« AnteriorContinuar »
ny'd the same concession. Is it possible that a man can, in a series of different parts, continually command our applause, if he have not, a just and distinguishing apprehension, to give him at all times, and always with propriety, the necesfary admonitions for his just deportment under every circumstance of every one of them ? and indeed, if he have not a nice discernment to per... ceive the affinities of things, and the dependances of the incidents on one another for this muit ever be the directing necdle that points out the invariable pole, both to the poet and performer.
It is not enough to entitle a player to our applause, that he remembers every striking incident, every beauty in his part; 'tis equally neceffary, that he distinguish the true, the exact manner, under which every single beauty must be reprefented. It is not sufficient that he knows how to raise his passion, he must know how to raise it by just rules, and to afsign it its peculiar bounds and height, according to the degree the circumstances of his part require ; below which it must not fink, and beyond which it must not rise.
It is not sufficierit that his figure be in general good and proper for the stage; and that his face can mark the changes of his soul: we shall be disa fatisfied with him if his person be not always kept in a proper attitude; and shall quarrel even with the expression of his countenance if it do not regulate itself at every circumstance, not only to the paffion, but to the degree of the passion it is to describe to us.
It is not only effential to his success that he never let a pafiage which he delivers, lose the least part of its force, or of its delicacy, in his speaking
it: when he has thus given it all the justice imaginable, he must add to that all the graces that a ftudy'd delivery and action can bestow on it. He is not to content himself with following his author ftrictly and faithfully; but in many places, he muft affist and support him ; he must even in fome instances become a sort of author himself; he mu't know not only how to give the proper expression to every finefle the poet has thrown into his part, but he must frequently add new ones ; and not only execute, but create graces. A fart, a gesture, nay, a mere attention, properly employ’d, are often of as happy effect as a brilliant piece of wit in comedy, or a noble sentiment in tragedy; a peculiar cadence in the actor's voice, or a bare paufe artfully thrown in, have frequently produc'd applause from a fentence, which is it had been delivered by an inferior performer, would not have had any attention paid to it by the hearers.
The art of exciting the passions in an audience by the performer's raising them in himself, with a judgment and exactness proportion'd justly to the several circumstances, is at least as difficult to arrive at, as that of giving its due force, or true delicacy, to every passage. The poet who has made himself a master of the power of commanding the passions and throwing the soul into every degree of them that he pleases, exerts his utmost efforts in vain, and uses every art without fuccefs, when the actor does not join his skill to the raising the effects he intends by them. When even
* The truth of this affertion will be made evident, when we come to speak of the finesses in the art of the player, in the second part of this work.
falls into bad hands, it is no uncommon thing to see the audience laugh, where the author meant to have drawn their tears,
Few people are able to judge of the good understanding that is necessary to the player, in order to his keeping up the sense and spirit of a sentiment; to prevent his exaggerating it to bombast, or weakening and debasing it to nothing in the delivery; and to his diftinguithing the different steps thro' which his author means to lead the passions and the imaginations of his audience; and by which he is to carry himself from oppofite to oppofite affections.
There is an art of colouring peculiar to poetry, which, tho' in many respects it be different from that in painting, is yet to be conducted by the same kind of rules. We require of both the fame strength of tints, and the fame distinctions in the distribution of the brightnesses and shadows; the same caution in observing the degradation of lights; and the fame art in throwing objects to a distance, or in bringing them immediately under the eye.
It is not only the poet, but the player also, of whom we require this skill in colouring the objects he is to present to us; he, like the painter, must be a master of this ingenious theory of shadows, the skilful application of which is by an insensible gradation to conduct the eye from the first and most striking part of the picture to whatever lies obfcured in shades behind. As the painter often gives us a prospect of an extenfive country in a very little piece, the poet sometimes in the coinpass of a few lines, gives his actor a multitude of different impreffions: in this case the one as well as the other is to exert his skill in
distinguishing to us, that things tho' placed near to one another in the small bounds of the representation, are not neighbours to each other in the one case in the heart, or in the other in the prospect which is the subject of the picture. The player ought to have as strict an attention to these differences, and as nice a judgment in them, as the poet; he must no more than the painter, confound those things together between which nature has plac'd a vast distance, because they are to be seen in a small compass: But then he must very nicely conduct himself in those sudden transitions, thro' which he is to make one passion fucceed to another; and that perhaps its contrary.
The player has equal necessity for address and for precision, to give the true strength to every paslage in his part, and to convey the sentiments delivered to his care, in their proper force and beauty. Nor are these qualifications lefs useful to him in dictating the necefiary gestures which are to accompany the expression; and in the forming not only his countenance, but his whole person, according to the nature of the age, ftation, and character of the person he represents ; and even in the proportioning the tone of his voice and the attitudes of his figure, to the situation in which he is plac’d.
It is evident then that a good understanding is as necessary to a player, as a pilot is to a vessel at sea : 'Tis the understanding alone that governs the helm, that directs the whole fabrick, and calculates and marks out its course. There are some instances indeed in which an author has given such force and perspicuity to a sentiment, that the understanding of the person who delivers it in his words, is not interested in the reception jt meets with from the audience, but these are only particular cases.
The reader who has seen Milton's masque of Comus represented some months ago at Drury Lane, will not be at a loss for an instance of this truth. The frugal manager of that theatre, who seems to underttand it as the great secret of his cffice to treat an audience as cheap as he can, and to give them no more good things at once than are just fufficient to bring them together ; had, at this time, converted a gaudy scene which had been almost the only merit in a former entertainment, into a palace for Comus. He seemed to have confidered it as an unneceffary piece of luxury (to use the words of a very celebrated writer, who chuses to be nameless on these occasions) to treat more than one of the senses of his audience at a time; and as the fight was here to be charm’d, there appear'd no fort of necefficy for addressing any thing to the understanding.
On this occasion we had an opportunity of seeing the truth of the proposition just delivered in a very eminent manner; and found that Millon was able to do more, much more, than all that Addison or his warmest friends and commentators have said of him; even to make the man who play'd the part of the eldest brother, deliver words that should command applause.
We flatter ourselves that every body will allow in this case the understanding of the person who pronounc'd Milton's words, was not at all concern'd in procuring them a good reception; yet we remember the whole house rung with the joy of the audience on hearing the no