Imatges de pÓgina
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of *. It is also certain, that tho', in consideration of the deficiency of a number of proper fubjects, we are induc'd to pardon in the persons who only play subordinate parts, the want of a peculiarly graceful figure, or of that fuperiority in the gists of nature in general, which we look for in the players of the principal parts; yet we expect to find them tolerable : and indeed there is not one of the natural advantages which we require to be poffess'd eminently by the firft persons of the theatre, but we desire to see in some degree in all the rest.

Let us look into any one of the plays of our writers of credit, and examine by it the merits of this point. We thall find all the characters engag'd in the whole play concern’d in animating and giving force to every scene of it, either by the share their passions give them in the incidents of it, or by that which they give to the passions of the rest, by the difficulties and perplexities they find themselves in, or by those into which their cunning or their absurdity throw the persons whom they meant to injure or to serve: by their well-concerted blunders, the happy fruits of the {prightlinefs of the author's imagination, are the funds of everlafting pleasure to the greater party

* The very first-rate actors would find a way of encreasing their reputation greatly, if they would sometimes take a pride in appearing in the second or even the third

parts in our better plays. The honour of occafioning an audience to discover beauties in a part which they had never found in it before, is, in reality, much fuperior to that of obtaining applauses, from any of those grand characters which would itself command it, even tho' performed by. but a moderate player.

at least, of every audience, and when nicely conducted, to the whole: or finally by their ambiguous actions or discourse, which, presenting two several faces, gives occasion to the error of fome other character which is to be deceived, and by their continuance kept up in the mistake they were destin'd to raife. The very lowest characters in comedy are in this light to be continually in motion, and they are to keep our minds agitated during the whole piece: The very least among these are honoured with the name of actors in such or such a play ; a name only. given to the persons in a dramatic work, because they ought to be in continual action during the performance of it. ;

· Voice and memory are faid by many to be all the qualifications that are necefiary to the subordinate actors : But can voice and memory alone be sufficient for the player in representing those characters, which, tho' not plac'd in the very fullest point of view, are yet often not less difficult to perform than even the capital part in the play? If the players of this lower rank want understanding, or fire ; or, above all things, if nature has left them deficient in fenfibility, how is it possible. they should succeed, we don't say to please, but barely to make themselves supportable, even in the less confiderable of those lefser characters; fince we find there is not one of them on whom the other more eminent personages of the piece, in a greater or smaller degree, have not a dependance?

In tragedy the superiority of one of the parts of the play to another, is much greater than in comedy ; but even the very lowest of the performers in these pieces, must not be wanting in the talents, at least in some degree, by which the

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greatest are enabled to please. In many of the modern tragedies, we find a number of characters which tho' they do not interest the audience fo highly as the three or four capital persons of the drama, yet in the course of their parts have a great many very important things committed to them to be delivered, and those such as the audience will not bear to see disfigured and mangled. Some passages there are in those characters which are only introduc'd as the confidants of the Kings and Heroes, and particularly in their recitals of events; this is a business they are generally charg'd with, and is, at least to the generality of an audience, as striking as the most arifully conducted scenes, by means of the fuccestion of the paffions they are addre's'd to, and the pomp of images in the description.

How can an actor fucceed without those natural advantages we have been describing, when he is to preserve all the dignity, all the beauty, that the author has given to one of these passages in the character he represents ? These interesting recitations make indeed usually but a very small part of the character of the confidant, and it is for this reason that these parts are so difficult to perform, or more properly speaking, are fo feldomi play'd well: A performer who is supported in his action by a part which is through the whole interesting and pathetick, must be a very bad one indeed, if he does not get applause from it. 'Tis a much greater difficulty to be graceful in the more trivial parts of a character in which there is something eminent: to find that support from the knowledge of the profeffion, which it is in vain to hope for from the far greater part of the character that it is allotted to appear in, provided E 5

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the performer's figure be not absolutely shocking, it is his business to impose upon the audience by a rich and well fancy'd dress. The player must have been favour'd in an extraordinary manner by nature, who can command respect in a plain habit.

The persons whom the several neceflities of a theatre throw at a great distance from the fbining characters, were much to be pitied, if while they have occasion for so many accomplishments and advantages from nature, they had reason to fear that while they possess’d all we require of them, they shou'd never be in the way of exciting, in any great degree, our attention or regard: Let us undeceive them in this difcouraging circumstance, and give a proper encouragement to their merit, by assuring such that our good opinion of them is not proportion'd to the consequence of their parts, but to the manner in which they acquit themselves in them; that real merit will find the way to thew itself as well under the name of Roffano as of Lothario or Horatio; and that when we are examining the merit of a portrait, we are not influenc'd by being that of a monarch, more than by its being that of a common soldier.,

REFLECTION II. ' Tho' Persons are happy in the principal Advantages

which are required in theatrical Performers, ought they not in general, after a certain Age, to quit the Stage?

HAT has been already observed in re

gard to the figure, may in a great mea. fure be applied also to the age of the thea3

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trical performer. The greater part of an audience may expect to see upon the stage none but such whose face and figure are made to please, to charm the eyes ; or such as are in the full bloom of life as to their age. We have abundantly prov'd that the former wou'd be an unreasonable injunction upon the managers of a playhouse; and, on just examination, the other will prove no less so.

In the same manner as we are more diverted with the part of a person in a play who piques himself upon a beauty which he does not possess, as the perfection imaginarily poffefs'd by the character is in reality less possess'd by the person who performs it ; a character in a play, which the author has made very absurdly to affect the charms and prerogatives of youth, ought to please us the more highly, as it is perform'd by an actress who really has fo little youth, that she cou'd not affect the having it in private life without being ridiculous.

It is evident therefore that players in certain characters appear to much the greater advantage for being past the age of love and pleasure.

But weought to admonish the actors, and much more the actresses, not to abuse this principle. When the cool reception they meet with plainly informs them that they can no longer please, let them not obstinately persist in forcing themselves upon us; and what is yet of much more consequence, and of more frequent necessity, let them, before they are oblig'd wholly to quit the profeffion, have the prudence and the resignation to give up those parts, which tho' they might be

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