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determined, in general, by the number, the novelty, and the discrimination of ideas. In every well-constructed sentence, some new idea is advanced, which may be marked by a suitable gesture; and possibly the various limitations and modifications of it will also admit of a similar distinction. Thus each separate clause, or member of a sentence, may admit a distinct gesture on the principal word; and as each epithet is a distinct quality, added to the principal name, and as each adverb has the same effect on the principal action expressed by the verb, a new gesture may be made on each. But for this purpose, unless the word is emphatic, a turn of the hand, a small motion in the transverse or vertical direction, or a slight inclination of the head, is sufficient.
In a sentence where every word is emphatic, each may be marked with a gesture. Sentences of this kind generally condense, in a small compass, valuable information, and should therefore be strongly enforced and marked with precision. They should, however, be delivered distinctly and deliberately, or the gestures will confuse the sentiment, and even cast a degree of ridicule upon it, as may be found by pronouncing the following serious observation with different degrees of rapidity.
emph. & ter.
Neither the emphatic gesture, nor the force of the voice, always falls on those words which are the principal, in a grammatical sense the nouns and verbs. The gesture sometimes falls on the word which modifies each on the adjective, which expresses the quality of the noun, or on the adverb, which has a similar effect upon the action or assertion of the verb.
The same notation, applied to a vehement passage, requires the arm to be raised higher than when it is applied to one of the contrary character. A judicious
speaker will often omit his gesture altogether, and use it only when absolutely necessary to illustrate, or to enforce his sentiments. Gesture may be said to hold the place of high seasoning; it must, therefore, be managed with discretion, lest it should defeat its own purposes, and create disgust. If a speaker proves truly eloquent, he is sure of the most liberal and solid approbation. But he should not hazard too much; he should be guarded in the commencement of his discourse, and should restrain his gesture in the calm and reasoning passages, reserving its force and brilliancy for the appropriate expression of his most earnest feelings and boldest thoughts. His transitions from the narrative parts to those which are most highly wrought, and which require his utmost exertions, should be gradual and just, and free from extravagance.
THE QUALITIES OF GESTURE, AND THE GESTURE SUITED TO DIFFERENT MODES OF PUBLIC SPEAKING.
THE different qualities which constitute the perfection of gesture, and their opposite imperfections, are as follows:
1. Magnificence of gesture. This is effected by detaching the elbow completely from the body, and unfolding the whole oratorical weapon. In magnificent gesture, the action is flowing and unconstrained; the preparations are made in graceful curves; the transitions are easy, and the accompaniments, in all respects, illustrative of the principal action. The mo
tions of the head are free, and the inflections of the body manly and dignified. The action of the lower limbs is decisive, and a considerable space is traversed with firmness and with force.
The opposite imperfections are short and constrained gestures, rigidity of the joints, and stiffness of the body, with short steps, and doubtful or timid movements.
2. Boldness of gesture. This arises from that elevated courage and self-confidence which ventures to hazard any action, however unusual, which is productive of a grand or striking effect. In this sort of gesture, unexpected positions, elevations and transitions, surprise at once by their novelty and grace, and thus illustrate or enforce the ideas of the speaker with irresistible effect.
The opposite imperfection is tameness.
3. Energy of gesture. This consists in the firmness and decision of the whole action; and in the precision of the stroke of the gesture, which aids the emphasis of the voice.
The opposite imperfections are feebleness and indecision.
4. Variety of gesture. This consists in the application of different, but appropriate gestures, to the same, or analogous sentiments, so as to avoid recurring too frequently to one favourite gesture, or set of gestures.
The opposite imperfection is monotony of gesture, analogous to that of the voice.
5. Simplicity of gesture. This is such a character of gesture as appears the natural result of the situation and sentiments; which is neither carried beyond the just extent of the feeling, through affectation of variety, nor falls short of it through want of confidence.
The opposite imperfection is affectation.
6. Grace of gesture. This is the result of all other perfections, arising from a dignified self-possession of mind, and the power of personal exertion, practised into facility after the best models, and according to
true taste. To the more particular investigation of this quality a Chapter is devoted.
The opposite imperfection is awkwardness.
7. Propriety of gesture, called also truth of gesture, or natural gesture. This consists in the judicious use of gestures best suited to illustrate or to express the sentiment. Propriety of gesture is generally founded on some natural connexion between the sentiment and the action. Significant gestures are strictly connected with the sentiment.
The opposite imperfections are false, contradictory, or unsuitable gestures.
8. Precision, or correctness of gesture. This arises from the just preparation, the due force, and the correct timing of the action: when the preparation is neither too much abridged, nor too pompously displayed; when the stroke of the gesture is made with such a degree of force as suits the character of the sentiment; and when it is correctly marked on the precise syllable to be enforced. Precision of gesture gives the same effect to action, as neatness of articulation gives to speech.
The opposite imperfections are the indecision, uncertainty, and incorrectness arising from vague and sawing gestures, which, far from illustrating, render doubtful the sense of the sentiments which they accompany, and distract the spectator.
There are three general modes of public speaking, each of which requires a different style of gesture; namely,
3. The Colloquial.
1. Epic gesture demands every natural and acquired power, on the part of the speaker: to it belong Magnificence, Boldness, Energy, Variety, Simplicity, Grace, Propriety, and Precision. The compositions which require epic gesture, in delivery, are tragedy, epic poetry, lyric odes, and sublime description.
1. The Epic.
2. The Rhetorical.
2. Rhetorical gesture requires, principally, Energy, Variety, Simplicity, and Precision. Grace is desirable; Magnificence is rarely wanting, but may sometimes have place. Propriety, in a limited sense, should be observed. Boldness is inadmissible; because the orator is not, like the player, subjected to any unexpected circumstances. He is not, therefore, at liberty to express surprise, or any other passion, by bold gestures or attitudes.
3. Colloquial gesture, when concerned in the higher scenes of polite life, requires, principally, Simplicity and Grace; Precision will follow of course; it may occasionally demand something of Energy and Variety; Magnificence and Boldness are inadmissible.
The gesture of the public speaker must vary considerably with the different circumstances of his situation, of his sentiments, and of his audience. If the mere information or instruction of his audience be his sole object, as when the evidences of religion and the grounds of Christian duties are to be explained from the pulpit, or when the details of calculation and finance are to be laid before Congress, or when facts are weighed and laws are argued in the courts of justice, his gestures should be of that class which is called discriminating gestures. These he should exercise with simplicity and precision. He should strip them of all the parade of preparation, and of the graces of transition, and give them only that degree of variety which shall guard them against disgusting sameness. This is far removed from theatrical gesture; it rather approaches the colloquial style. Nothing could be more incongruous than for a public speaker, in either of the foregoing situations, to introduce the parade and magnificence of theatrical gesture. The charge which is sometimes made against public speakers, of being theatrical in their gesture, probably arises more from some unsuitableness in their manner to the matter, than from any thing of uncommon majesty, boldness, or grace in their action.