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occurrences dictate of themselves to the actor what he is to do, and in what manner he is to behave under them. A lady is, for instance, introduced on the stage, endeavouring to sooth the pains of a forc'd absence from her lover, by drawing his picture from her memory.
The lover bribes her maid, and is introduc'd into her chamber, where, without being discovered, he can see how the employs the hours of his imaginary absence. It is evident in this case, that he is to place himself in such a manner that he may contemplate the picture, as it rises from her touches, without being discovered by her ; that from time to time, his curiofity tempting him to nearer and nearer views, he is to throw himself into the danger of being seen; that at every motion she makes, he is to express a terror left he should be observ'd; and that, eager to prolong the ravishing contemplation, he is to recover with a precipitate haste, but at the fame time with a visible affliction in his countenance, that part of the stage where he is out of her fight.
There are other circumstances as interesting as this, which yet do not point out so clearly to the player, the action that should attend them, and we frequently have opportunities of seeing, that there are some in which it is too easy for him to take an exactly contrary part to nature, to reality, and to the intention of the poet. We shall spare the censure of our own performers, and give an instance of this in a well known French tragedy, that of Iphigenia. When Agamemnon is ask'd by that unhappy princess, if the may be permitted to assist at the sacrifice he is preparing, he answers, You shall be there, my child ! Many actors have imagin'd that it was their business to add a great deal of the pathetic to this short answer, by fixing their eyes with the utmost affection, grief, and tendernefs on the lady, while they deliver'd it. But this, however proper it may appear at first sight, is, when strictly consider'd, absolutely contrary to nature, and reality ; for doubtless Agamemnon, who knew he was going to facrifice that very daughter, who had so little imagination of it, that she was asking it as a favour that she might be present, and who did not intend she shou'd know his cruel purpose till it cou'd be no longer conceald, ought to turn his eyes away, while he gives this anfwer to her innocent question, that she might not perceive his grief and agony while he spoke to her.
In the Penelope, another favourite play of that nation, Ulyses, after having been a long time expos’d to the vengeance of Neptune and Venus, and after having suffer'd innumerable hardships, returns to his country.
Charm'd with the behaviour of his son, he discovers himself to him ; and the faithful Eumæus is present at this scene. At first thought one wou'd be apt to imagine, that the business of the player who represents Telemachus, shou'd be to throw himself immediately at the feet of his father, and give hiniself up to all those transports of joy natural to a fon, who, after seeking his parent thro' the world in vain, bad now met him unexpectedly. But, on farther confi. dering the circumstances, we shall change our opinion. Ulyses had been absent fo many years, that his son, a child at the time he left him, cou'd have no remembrance of his person; he ought therefore to expect a confirmation of the truth of what was told him by a stranger, before he gave way
to those emotions, which would naturally and neceffarily arise if he was rightly inform’d.' The action of the player, who performs the character of Telemachus, will therefore be true, if he expresses only a mixture of astonishment and refpect at what his father says, and puts on an air of indetermination, during the moment that interferes before a person whose fiúelity he is perfectly convinc'd of, afsures him, that he sees his father and his king.
These and many other examples of a like kind, abundantly prove how very different the true action requir'd in a great character under particular circumstances, may be from that which may first present itself to the imagination of the player.
It is plain also from the last instance, that he is not to suppose it sufficient in all cases to study the truth of the action, with which he is to accompany the words the author has put into his mouth; in many circumstances the filence of a plaver, may be as eloquent as the finest form of words cou'd be; nay, there is often more beauty, as well as more difficulty, in the being properly filent, than in the delivering the most founding line a poet can put into the part of the highest character.
It is not long since, to borrow one more inftance from our neighbours, that a French actress immortaliz'd her reputation in the character of Penelope, in the play we have just mentioned; and we may assure the world that a judicious and well-conducted silence, had no little share in the acquiring her those applauses the receiv'd in it. The discovery of her husband who had been so long absent, had never struck the spectators in that amazing manner, had there been no merit in her share of the scene, beside the repeating the words of her part. What charm'd every body, was the deportment of the actress, the insensible gradations by which she turn'd herself toward the pretended stranger, as she more and more assur'd herself, that the voice of the person who spoke to her, was that of the husband she had so long lamented; this had infinitely more effect than any thing the faid, or cou'd have said on the occasion.
The difficulty of observing every circumstance on which the truth of action depends, is greatest of all in those peculiar situations of the character, under which the performer is obliged to play as it were two parts at the same time.
We have an initance of this kind in a scene in the Old Batchelor, in which the dotard, his wife, and the gallant, under the disguise of Mr. Spintext, are on the stage together.
The lady has here the jealousy of a husband to deceive, and the ardour of a favourite lover to return at the same time. She embraces the gallant by a pretended mistake instead of the husband; she cajoles the dotard with fond expresfions, while she makes signs over his head to the lover, and addresses her discourse to the one while the pretends to speak to the other. The actress who wou'd fucceed in this character, ought to be extremely upon her guard, that the audience may not find her either too little upon the watch as to her husband's jealousy, or wanting in that tenderness which she ought to thew to her lover.
These sort of incidents are abundantly difficult to perform to satisfaction ; but there are yet some others in which there requires still more address
and management. There are thofe in which the performer, has three instead of two parts to play at the same time; where there are two people to be deceived by two different stories at the same instant, and the performer is all the while to express also to the audience a sense of the difficulty of what is doing, and a continual dread of being discovered by one or other of the persons deceived. We have an eminent instance of this kind in one of our farces, where an intriguing maid-servant finds it necessary for the good of her young master to delude his father, and the aunt of the lady he courts, into an opinion of one another, as persons out of their senses. While the actress is here construing e very look and gesture of Mr. Goodall into mad-s ness to Mrs. Highmore, and every glance and accent of that lady into frenzy to him; she is. expressing to the audience all the while the utmost terror in the world, left one or the other of them shou'd discover her: Nay, she even adds to the necessary perplexity of the part she has to act, by blending with her very terror the pert felf-sufficiency, that marks out the rest of her character; and gives us one of the strongest modern examples it is possible to quote, of the application of the rule deliver'd in the last chapter, that the same paffions are to be express'd very differently, as acting upon different characters. The person who understands this merit in Mrs. Clive's playing this short character, will not wonder if it appear very infipid when perform’d by any body else.
There is no conceiving, but by an attentive examination into the peculiar merits of the performer, how much many of those characters