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answer in an extremely fenfible manner, tho’ without any thing of the cant of tragedy,
Worthy Othello, I am hurt to danger.
While I fpare fpeech (which something now offends me)
Of all that I do know ;-nor know I ought
And to defend ourselves it be a crime,
The audience look'd with aftonishment at one another, and gave a thunder of applaufe: the young fellow was taken great notice of, was foon after promoted in one of the theatres, and put in a way of arriving at all that perfection in the profeffion, the prefages of which the world thought they faw in him. He was not fenfible, any more than other people, that to keep up his credit he must always act Montanos; and that, tho' he did this very well, he would have made a very miferable Othello. He obtain❜d no more applaufe in the higher characters he afterwards was thrown into, than he had done before; and had not fome good fortune carry'd him off the ftage in time, he would certainly have again been reduc'd the next season to Montano, Roffano, and the reft of the gentlemen of that character.
The fubalterns of a company will not be perfuaded of it, yet nothing is more certain than that there requires lefs merit and parts to make a figure in trifles, than in characters of confequence,
and that it is better to be applauded in a livery, than laugh'd at in embroidery.
The women have the fame advantages in their way as the men, if they could but be brought to have modefty enough to be fenfible of it. People who have feen Mrs. Hale in fome of the capital characters, may think it a strange piece of abfurdity to bring her in competition with the celebrated Mrs. Woffington: we allow very readily indeed, that in a Lady Brute or a Jane Shore, the advantage would appear very glaringly on Mrs. Woffington's fide; but it is but very lately that we have had an opportunity of feeing them in what might have been thought a very difadvantageous light for Mrs. Hale, and yet in which we have seen that actress vaftly superior to the other.
We have in short beheld the waiting gentlewoman Hale fhew the queen Woffington in a very ill light in the comparifon; we have feen the juftnefs of playing in Cephifa quite eclipse the imaginary merit of Andromache. We do not pretend to fay that if the tables had been turn'd, and the maid's character given to the mistress, the advantage would ftill have lain on that fide: but if this is an allowed cafe, the queftion is, Whether, confidering herself merely as an actress, it would not be more to Mrs. Woffington's advantage to play Cephifa?
The majefty of forrow in Hector's Widow was quite loft in the new drefs'd Andromache of the fourth act; never indeed was a prettier figure seen upon the stage; but a wooden thing with wires might have equal'd it in gefture: the whole mind of the lady was now bent upon charming the audience as Mrs. Woffington, not as Andromaches
mache; and while the pretty moppet talk'd of tears, which the vermillion on her cheeks prevented her from daring to use her handkerchief to dry up, and told her confidant, with all the tranquility, or rather all the unmeaning ease, of a perfon who was thinking of fomething elfe, that there was a dreadful conflict in her foul, and her own determin'd death was the end of it; the lefs ornamented Cephifa fpoke her fears, her tenderness, in accents that affected even the galleries.
Who could bear to behold the fimpering widow cafting her eyes into the boxes to fee who most admired her, or bufy'd in the adjusting the fall of a flounce on her fleeve, while fhe was delivering, with all the inattention of a fchool-boy at his tafk,
I thought, Cephifa, thou hadst known thy miftrefs:
Couldst thou believe I would be falfe to Hector?
And, on the contrary, who of the audience heard Cephifa, with all that terror and tenderness with which the nature of her part could infpire a fenfible actress, during the time of Andromache's coming to the opening herfelf to her, deliver thefe broken fentences,
'Thefe dark unfoldings of your foul perplex me. -For heaven's fake, madam, let me know your griefs:
-I cannot guess the drift your thoughts pursue; But O! I fear there's fomewhat dreadful in it.
Oh! madam, explain thefe riddles to my bodeing heart.
But acknowledg'd fhe deferv'd all the lavish praises that were proftituted to the other.
We do not mean to infer from this that Mrs. Wolfington ought to be thrown out of her high characters, and Mrs. Hale put into them; but that it would be well if the managers would beftow fome more of these shorter parts in tragedies upon Mrs. Hale, when she is not better employ'd; and that Mrs. Woffington may be put in mind to be a little more upon her guard the next time the acts a heroine.
That this lady is capable of fucceeding in tragedy, is fufficiently evident from her playing Jane Shore: her whole deportment in that character was vaftly fuperior to that of any actress' we have ever feen in it; but, unlefs fhe will be pleas'd to take a little more pains about her mind, and a little lefs about her face, for the future, we' fhall venture to prophecy to her, That when that face (as one time it will be) is not worth a farthing,
farthing, that mind will not be worth a fiftieth part of one.
The fuppofing that good parts make people play well, cannot indeed much injure the characters of performers of establish'd reputation; but the principle in itself is falfe, and the conclufions drawn from it occafion great imperfections in the generality of our theatrical reprefentations. The greater part of the young players conclude from it, that as they can expect nothing better for fome years, than to be made to put up with the leaft advantageous characters, they need not take a great deal of pains about them, fince they would be only overlook'd if they did. They think it a fort of injuftice in an audience to expect any great perfection in them, while they continue in this clafs; and perfuade themselves, that they may pass well enough without many of those natural advantages which the players who appear in the principal characters are expected to have.
It is not to be denied indeed, that the excellence and importance of the character represented, contributes greatly to make the player shine in it; and it is equally true, that an audience are patient under a fort of mediocrity in the performers of the lower characters; people do not trouble themselves nearly fo much about the manner in which the parts of little confequence to the fable are play'd, as about the juftnefs of the reprefentation of those which are effential to the conduct of the whole; but it is alfo true, that a good. actor will often be able to give a fort of importance to a fubordinate part, which, while as carelessly play'd as fuch ufually are, the audience would never have known the beauty