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exists, a serious evil to the performer. But let us apply to experience, to see whether it be just. Hath the tyrant, and the murderer, and the robber, on the Stage, been the same in real life? hath the miser on the Stage, been a miser in his own family? or hath he, who hath
represented the philanthropist Howard, been a friend to humanity in the world? If the observation holds in the one case, it may hold in the other; and, if the mind hath taken any impression from an evil character, at one time, it may be counteracted by one of an opposite tendency the next: and this seems in fact to be confessed by the same objector, who says, that “by so frequently appearing in an assumed character, they lose all character of their own;"—and that, “ in consequence of their profession, appearing continually in an assumed character, or being employed in preparing to assume it, must lose all sense of sincerity and truth.” (p. 135.) If the performer so far enters into the character as to participate in his feelings, if the bad character be represented for the purpose of instruction, and be exposed, and reproved, or punished on the Stage, will he not partake, likewise, of the shame, the remorse, and the repentance which is attached to it? It is a suggestion, however, worthy of attention from both the writer and the performer; and, if such be the effect of personating a character, let goodness take chief
possession of the Stage, and let vice be never introduced without its antidote and punishment.
Were this argument carried into all its consequences, would it not apply, likewise, to the profession of the Bar, where the advocate pleads the cause of vice? Such a practice, meeting with principles already vitiated in the pleader, may have its effect; but, with an advocate of good principles, and in causes conducted accordingly, the present general state of that profession shews the argument to have no solid foundation. Urged to its extent, would not the objection apply even to reading the speeches of some of the bad characters brought forward in the sacred writings? to the speeches of Pharaoh, of Korah, of Naaman, of Rabshakeh, of the friends of Job, and of the chief Priests and of the Pharisees? The truth is, All situations in this world have their attendant dangers, and we must « work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. ii. 12.) *
[It is objected, farther, against the profession of the Stage, that the performers exercise it for profit, or as it is sometimes expressed, exhibit their
persons for hire. f If the labour be lawful, as we think it is, “the labourer,” surely, as
* Note K. | Rousseau, quoted by R. Hill in his Warning, p. 12 and 10. Notes,
well in this, as in any other profession, worthy of his hire.” (Luke x. 7.) And does the Player, in this respect, differ from persons in any profession? Those who devote their time and talents to the service of the public, have a right to look for their maintenance from their patrons. Should there, however, be any improper exposure of the person
of them, for the purpose of raising admiration, or exciting worse emotions, the practice is not only disgraceful, but immoral: But this is a deviation from propriety by no means necessarily connected with the profession.]*
5. The duties incumbent
upon the frequenters of Theatres are, undoubtedly, great, since they are, in fact, the patrons and support of the Theatre, and are, in great measure, those, who give the laws to its professors, by the applause and censure, and attendance which they give to particular exhibitions and performers. If the amusement be vicious, “ the company are all accessary to the mischief of the place; for, were there no Audience, we should have no acting." (Collier, p. 271.)
A writer, whom I have frequently cited, (the Author of the Essay on the Unlawfulness of the Stage) says,
“ You may make yourself * Note L.
a partaker in other men's sins by negligence, and for want of reproving them: but certainly, if
you stand by, and assist men in their evil actions, if you make their vices your pleasures and entertainment, and pay your money to be entertained, you make yourself a partaker in their sins to a very high degree; and consequently, it must be as unlawful to go to a play,. as it is unlawful to approve, encourage, assist, and reward a man for renouncing a Christian life.”
Let therefore every man or woman that goes to a play, ask themselves this question : whether it suits with their religion, to act the parts that are there acted? Perhaps they would think this as inconsistent with that degree of piety they profess, as to do the vilest things. But let them consider, that it must be a wicked and unlawful pleasure, to delight in any thing that they dare not do themselves. Let them also consider, that they are really acting those indecencies and impieties themselves, which they think is the particular guilt of the Players. For a person may very justly be said to do that himself, which he pays for the doing, and which is done for his pleasure. (Law, p. 375.)
“ All people, therefore, who ever enter into their house, or contribute the smallest mite
towards it, must look upon themselves as having been so far friends to the most powerful instrument of debauchery, and to be guilty of contributing to a bold, open, and public exercise of impudence, impurity, and profaneness. When we encourage any good design, either with our consent, our money, or presence, we are apt to take a great deal of merit to ourselves; we presently conclude, that we are partakers of all that is good and praise-worthy in it, of all the benefit that arises from it, because we are contributors towards it. A man does not think he has no share in some public charity, because he is but one in ten thousand that contributes to it; but if it be a religious charity, and attended with great and happy effects, his conscience tells him, that he is a sharer of all that great good to which he contributes. Now, let this teach us how we ought to judge of the guilt of encouraging any thing that is bad, either with our consent, our money, or our presence.
We must not consider how much our single part contributes towards it, nor how much less we contribute than several thousands of other people, but we must look at the whole thing in itself, and whatever there is of evil in it, or whatever evil arises from it, we must charge ourselves with a share of the whole guilt of so great an evil. Thus it is, that we hope and desire to partake of the merit of all good