Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

vering the leafless branches of our trees, are the greatest beauties of nature; because it is their fortune to inhabit a country which is buried in snow the greatest part of the year.

A Player of Drury-Lane, who is not without his merit when properly employ'd; who has good sense, a found judgment, and many other of the requisites for the stage ; but who remarkably wants this native fire about him, gives us a very eminent instance of the first kind, in the character of Priuli.

The poet, who has introduced this character in the midst of a high resentment, kindled upon a natural enough, tho’unjust cause, doubtless intended to shew him to us in all the transports of rage and indignation for the loss of a daughter whom he dearly loved, and who had been ftolen from him by a man whom he hated. Let us imagine Mr. Garrick under these circumstances : let us récollect the provok'd old man in King Lear; and when we remember from that, what ought to be the spirited indignation of Priuli against Jaffeir, we shall see a very strong instance of the impropriety of forcing into this character a man who must be violent in spite of nature; and who, when he has conjur'd up all the powers of his soul, can give us only noisy, empty sound, instead of that heart-felt anguish, heightened into rage by the presence of the offending person, with which the exasperated old man. thus utters his curfes.

May all your joys in her prove false like mine.
A fteril fortune, and a barren bed
Attend

you

both : continual discord make Your days and nights bitter and grievous still :

May

C 3.

May the hard hand of a vexatious need
Oppress and grind you ; 'till at last you find
The curse of disobedience all your portion.

And afterwards, when the child of his once lov'd daughter is mention'd with an intent to sooth him, adds :

Let it live
To bait thee for its bread, and din thine ears
With hungry cries, while its unhappy mother
Sits down and weeps in bitterness and want.

It is easy to see that the performer we are mentioning is, in this particular part, what has been much too severely faid of him in all, a player in spite of nature. There are many characters in which warmth and violence have no snare; in these an actor, of this naturally redate turn, is cut out to excel : but the forcing him into a part where things are requir'd which are not in him, is unfair, nay 'tis unjust both to himself and those who do it. If we would recollect, by way of contrast to the labour'd violence, the artificial heat with which these passages are deliver'd by this actor, the true fpirit, the native fire with which a provok'd old man ought to deliver himself, let us look to the player we have just mention'd, Mr. Garrick, in King Lear, at the conclusion of the second act, where, urg'd by the ingratitude and baseness of those whom he had rais'd to power, he cries out,

Heavens, drop your patience down!
Ye see me here, ye gods, a poor old man,
As full of grief as age : wretched in both-

I'll hear no more ; no-ye unnatural hags, I will have such revenges on you both, That all the world shall-I will do such things ; What they are yet I know not; but they shall te The terrors of the earth - You think I'll weep; This heart shall break into a thousand pieces Before I'll weep.-0, gods, I shall be mad !-

Perhaps nobody but Shakespear could have well drawn a character in so strong a scene of rage and vehemence : certainly no man, except the gentleman we have just mentioned in the character, ever did, or ever could do him justice in the expressing it. The whole compass of the stage will not afford us so high a contrast of the true and the false fire, the native and the artificial violence we have been speaking of, as we see in these; therefore more specimens of this defect are needless.

If we would proceed to enquire after instances of the other ; where the native inactivity of an actor's soul would cheat us into a belief that it has merit in it; and by a formal, dull, and cold recital, made in founding folemn accents, perfuade us, that the dignity of traged, is best kept up by this sleepy virtue ; let us recollect the man who, about a twe'vemonth since, play'd a part in which we have been us’d to see a performer, more eminent for force than for vivacity, shine to great advantage; we mean Horatio in the Fair Penitent. When we have called to mind the true spirit, the noble, the disdainful anger with which Mr. Quin addresses Lothario in their quarrel, let us remember the philosophic spirit, and cool blood with which this gentleman spoke

C4

'Tis

'Tis well you are-the man who wrongs my

friend, To the earth's utmost verge wou'd I pursue ; No place, tho' ere so holy, shou'd protect him ; Nofhape that artful fear ere found should hide him, Till he fair answer made, and did me justice.

We shall then be perfectly convinc'd of the absurdity of the doctrine these people have set on foot to screen their own imperfections, and be able to judge how much truth there is in the assertion, that spirit and fire are always blameable in grave characters.

This is a tenet strongly maintain'd indeed by this insipid set of players; but they are to know, that no character has any businefs in tragedy that is fo very philosophic as to be out of the reach of all passions ; that the whole series of our dramatic writings does not furnish us with one instance of a good play in which there is such a part ; and we may add, that the player, if he has any of the native fire in him which is so effentialio bis profession, can never thew it to so much advantage as when the character he performs is naturally fedate ; but is forc'd, by injuries too great to bear, to rise into all the violence of

rage. If it be necessary to strengthen the evidence we have given, of the absurdity of this tame playing in characters where the passions dictate otherwife, let us call to mind the sweet, unpaffion'd gentleman who shewed himself first' to us, two or three years ago, in the character of Hotspur. This player was one of the phlegmatic rank, and had convinc'd himself, by what he had heard from that great enemy to unnecessary vehemence, Mackiin, that the highest merit of playing was

openly

[ocr errors]

openly in his way, if he only pursued his natural
coolness. It was not easy for a person, so nearly
concern'd as this gentleman, to distinguish be-
tween a judicious and an unnatural suppression of
the signs of rage in the lessons that excellent
instructor deliver'd in his lectures, and in confe-
quence of his firm persuasion that every thing was
right that was not violent, he told his audience,
with all the temper of a philosopher,
By heaven, methinks it were an easy leap
To pluck bright honourfrom the pale-fac’d moony
Or drag up drowned honour by the locks.

Let us not be dupes to the artifices of the first of these sort of players, nor to the sophisms of the latter : let us not always take the exclamations, or the contorsions of an actor of the first kind for fire, nor the ice of the latter for prudence. Far from imitating some of the modern frequenters of the theatre, who are continually preaching it up to the young actors, whose success they interest themselves in, that they are of all things to moderate their fire; let us pronounce it as a general. rule to every person who attempts to shine upon the stage, that he cannot have too much of this. enlivening spirit; that multitudes of players have: the ill luck to displease their audiences, only beÉause nature has dèny'd them this great, this interesting requisite ; or, which comes to much the fame end, because their timidity, or feepilh. bashfulness has prevented them from making use of what they have of it ; and that, on the other hand, many of our actors, who at present meet with a frequent applause, would establish themselves a reputation much more general, and less;

liable:

C 5.

« AnteriorContinua »