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In addressing individuals or an audience use the rising inflection; as, “Miss Smith;” “Mr. Brown;" “Ladies and gentlemen.”
“Fellow-citizens, I am here to defend this cause." In this example the sense is continuous to the close of the sentence. But if we say, “Fellow-citizens, I am here to defend this cause," the falling inflection before the sense is complete makes a meaningless expression. “I am here to defend this cause" sounds as if a new sentence had been commenced. Besides, the falling inflection used in addressing a person is expressive of contempt, more or less, according to the amount of circumflex used in the downward pointing of the voice; as, “Mr. Brown-Mr. Brown-Mr. Brown.” If the desire is to express contempt for persons, then this inflection is appropriate; but never give the falling inflection to a name you desire to present respectfully.
EXERCISES. “Friends, Romans, countrymen! Lend me—your ears. I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him.”
“But thou, O Hope! with eyes so fair,
What was thy delighted measure?”
Or rather to talk, of my woes.”
“Mr. Chairman-I trust, that I shall be indulged in a few reflections on the danger of permitting the conduct—upon which it has been my painful duty to animadvert~to pass without a solemn expression of the disapprobation of this house."
“Falstaff. Master Brook, you shall hear. As good luck would have it, comes in one Mrs. Page, gives her intelligence of Ford's approach, and by her invention, and Ford's wife's direction, I was conveyed into a buck-basket.
" Brook. A buck-basket?
Great care should be observed lest in reading the voice acquire the habit of taking the full falling inflection in the middle of a sentence. Such a practice produces a very monotonous effect, and makes it difficult for the listener to follow the chain of thought. Many speakers fall into this error in their endeavor to obtain a solemn, impressive manner. Another equally pernicious habit is a sort of rainbow style, or reading on a curve. This is equally solemn, and quite as somnolent as the other—is much employed in reading hymns and poetry generally.
To make thy infant slumbers blest. The voice here rises in the middle of the lines, and falls at each end. It is well to respect the ear and good sense of an audience; and the above style of reading any composition can only be used with propriety and effect when the speaker wishes to soothe listeners into a quiet slumber. It is meaningless, and of course can excite no attention. The proper use of inflections is to give expression to the thought. Affectation has its own inflection, which is easily detected; therefore beware of the misuse of these delicate and truthful exponents of thought and feeling.
RULES FOR THE FALLING INFLECTION.-Falling inflection is a turning of the voice downward on a word, lower than it began. It is always heard in the answer to a question; as, “Yes; I shall go next week.” Also in affirmative sentences; as, “I shall do so. And in the language of authority; as, “Back to thy punishment, false fugitive, and to thy speed add wings.” Also of terror; as, “The light burns blue.” In the surprise of indignation; as, “Go, false fellow! and let me never see your face again.” In contempt; as, “I had as lief not be as live to be in awe --of such a thing — as myself.” And of exclamation; as, “O heaven! O earth!” And always in the final pause (not the interrogative form) where the sense and sentence are completed. All general rules have some exceptions.
EXAMPLES IN RISING AND FALLING INFLECTIONS.
"Armed, say you?" "Armed, my lord." In conversation people are nearly always right in their use of inflections. In reading or reciting they are usually wrong. Therefore it is well to train the ear to colloquial language by close attention; also to cultivate the voice by breaking up sentences wherein difficulties occur, putting them in colloquial form for the practice of inflection. They who do this will soon see how foolish and unnatural has been their use of what should be delicate exponents of feeling. Of course it will be understood that there is a great difference between
the delicate turning of the voice on a word in a sentence and the full falling cadence of a closing period.
OR. When or in its disjunctive sense connects words and clauses of an interrogatory character, the rising inflection occurs before it and the falling after it. “Will you speak—or be silent?” “What prompted you, love or hate?” This implies that the question can not be answered by yes or no, but demands an explanation.
When or is used in a conjunctive form, and can be replied to by yes or no, it is usually followed by the rising inflection. “Shall you go next week-or this?”
Few examples are given here because it is desired that the learner furnish specimens under all the rules, and point them, for the criticism of the class or teacher. It is only by such close analysis that proper attention can be directed to this most important branch of reading: The following exercises may be rendered under the rules above given :
EXTRACT FROM “AS YOU LIKE IT." Will. And good even to you, sir.
Touch. Good even, gentle friend. Cover thy head, cover thy head; nay, prithee,-be covered. How old are you, friend?
Will. Five and twenty, sir.
Touch. So so is good, very good,—very excellent good: and yet it is not; it is but so so.
Art thou wise?
Touch. Why, thou sayest well. I do now remember a saying, “The fool doth think he is wise; but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” The heathen philosopher, when he had a desire to eat a grape, would open his lips when he put it into his mouth; meaning thereby that grapes were made to eat and lips to open. You do love this maid?
Will. I do, sir.
Touch. Then learn this of me: to have is to have; for it is a figure in rhetoric that drink,-being poured out of a cup into a glass,—by filling one doth empty the other; for all your writers do consent that ipse is he: now, you are not ipse, for I am he.
Will. Which he, sir?
Touch. He, sir, that must marry this woman. Therefore, you clown, abandon—which is in the vulgar leave—the society-which in the boorish is company-of this female-which in the common is woman; which together is abandon the society of this female, or, clown, thou perishest; or, to thy better understanding, diest; or, to wit, I kill thee,-make thee away,-translate thy life into death, thy liberty into bondage: I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy with thee in faction; I will o'errun thee with policy; I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways: therefore tremble and depart.
Aud. Do, good William.
The importance of rendering the inflections correctly will be apparent by reading the following exercise with the rising inflection:
“The man who is in the daily use of ardent spirits, if he does not become a drunkard, is in danger of losing his health and character.
It will be seen that using the rising inflection on the words marked for emphasis implies that the man must become a drunkard in order to preserve his health and happiness. If rendered with the downward inflection, the true idea will be conveyed.
RULE.—When two words are connected, expressing an alternative, the first one takes the rising, the second the falling inflection. Swiftor slow; rough—or smooth; smooth—or rough. Live-or die; survive—or perish. But when spoken in an interrogative manner the inflection is changed, the first word taking the falling and the second the rising inflection; as, “Swift-or slow! Good or bad?” etc.
The monotone or intense forward inflection indicates that the voice is kept nearly on the same pitch or tone for several successive words. This sometimes occurs in rapid expression, and sometimes gives marked effect in grave and solemn passages. “But hark! through the fast flashing lightning of war;” “But that I am forbid to tell the secrets of my prison-house;" “Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge."
There is much abuse of this inflection, many persons trying to render whole paragraphs without the least regard to emphasis or the sentiment of the piece, taking for granted that a low continuous tone expresses all of gravity. A greater mistake could not be made. Many actors, indeed almost without exception, in playing the part of the ghost in “Hamlet,” assume what they probably consider a sepulchral tone of voice. For what reason they take this liberty it is hard to imagine. Is it a style peculiar to ghosts? Who can tell us? Or did the senior Hamlet talk in that way.
THE CIRCUMFLEX, OR WAVE— EMPHASIS — STRESS AND QUANTITY –
The circumflex, or wave, is a union of the rising and falling inflections, sometimes on one syllable and sometimes on several. Sneers, taunts, gibes, and reproachful expressions have an accentuation peculiarly their own, and partake largely of circumflections.
What we mean does not depend so much on what we say as on the manner in which we say it. The modifying influences of accentuation, inflection, and emphasis change the intention or whole idea, making it something else. Whether we will or not, whatever is uttered under the pressure of strong feeling expresses itself exactly. If the same words are uttered under different circumstances, with reversed or changed inflection, indicating a different state of mind, they will mean something else. Therefore we must bear in mind that nature, true to herself, stamps her meaning in all outward expression.
The question arises here then, of what use is the study of elocution if nature is the best and only reliable teacher? As our education in letters is obtained from books, and we become fixed in the habit of using the letter without the spirit, we neglect giving such attention to the manner as nature, the great master, prompts. The true elocutionist, like the teacher of any art, can not go beyond the expression of nature and give any degree of satisfaction. All that he can do is to gather facts by close and critical study, and embody them in such rules and distinctions as will place the pupil on the right road to knowledge. If we take the following examples and simply read them without taking into consideration the spirit in which they are uttered, we will not convey their meaning.
If we were to say candidly to some persons, “You are very wise men, deeply learned in the truth; we, weak, contemptible, mean perbons;" it would indicate an appreciation of merits in them far superior to our own. But if we use the waves of voice that express sarcasm we give just the reverse of what the simple definition of the words