Imatges de pÓgina
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alities, but imitations of them; and however fevere they may be on the fubject of conformity in general between the original and the copy that is prefented to them, yet they univerfally expect that the actors fhould not have the defects and imperfections in themselves, which they are to reprefent under their characters. The copy often charms them, when the original wou'd be difagreeable; a player who was to reprefent a drunken man, would be very ill received if he chofe to come drunk upon the ftage to do it. But after acknowledging all this, we are to diftinguish between the peculiar characters of comedy and the general form of its reprefentations.

There are certain characters in which the player is to entertain us only by the imitation of fomething that is extremely ridiculous in real life. And the pleasure which we are to receive from fome others, is meant to be form'd only by contraft; whether that be between the pretenfions of the perfonage, and the title he has to expect them to be received, or between the effects which he ought to produce among the other perfons with whom he is concerned in the courfe of the play, and thofe he really does produce among

them.

In the parts of the first kind, the more the actor is poffefs'd of thofe perfections that are the direct oppofites to the defects which the reality of the character requires him to imitate, the more we are pleafed with him; and the more merit we allow him in giving us a true and faithful portrait of the imperfections which nature had given him no means to imitate. In thofe of the fecond kind, the fewer the player has of those accomplishments, on which the perfon he is to

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reprefent piques himfelf, or which the other ridiculous or extravagant characters of the piece are made to allow and reverence in him, the more evidently does he fhew the ridiculous vanity, and blind prefumption of the one, and the abfurd judgment of the others; and of confequence the more of the true fpirit of comedy does he throw into the character in the firft cafe, and into the play in general in the last.

The part of a man whom the author means to reprefent as fond of afpiring to the character of a beau, without any of the natural advantages or acquir'd accomplishments for it, will excite lefs laughter in the audience, and confequently will lefs anfwer the intent of the author, as well as of every body concern'd, if it is play'd by a clean genteel fellow who is well qualify'd to have excell'd in the part of a polite gentleman, or whom we have been us'd to fee do fo in other plays; than if performed by one, who has no one requifite toward the real character of the beau either from nature or art. The blunder of fome foolish perfon in a play, who takes a footman for a man of quality, will give us much Jefs pleasure, if we fee the part of the footman performed by a man of a good mien and genteel deportment, than if it be executed by one who carries about him nothing from nature that can juftify the mistake.

It appears therefore, that inftead of its being neceffary or convenient that all the actors of a company fhou'd have the advantage of elegant and handfome figures, it is abfolutely effential to our being well pleafed at their representations,. that some of them be not of this fine turn.

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The players are not however to extend this maxim too far in their own favour: We allow them to be in many cafes qualify'd for the ftage, tho' they want certain natural beauties; but we do not allow so much if they have the opposite defects or blemishes. There is a great difference between the absence of beauty, and deformity: and in the cafe before us we never can receive people well, unless they are free from all blemishes in figure; many of which, tho' we pass over eafily enough in perfons in any other road of life, we judge intolerable on the stage.

The profeffion of a player requires, and the exercise of it fuppofes, that a man has a good understanding, and fome natural graces. We expect that his countenance, his look, declare to us, at firft fight, that he poffeffes the firft of thefe qualifications; and we cannot be contented if we find an external form that looks incompatible with the other.

We expect that every player fhould have a lively and expreffive countenance; we require this even in thofe whofe fole bufinefs it is: to play the characters of dupes and fools; for in the cafe of all defects and imperfections, it is, as has already been obferved, the copy, and not the original, that we expect to fee on the ftage; nor fhould we allow any merit in the actor, who appear'd to us no other than just what he really was. We can give no applaufe to the man who represents a fool to us-upon the ftage, unless we know that he does not act the part of a fool in the world; and in all other cafes of this kind, we the more applaud the art of the player, as we know it to be the lefs affifted by

nature.

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If the managers of our theatrical entertainments fhould chufe to put Mr. Anderfon or Mr. Ufher into the part of Abel Drugger it is poffible that the folly of the part might hang more naturally about them than it does about Mr. Garrick; but 'tis not this that an audience expects on fuch occafions we may venture to foretel, that neither we nor our children fhall ever fee that character with fo much pleasure as we now fee it play'd by Mr. Garrick, unless, which is scarce probable, another actor of equal merit fhould undertake it.

Whatever player has the happiness of an expreffive countenance, may flatter himself that he is poffefs'd of one of the greatest natural advantages that fall in the way of his profeffion; but he is to remember, that it is an advantage which requires many others to accompany it, and that fhews in a very ill light the defect, where there are not fuch. A fprightliness of countenance, and a lively, piercing, and diftinguishing look, neceffarily require a graceful action in the whole figure to fupport and enforce them: without these the graces of the other look unnatural; and these fo much depend upon the symmetry of the body, and the just arrangement of its parts, that all the art and addrefs in the world cannot give them, without these natural advantages. The arms too long or too short, the fhoulders too high, or any other visible and obvious difproportion of the limbs, on which the action peculiar to the ftage principally depends, render the player, in fpite of all other advantages, neceffarily disagreeable to us, because they make his action neceffarily defective. Imperfections of this kind, to a certain degree, are not obfervable in the generality of men; but in the very fame height in which

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in others they are not difagreeable, they are infupportable in the player. If a man will Content himself to live among the multitude, we do not pretend to laugh at him, because his mouth is fomewhat too large, or his legs are a little illfhap'd; but if he will thrust himself upon us in a light that calls for our ftricteft examination, his mouth, which before would have been little noticed, becomes then enormous; and his legs, which only feem'd not to call for our praise, now draw upon them our feverest cenfure.

It is not only neceffary that the feveral exterior parts of the player bear a due proportion to each other; but his whole figure requires alfo its regularities. His ftature is not to be out of the common rule, or at leaft it must not be too much fo. Those who are extremely particular, unless fupported by very eminent merit, ought to be profcrib'd the theatre, either for their gigantic or their dwarfish ftature. It is very difficult for a man of too large a fize to be graceful in many of his actions; and fmallness of ftature, when not abfolutely dwarfish, tho' it. does not wholly exclude the perfon from the ftage, yet we continually fee it makes him want a thousand advantages which people of a better figure have; and is even ridiculous in many things which would extremely well become a man a few inches taller. To fee people in the galleries laugh in the midst of a serious scene, when fuch a player expreffes a violent rage and menacing indignation, and that even tho' he does it ever fo juftly, would make one apt to fay, that certain paffions were not allow'd to perfons under a certain ftandard. This would be going too far indeed; but perhaps it will be no more than

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