Imatges de pÓgina

strongly felt by the performer. We did not know how strongly it was possible for us to be affected, only by seeing that an actor was so, till this person entering with his young master, warn'd him from the house of his treacherous and tyrannic brother; told him the danger of being too meritorious in fuch a place of wickedness ; and added,

Your virtues, gentle master, Are fanctify'd and holy traitors to you. O what a world is this, when what is comely Envenoms him that bears it, O unhappy youth, Come not within these doors, this is no place

for you,

This houfe is but a butchery
Abhor it, 'fear it, do not enter it.

The poet has with great art introduc'd the old man's reason for loving this his young mafter preferably to the elder and richer son, by making him call him the Memory of old fir Rowland. We are strongly affected by the honesty and friendship of this venerable servant, as he delivers to him without much ornament the cautions above mention'd; but how are our hearts struck within us, when to the despair of his young master, on the thought of his flying to misery and want from the tyranny of his cruel brother, he answers,

I have five hundred crowns, The thrifty hire I fav'd under vour father, Which I did store to be my foster nurse When service should in my old limbs lie lame, Aud unregarded age in holes be thrown.


Take that, and he that doth the ravens feed,
Yea providently caters for the sparrow,
Be comfort to my age. Here is the gold,
All this I give you. Let me be your servant,
Tho' I look old, yet I am strong and lusty;
For in my youth, I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors to my blood,
Nor did I with unbashful forehead, woo
The means of weakness and debility ;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly“Let me go with you,
I'll do the service of a younger man
In all your business and necessities.

The unfeigned tears that trickled down the player's cheeks, as he delivered this generous and noble speech, were accompany'd with those of every spectator; and the applause that succeeded these, shew'd fufficiently the sense of the audience, and spoke in the strongest terms the praises of that sensibility, that feeling, which we are so earnestly recommending to every other player.

An expresion like this, dictated only by a sense of the nature of the part, is in many

other cases, as well as the present instance, preferable to all the noise and violence the most boisterous player cou'd employ in it.

Vehemence in an actor when ill placed, or when carry'd beyond the circumstances of the character he represents, or beyond truth or probability, will always be ridiculous : 'Tis only the common herd of an audience who are ready to say,that provided the player affects them stronzly, 'tis no matter whether that be done justly or not; but the severest judge will allow that as an absolute perfection is not easy to be arriv'd at in those parts of a character, where the author means that the performer shou'd exert this quality, it is much better that he shou'd run beyond the goal than fall short of it.

absolute utmost

The first intent of all playing is to affect and move the audience, and in all theatrical performances, 'tis an invariable rule that the coldest representation is the most defective. The principal thing the actor has to observe, when the circumstances of his part make it necessary that he shou'd be vehement, is that he does not strain his voice, so as to render it incapable of carrying him thro' the rest of the piece. We should with great justice laugh at the man engaged in a race, who shou'd throw out his legs to their utmost speed at the setting out, and by that means render'd them incapable of carrying him to the end of the course.

There are some peculiar characters on the English stage, and those of the very first consequence, in which a caution of this kind is

very necessary to the actor; we may number among the principal of these, Pierre in Venice Preserv’d, Richard the Third, Othello, and Orestes.

Our players conduct themselves very differently on this occasion; and run into the two contrary faults, some of ranting themselves hoarse in the first scenes, so as to be incapable of speaking the succeeding and finer parts of the character in such a manner as to be heard; and others of saving themselves for these most interesting paffages at the expence of being cold, infipid and contemptible in all the rest. In the character of Orestes, in the Distressed Mother, there is one capital scene in which the player is to exert his

utmost power, and which requires him to be in a condition far from tir’d, when he enters on it. We cannot but think however that Mr. Ryan, tho' excellent in this peculiar scene of that play, ought to be reminded, that this is only a small part of the character of that heroe, and that we purchase his excellence in it at too dear a rate, when he is so very tame as he has lately been in the preceding scenes of the play, in order to the saving himself for this. 'Tis not many nights since we saw him in this character, when awhole audience beheld him contemptible throughout the whole of his principal scene with Hirmione ; in which he was quite cool, and philofophic, while she was cunningly working him up to madness by every art that woman cou'd use; by promises, by threats, by foothing his passion, and by confesling a dread of her own frailty in regard to his rival. To all this he answer'd with all the calmness imaginable, with a soft accent and smooth weak voice.

Madam, your love has made him criminal.
You shall have vengeance, I'll have vengeance too.

-First let me tear bim piece-meal-He shall die.

He dies by me-Have you a foe, And shall I let him live? my rival too? E’er yon meridian sun declines, he dies.

We cannot but know that the poet meant these expresions shou'd give us an idea of rage and fierceness in the speaker; and that there ought to have been a strong conflict expressed in the character between love, revenge, and honour, and visible in his air, his countenance, and his whole deportment, while the princess thus work'd him to


her purpose, tho' at the expence of his honour; but we saw nothing of all this. How great a figure might a player make in such a scene, who had sufficient feeling and expression about him, and who dar'd to employ them; and how contemptible must the coldness and insensibility of the performer, who is tame and patient under all this, appear to us, notwithstanding that we know he is reserving himself for something great that is to come ? Nay 'tis even the worse for it, as our knowing this to be the reason of the unnatural defect we see, carries us forward to the fucceeding scenes, and hurts that appearance of reality which is the greatest of all the beauties in a theatrical representation.

We remember the time when Mr. Garrick, thro'a disdain of the meanness of this sort of artifice, ran into the other extreme in many parallel cases; when he always run himself so out of voice in some of the first scenes in the character of Pierre in Venice Preferu'd, that he cou'd not even be heard when he came afterwards to that great scene in which he reproaches the senate : And when in Richard he cry'd out to Richmond, Richard is hoarse with calling thee to battle, the audience was fo sensible of the truth of the expression, that they cou'd scarce distinguish the sounds that convey'd it to them. But to the honour of this inimitable player, he has now fallen into so happy a method of moderating his fire in the beginnings of these characters, in order to the preserving himself intelligible to their end, that he might be set up as an example to the performer we have just nam'd, had not we an opportunity of recommending the yet more mafterly address of the veteran of the other houle in

« AnteriorContinua »