Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

answer in an extremely sensible manner, tho"
without any thing of the cant of tragedy,
Worthy Othello, I am hurt to danger.
Your officer Iugo can inform you,
While I spare speech (which something now

offends me
Of all that I do know ;-nor know I ought
By me that's said or done amiss this night ;
Unless self-charity be sometimes sin,
And to defend ourselves it be a crime,
When violence affails us.

The audience look'd with astonishment at one another, and gave a thunder of applause: the young fellow was taken great notice of, was soon after promoted in one of the theatres, and put in a way of arriving at all that perfection in the profession, the presages of which the world thought they saw in him. He was not sensible, 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 miserable Othello.

He obtain'd no more applause in the higher characters he afterwards was thrown into, than he had done before ; and had not some good fortune carry'd him off the stage in time, he would certainly have again been reduc'd the next season to Montano, Roffano, and the rest of the gentlemen of that character.

The subalterns of a company will not be perfuaded of it, yet nothing is more certain than that there requires less merit and parts to make a figure in trifles, than in characters of consequence,

and

and that it is better to be applauded in a livery, than laugh'd at in embroidery.

The women have the same advantages in their way as the men, if they could but be brought to have modesty enough to be sensible of it. People who have seen Mrs. Hale in some of the capital characters, may think it a strange piece of absurdity 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 side; but it is but very lately that we have had an opportunity of seeing them in what might have been thought a very disadvantageous light for Mrs. Hale, and yet in which we have seen that actress vastly superior to the other.

We have in short beheld the waiting gentlewoman Hale shew the queen Woffington in a very ill light in the comparison ; we have seen the juftness of playing in Cephisa quite eclipse the imaginary merit of Andromache. We do not pretend to say that if the tables had been turn’d, and the maid's character given to the mistress, the advantage would still have lain on that side: but if this is an allowed case, the question is, Whether, considering herself merely as an actress, it would not be more to Mrs. Woffington's advantage to play Cephifa?

The majesty of sorrow in Heator's Widow was quite loft in the new dress’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 gesture: the whole mind of the lady was now bent upon charming the audience as Mrs. Woffington, not as Andro

E 2

maches

mache; and while the pretty moppet talk'd of tears, which the ver million 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 person who was thinking of something else, that there was a dreadful conflict in her soul, and her own determin’d death was the end of it; the less ornamented Cephisa spoke her fears, her tenderness, in accents that affected even the galleries.

Who could bear to behold the fimpering widow casting her eyes into the boxes to see who most admired her, or busy'd in the adjusting the fall of a flounce on her sleeve, while she was delivering, with all the inattention of a school-boy at his talk,

I thought, Cephisa, thou hadst known thy mif

tress : Coulds thou believe I would be false to Hector ? Fall off from such a husband ! break his reft, And call him to this hated light again, To see Andromache in Pyrrhus' arms !

Would Hector, were he living, and I dead, Forget Andromache, and wed her foe? -Andromache will not be false to Pyrrhus, Nor violate her sacred love for Hector. This hour I'll meet the king, the holy priest Shall join us, and confirm our mutúål vows: This will secure a father for my child ; That done, I have no farther use for life. This pointed dagger, this determin'd hand, Shall save my virtue, and conclude my woe.

And,

And, on the contrary, who of the audience heard Cephifa, with all that terror and tenderness with which the nature of her part could inspire a sensible actress, during the time of Andromache's coming to the opening herself to her, deliver these broken fentences,

'These dark unfoldings of your soul 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 somewhat dreadful in it.

And,
Oh! madam, explain these riddles to my bodeing

heart.

But acknowledg'd she deserv'd all the lavish praises that were prostituted to the other.

We do not mean to infer from this that Mrs. Woffington ought to be thrown out of her high characters, and Mrs. Halè put into them ; but that it would be well if the

managers would bestow fome more of these shorter parts in tragedies upon Mrs. Hale, when she is not better employ'd; and that Mrs. Wofington may be put in mind to be a little more upon her guard the next time she acts a heroine.

That this lady is capable of fucceeding in tragedy, is sufficiently evident from her playing Jane Shore: her whole deportment in that characer was vastly fuperior to that of any actress we have ever seen in it; but, unless the will be pleas’d to take a little more pains about her mind, and a little less about her face, for the future, we fhalt venture to prophecy to her, That when that face (as one time it will be) is not worth a

E 3

farthing,

[ocr errors]

farthing, that mind will not be worth a fiftieth part of one.

The supposing 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 false, and the conclusions drawn from it occafion great imperfections in the generality of our theatrical representations. The greater part of the young players conclude from it, that as they can expect nothing better for some years, than to be made to put up with the least advantageous characters, they need not take a great deal of pains about them, since they would be only overlook'd if they did. They think it a sort of injustice in an audience to expect any great perfection in them, while they continue in this class; and persuade 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 excel. lence 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 sort of mediocrity in the performers of the lower characters; people do not trouble themselves nearly so much about the manner in which the parts of little consequence to the fable are play'd, as about the juftnets of the representation of those which are essential to the conduct of the whole ; but it is also true, that a good actor will often be able to give a sort of importance to a subordinate part, which, while as carelessly play'd as such usually are, the audience would never have known the beauty

of.

« AnteriorContinuar »