nay, sometimes, most opposite ones! and how wholly does he devote himself to each in its turn, as if no other, of whatever kind, had ever claimed any power over him !

In one scene he is the ardent lover, in ano. ther the mercenary schemer : in one, the jovial footman treating his fellow flave with all the ready familiarity of an equal, in another, the gallant courting in high heroics : in one scene, nay in one moment, the free companion, and the humble attendant of Aimwell, or the resolute heroe in the engagement with a ruffian, and the bantering acquaintance with the lady,

Till this excellent performer play'd this part, we never knew what beauties it was capable of, in the sudden transitions from paffion to passion, in the last act; where he alternately rejoices in the success of the scheme he was upon ; and becomes the surly accuser of the friend who had partnership in it, and whom an instant before he was hugging in his arms; then conceives new hopes from promising circumstances, which fail his expectation, and return him to his despair. In fine, his exquisite mixture of paffions, at the fame instant in the dread of a discovery from an old acquaintance, his transport in immediately afterwards finding this very person the messenger of better news than could have been expected ; his paffion for Mrs. Sullen and his dear Cherry at the same time; his concern at the supposed lofs of that good-natur’d creature, and the joy at re

ceiving

ceiving news both of her and his money at once; all this, notwithstanding all that has been said of Mr. Wilks, 'never was so exprefs'd as to interest the audience in every one of the several passions together ; or but to convey all of them to them, till we saw Mr. Garrick in the character.

We have a multitude of instances of this kind in our other comedies, where the actor always, fails, and the author is censured by most people as dull in the most spirited parts of his piece. The French stage gives us infinitely greater instances of this transition from paffion to paffion in comedy than ours; and to do justice to the performers. of that nation, it affords us also very numerous instances of actors who are able to play them.

The character of Arnolphe, in the Ecole des, Femmes, is an eminent instance of this, and may ferve as a lesson to the player, of whatever nation, to instruct him in every thing that is necessary in this way. This character, in the course of a very few moments, is carried through all the contrasts which could produce in him the utmost curiosity to know every thing that related to the fuccess of his amour, and the dread of his finding that he was betray'd: he laments that he is so far distant from the object of his affection, and that at so very improper a time ; and at the same moment rejoices that he is certain of not being quite fo miserable as he had the moment before persuaded himself that he was. When Agnes ingenuously acknowledges to him, that she cannot love him, to what a variety of different emotions does the jealous lover give himself up, despairing to gain her either by threats or persuasions; and what a variety of opposite passions does he express,

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