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of some of the most useful in this class; others may be named, and marked by proper notation, as occasion may require.


As the head gives the chief grace to the person, so does it principally contribute to the expression of grace, in delivery.

The head should be held in an erect and natural posture; for, when hung down, it expresses humility, or diffidence; when thrown back, arrogance; and when inclined to one side, languor or indifference. The movements of the head should be suited to the character of the delivery; they should accord with the gesture, and fall in with the action of the hands, and the motions of the body.

The head is capable of many appropriate expressions. Besides those nods which signify assent, or approbation and rejection, there are motions of the head, known, and common to all, which express modesty, doubt, admiration and indignation. But to use the gesture of the head alone, unaccompanied by any other gesture, is considered faulty. It is also a fault to shake or nod the head frequently, to toss it violently, or to agitate the hair, by rolling it about.

The most usual motions and postures of the head, are as follows. In the notation, the head and eyes may, without confusion, be considered together.

Direction of the Eyes.

Postures and Motions of

the Head.

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The motions of the trunk contribute much to the effect in delivery. The gestures of the arms and hands, therefore, should always be supported by the accompaniment of the body. Not by affected and ridiculous contortions, but by the manly and free exertions of the muscles of the body, the general consent of which is indispensable to the production of graceful motion. The raising up, or shrugging of the shoulders, in order to express indifference, or contempt, is merely theatrical, and should be sparingly used, even on the stage.

The postures of the trunk might also be enumerated, and be subjected to the rules of notation; but this would be unnecessary, as they are in general sufficiently understood, being the accompaniment of the motions of the head, the arms and the hands.


* Queen. Alas! how is 't with you,





THE arm, the fore-arm, the hand, and the fingers, form the grand instrument of gesture, or, as Cicero calls it, "the weapon of the orator.” The centre of motion of this compound instrument, is the shoulder. These parts do not move together in the manner of an inflexible line; but each separate joint often becomes a new centre of motion for the portion between it and the extremity.

In gesticulating, this complex instrument does not continue long in one direct line, nor in any particular

That you do bend your eye on vacancy,

And with the incorporeal air do hold discourse?Hamlet.

flexure, but changes every moment the angles formed at the different joints, which adds grace and variety to the motions. The farther any portion of this complex line is from the centre of motion, the greater space does it pass through. The least motion, therefore, is that made by the upper arm, and the greatest, that made by the hand: from this circumstance alone, the gestures of the latter are conspicuous. In gesticulating, the hand has not only the advantage of being placed at the extremity of the line farthest from the centre of motion; but, by means of the joint at the wrist, it can spring with increased velocity on approaching the point to which its gesture is directed. This action of the hand is termed the stroke of the gesture; and it should be marked by different degrees of force, according to the energy of the sentiment. In high passion, it should be distinguished by a strong percussion; and in the more moderate state of the speaker's feelings, merely by a turn of the hand, by a change of posture, or elevation of the arm, or by a momentary arrest of the motion of the gesture in its transitions.

The stroke of the gesture is analogous to the emphasis of the voice; and they should both fall exactly on the accented syllable of the emphatic word. In this way the emphatic force of the voice, and the stroke of the gesture, co-operate in presenting the idea in the most lively manner, to the eye as well as to the ear.

There are other points of analogy between the voice and gesture, which deserve consideration. In the simple and narrative parts of a discourse, there is little effort or variety of expression, in the voice. Under the same circumstances, the gesture, if any is used, should be tame and simple; but, in the more impassioned parts, both should be equally exerted. The gesture, also, in many instances, nearly imitates the manner of the inflections of the voice. When the voice rises, the gesture naturally ascends; and when the voice makes the falling inflection, or lowers its pitch,

the gesture follows it by a corresponding descent; and, in the level and monotonous pronunciation of the voice, the gesture seems to observe a similar limitation, by moving rather in the horizontal direction, without much varying its elevation.

Some writers say, that, "in calm discourse, the words and the gestures should generally accompany each other; but, in impassioned discourse, the feelings of the speaker should first be manifested in the eyes; then, by the countenance; next, by the gesture; and, lastly, by the words." This is not just. In all discourse, whether calm or impassioned, the words and the gestures should accompany each other. As, in beating time in music, the beat is made on the accented part of the measure, so in speaking, the stroke of the gesture should fall on the accented syllable of the emphatic word. The emotion which calls forth the word, at the same moment, prompts the gesture. Hence, the muscles of gesticulation should move synchronously and harmoniously with those of the voice. When gesture is not marked by the precision of the stroke, in the proper places, it is very offensive. The arms, like those of a person groping in the dark, seem to wander about in quest of some uncertain object; and the action is of that faulty kind which is called sawing the air. Even graceful motions, unmarked by the precision of the stroke of the gesture, as sometimes seen, particularly among singers on the stage, lose much of their force, and very soon cease to afford pleasure. All the unmeaning motions of public speakers are attended with the same ill effect as a mouthing and cantting tone of declamation, which lays no emphasis with just discrimination, but swells and falls with a vain affectation of feeling, and with absolute deficiency both in taste and judgment.



THE arms, as well as the hands, may be employed, in gesticulation, separately, or together, each using similar, or dissimilar actions. Each arm may perform similar gestures when the body of the speaker is presented towards the person addressed precisely in front (Fig. 92); but when the body is not so presented, the gestures will not be similar (Fig. 93); and, as such posture and gestures are not graceful, they are not frequently used.


The advancement of one hand before the other is an indication of precedence, as is, also, in general, its higher elevation. The advanced hand, therefore, is said to perform the principal gesture. In general, the elevation of the retired arm is a whole position lower than that of the advanced arm; and, though the gesture of the retired hand occasionally resembles that of the advanced hand, yet its action is performed with less energy and authority. For these reasons, the action of the retired hand is called the subordinate ges


There is a class of gestures called significant gestures :*

* As this word has long been applied to a certain class of gestures, and as there is some difficulty in procuring a better, I have followed my predecessors in its use. The objection to the word is it conveys the idea that all the gestures which do not


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