Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

for scenery; and how women might be seen dressing for their parts in the market place. That they were rude in their acting, that their language was broad-nay, often downright obscene -need excite no wonder, for prelates, knights, and ladies, little scrupled to listen to the indecencies abounding in the literary comedies.

Garzone writes in 1615: "On entering a town, a drum will be sent round to let people know that the Signori Comici have arrived, the chief lady of the troupe dressed like a man, sword in hand, making the announcement, and inviting the people to the play at the Inn-let us say—of the Pilgrim. These come with alacrity, and having paid their soldi, fill the room prepared for the entertainment. They have to listen to a Magnifico (as Pantaloon is often called) not worth a farthing, a Zanni no better than an idiot, a Graziano who splutters forth his words, a courtesan without grace or wit, an Innamorato who gives you the cholic to listen to him, a Spaniard who is always telling you of his lordly appearance and his armour, a Pedant who gives you Tuscan instead of Latin, a Burattino who is no more able to gesticulate than the cap which he wears on his head, a Signora who opens her mouth as if to engulph you, can't put two words together, who has neither grace nor action but is made of wood and is a stranger to good looks."

Appearing in Paris in 1571, the Comici continue to visit that city every year, generally returning to Italy for the winter, until they are turned out of France by Louis XIV. for satirizing Madame de Maintenon in one of their Comedies.

Perhaps the most splendid performance of the Commedia dell' Arte which the world has ever seen was in 1572, the year of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, when according to Porbus the court itself acted a drama. The Duc de Guise was Scaramouche, the Duc d'Anjou (afterwards Henri III.) was Harlequin, the Cardinal de Lorraine represented Pantalone, Catharine de Medicis figured as Columbine, and Charles IX. himself was Brighella.

In 1577, the Comici arranged with the Confrerie de la Passion, who held an exclusive patent from Charles VI. for acting in Paris, to share with them the Salle de Bourbon. They were to act every alternate day, and paid one ecutournai on each

representation. The people came in such crowds to see the Italians, that, as L'Etoile tells us, "the four best preachers in Paris together could not count as many when they preached."

In 1645, a young upholsterer, Jean Baptiste Poquélin, is observed to be paying more attention to the Italian Comedians (they being in Paris under the celebrated Scaramuccia) than to his proper trade. trade. A few years pass by, and we find him at the head of a French troupe, and as Molière, acting pieces of his own composition, giving the world old friends with new faces, brilliant comedies with characters borrowed from the Commedia dell' Arte. Pantalone, Pedrolino, the Dottore, the Capitano, and Arlechino live again under different names. They no longer wear masks or improvise, for Molière has written their dialogues for them. In time Molière breaks out a line for himself, and his connection with the Italian Comedy, as it is known in contemporary French literature, is less evident.

In 1574 the Spaniards made the acquaintance of our friends through Alberto Ganassa who traveled about Spain with a company. The improvised comedy with its lively and natural acting took the grave Dons by storm. Then Lope da Vega gave himself up to composing an infinity of scenarii, skeletons of plays to be filled in by the inventive abilities of the actors, in which Philip IV., the protector of the versatile dramatist, took great delight in acting some of the characters himself.

Shakespeare, too, must not only have heard a great deal of the "lean and slippered Pantaloon" and other characters to be seen in Paris, but he might have witnessed their performances himself, for it appears that Drusiano Martinelli visited England with his company in 1597.

In Italy the Commedia dell' Arte lived on till the end of the XVIIIth century, when the coup de grace was given to it by Carlo Goldoni at Venice. Like Molière, Goldoni went about with the Comici, fascinated by their style of acting; and then like the Frenchman, he set to work to compose a number of brilliant comedies, using the old characters but furnishing their dialogues, often retaining the same names, but depriving them of their masks.

In truth the improvised comedy with its fixed characters had been steadily going down more than a hundred years before Goldoni's advent.

During the time of Shakespeare, and till Molière was in his prime, the drama all' improviso had been rising to its highest point.

The actors were clever, and they did their utmost to make their parts natural consistently with securing the applause of their audiences. They were fortunate in having no very formidable rivals; and neither in the characters nor the situations was touch with the spectators lost.

But the times were rapidly changing. The majority of the people for whose benefit the principal personages had been invented could not readily recognize them-their types were dying out. The Dottore, so welcome when the revival of learning had brought the pedant to the front, had retired to the background. The Capitano, the most sympathetic of all the masks, was a great favorite with his Spanish phrases and lively airs, during the whole of the 17th century; but he had entered on the domain of tradition, and his place was being taken by provincial blusterers, mouthing their own dialects. The Comici at last, finding their theatres deserted for the new drama, gave up improvising, and took to playing Goldoni's pieces.

In the gloom which was settling down over the Commedia dell' Arte, there shot a gleam of sunshine for a while, through the poet Carlo Gozzi. He vigorously espoused its cause, and giving the despairing actors some dramas chiefly taken from fairy tales, adapted the ordinary rôles of the Comici, the subordinate parts being left to their direction. Gradually Gozzi left less and less for the actors themselves to invent; so that at last they got through him, as much out of practice with their art, as through Goldoni, losing the distinctive talent of improvising which had flourished more than two thousand years before.

To go more into detail about the curious incidents connected with the last days of the Commedia dell' Arte is impossible, consistent with our present space. We would refer our readers

to the amusing and interesting memoirs of Carlo Gozzi lately introduced to the English speaking public by Mr. J. A. Symonds.

The Pantalone, Columbina, and Arlecchino, who may still be seen at Christmas on the boards for the amusement of children, are the shadows of our old friends. Little consideration is shown for Pantaloon now; he is ridiculed and outwitted at every turn, whilst his daughter Columbine, is made love to by Harlequin-the Minus Centunculus-the hero of the many patches, who flourishes his staff as of old.

These personages-who act and do not speak, come to us from the Paris fair, the Foire de St. Germains where the booths used to exhibit their farces, until the Confrèrie de la Passion invoked the law and reduced them to silence for infringing their patent for reciting.

Our friends had then to eke out their meaning with dumb show and thus they passed on to the English stage.

But the days even of the Pantomime are numbered. It may be said indeed to be dead, spectacular pieces and allusions to passing events chiefly political have taken its place. Who now cares for Harlequin ?

I. S. A. HERFORD.

ARTICLE VI.-SCIENCE AND THE SUPERNATURAL.

SUPPOSE that at the other end of this room there is a billiard table, the cushions of which are perfectly elastic, the surface perfectly level, and that there is a perfectly elastic ball upon this table which can roll to and fro and rebound from the cushions, absolutely without friction.

Now if this ball is supposed to be originally at rest, we say, that by reason of the "property" of inertia-a property which we conceive of as essential to matter-it will remain always at rest, unless acted upon by some other body not at rest. The action of this other body we call "force," and a body thus capable of influencing the state of rest or motion of another body, we say possesses "energy." If then we see our ball, originally at rest, suddenly put in motion, we say that the motion is due to some "force" which has acted or is acting upon the ball. We mean thus by "force" that which "causes" change of state of a body, and of course we can only mean by "cause," in this connection, the invariable and immediate antecedent of such change of state, viz., another moving body which possesses "energy.'

Here we have introduced several ideas, which we claim and believe, correspond to physical facts and objective reality. Our idea of "cause" involves thus far no idea of constraint, but is simply the recognition of an invariable sequence, which we believe expresses a fact of nature. So our assumption of the property of "inertia," simply asserts that the ball cannot move or stop itself, and the corresponding idea of "force," asserts that the previously existing state of rest or motion can only be changed by the action of some exterior body, as for instance in our case, the cue.

These ideas, modern science claims to be general truths, which correspond to facts in external nature, apart from our consciousness-if you choose to separate consciousness from external nature, which modern science, as we shall see, does not and indeed cannot, choose to do and science holds that

« AnteriorContinuar »