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the cause of universal truth and no desire to have them replaced by honesty, that a man should fall down extempore coronets, conferred by and worship even a coroneted mush- the voice of the people upon those room than a false and base princi- whom they consider the great men ple. Any form of Mumbo-Jumbo of the day. Popular suffrage of this were better than that.
kind does not always proceed upon For my own part, I believe Duke- the same safe and intelligible prindom to be as useful and wholesome ciple as that which the soldiers of a an institution, in its way, as author- certain Crimean regiment adopted, craft. I am willing to give it such when they unanimously elected for "worship" as has been assigned it the Victoria Cross the sergeant who from the national fountain of honour. served out the grog. There is a I honestly respect a good duke, as I kind of “great-man worship ” (to do a good writer. Taking the class borrow one of these new terms) as members of society, I believe against which even my flunkey spirit them to be quite as desirable ac- rebels. I cannot accept Mr Tupquaintances, their characters quite per for a philosopher, or either Mr as good, their domestic relations Bellew, Dr Cumming, or Mr Spurquite as respectable, and if their geon (let me be unsectarian in my dinners are better (as I daresay they selection), for a prophet.
Every are), that need not be a fatal objec- superstition has its limit; and these tion. If there are some indifferent happen to be the particular form of specimens, I am not responsible for Mumbo-Jumbo before which I cantheir manufacture. The reasons for not fall down. I will be content with some men being born in that station the hereditary teraphim to which I of life are to me as inscrutable as the have been accustomed. Surely it reasons for some men being popular was an unfair reproach against idols authors. But, for all that I can that they were “dumb;' the most see, I am so far content with heredi- ghastly of all impositions are the tary Right Honourables that I have idols which talk.
FECHTER IN HAMLET AND OTHELLO.
In the present deplorable state in men's minds respecting naturalof the drama and the stage, every ism and idealism in art; sed
secondly, lover of the art must rejoice at the the essential limitation of an actor's surprising success achieved by the sphere, as determined by his perremarkable Frenchman who has sonality. Both in Hamlet and undertaken to give a new aspect to Othello, Fechter attempts to be na Shakespearian tragedy, and who has tural, and keeps as far away as posdrawn all London to witness two sible from the conventional declaof the greatest dramatic works ever matory style, which is by many written. No man ever before played mistaken for idealism only because Hamlet for seventy consecutive it is unlike reality. His physique nights; no man, since the great enabled him to represent Hamlet, Kean, ever excited so much discus- and his naturalism was artistic. sion. That much of this success is His physique wholly incapacitated owing to the curiosity of seeing a him from representing Othello ; and Frenchman play Shakespeare in his naturalism, being mainly deterEnglish, no one will doubt. Butmined by his personality, became whatever the cause, the success is a utter feebleness. I do not mean fact which must bave its influence; that the whole cause of his failure and now that a second part has rests with his physical incapacity, , been added to Fechter's Shakespea- for, as will presently be shown, his rian repertory, the discussion be- intellectual conception of the part comes more animated, and the ques- is as false as his execution is feeble; tions involved become more capable but he might have had a wrong of solution.
conception of the part, and yet have To express my own opinion in a been ten times more effective, had sentence-I think his Hamlet one nature endowed him with a phyof the very best, and his Othello sique of more weight and intensity. one of the very worst I have ever Twenty Othellos I have seen, with seen; and I have seen all the good far less intelligence, but with more actors, and many of the bad actors, effective representative qualities, from Kean downwards. On leav- whose performances have stirred the ing the theatre after Hamlet, I felt very depths of the soul ; whereas once more what a great play it was, I cannot imagine any amount of with all its faults, and they are intelligence enabling Fechter's pergross and numerous. On leaving sonality to make the performance the theatre after Othello, I felt as if satisfactory. my old admiration for this supreme His Hamlet was “natural ;" but masterpiece of the art had been an this was not owing, as many seem exaggeration ; all the faults of the to think, to the simple fact of its play stood out so glaringly, all its being more conversational and less beauties were so dimmed and dis- stilted than usual. If Shakespeare's torted by the acting of every one grandest language seemed to issue concerned. It was necessary to re- naturally from Fechter's lips, and cur to Shakespeare's pages to re- did not strike you as out of place, cover the old feeling.
which it so often does when mouthed Reflecting on the contrast offer- on the stage, the reason was that he ed by these two performances, it formed a tolerably true conception seemed to me that a good lesson on of Hamlet's nature, and could rethe philosophy of acting was to be present that conception. It was his read there. Two cardinal points personality which enabled him to were illustrated by it. First, the represent this conception. Many of very general confusion which exists the spectators had a conception as
true, or truer, but they could not curls, quivering sensitive nostrils, have represented it. This is self- fine eye, and sympathetic voice, evident. But what is the meaning perfectly represents the graceful of the natural in art ? On this prince. His aspect and bearing point great confusion prevails. By are such that the eye rests on him naturalism and realism, men com- with delight. Our sympathies are monly, and falsely, suppose that an completely secured. And as he imitation of ordinary life is meant: endeavours to act, not to declaim a reproduction of such details as the part, we feel that we have may be recognised among our daily Hamlet the Dane before us. AU experiences. Whereas naturalism those scenes which demand the truly means the reproduction of qualities of an accomplished cothose details which characterise the median, he plays to perfection. nature of the thing represented. Never before have the scenes with Realism means truth, not vulgarity. the players, with Polonius, with Truth of the higher as of the lower Horatio, with Rosenkranz and forms : truth of passion, and truth Guildenstern, or the quieter monoof manners. The nature of a Mac- logues, been better played ; they beth is not the nature of an Othello; are touched with so cunning a grace, the speech of Achilles is not the and a manner so natural, that our speech of Thersites. The truth of the delight is extreme. We not only “Madonna di San Sisto" is not the feel in the presence of an individual, truth of Murillo's “Beggar Girl.” a character, but feel that the indiBut artists and critics often overlook vidual is strictly consonant with this obvious fact. Actors are espe- our previous conception of Hamlet, cially prone to overlook it, and, in and with the part assigned him in the trying to be natural, sink into the play. The passages of emotion also familiar; though that is as unnatu- are rendered with real sensibility. ral as if they were to attempt to His delightful and sympathetic heighten the reality of the Apollo voice, and the unforced fervour of by tlinging a paletot over his naked his expression, triumph over the shoulders. It is this error into foreigner's accent and the foreigner's which Fechter falls in Othello; he mistakes in emphasis. This is realvulgarises the part in the attempt ly a considerable triumph ; for alto make it natural. Instead of the though Fechter pronounces English heroic, grave, impassioned Moor, very well for a Frenchman,* it is he represents an excitable creole of certain that his accent greatly inour own day.
terferes with the due effect of the Intellectually and physically his speeches. But the foreign accent Hamlet so satisfies the audience, is as nothing compared with the that they exclaim, “ How natural !” perpetual error of emphasis; and Hamlet is fat, according to his this surely he might overcome by mother's testimony; but he is also diligent study, if he would consent —at least in Ophelia's eyes—very to submit to the rigorous criticism handsome
of some English friend, who would “The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye,
correct him every time he errs. tongue, sword,
The sense is constantly perturbed, The glass of fashion and the mould of and sometimes violated, by this form,
fault. The observed of all observers."
Yet so great is the power
of true emotion, that even this is Fechter is lymphatic, delicate, forgotten directly he touches the handsome, and with his long flaxen feelings of the audience; and in his
An idle attempt has been made to juggle away the objection to his foreign accent on the ground that he is not a Frenchman, having been born in London. Bnt these biographical facts cannot weigh with an audience. His accent is a French accent; and if he is an Englishman, the accent is unpardonable.
great speech,“() what a rogue and visits the insane, he may "put an peasant slave am I!” no one hears antic disposition on," as a sort of the foreigner.
relief to his feelings. Or he may Physically then, we may say that merely assume madness as a means his Hamlet is perfectly satisfactory; of accounting for any extravagance nor is it intellectually open to more of demeanour into which the knowcriticism than must always arise in ledge of his father's murder may the case of a character which admits betray him. Shakespeare has comof so many readings. It is certain- mitted the serious fault of not ly a fine conception, consonant in making this point clear; a modern general with what the text of writer who should commit such a Shakespeare indicates. It is the fault would get no pardon. Now nearest approach I have seen to the the actor is by no means called realisation of Goethe's idea, ex- upon to settle such points. One pounded in the celebrated critique thing, however, he is called upon in Wilhelm Meister, that there is a to do, and that is, not to depart burden laid on Hamlet too heavy widely from the text, not to misfor his soul to bear. The refine- represent what stands plainly writment, the feminine delicacy, the ten. Yet this the actors do in vacillation of Hamlet, are admirably Hamlet. They may believe that represented; and it is only in the Shakespeare never meant Hamlet more tragic scenes that we feel any to be really mad; but they cannot shortcoming. For these scenes he deny, and should not disregard, the wants the tragedian's personality; plain language of the text-namely, and once for all let me say that by that Shakespeare meant Hamlet to personality I do not simply mean be in a state of intense cerebral exthe physical qualities of voice and citement, bordering on madness. person, but the physicological quali- His sorrowing nature has been sudties which give the force of animal denly ploughed to its depths by a passion demanded by tragedy, and horror so great as to make him rewhich cannot be represented except coil every moment from the belief by a certain animal power.
in its reality. The shock, if it has There is one point, however, in not destroyed his sanity, has cerhis reading of the part which seems tainly unsettled him. Nothing can to me manifestly incorrect. The be plainer than this. Every line error, if error it be, is not peculiar speaks it. We see it in the ramto him, but has been shared by all bling incoherence of his “wild and the other Hamlets, probably be- whirling words” to his fellowcause they did not know how to watchers and fellow-witnesses; but represent what Shakespeare has as this may be said to be assumed indicated rather than expressly set by him (although the motive for down. And as there is nothing in such an assumption is not clear, as his physique which would prevent he might have “put them off," and the proper representation of a dif- yet retained his coherence), I will ferent conception, I must assume appeal to the impressive fact of the that the error is an intellectual irreverence with which in this scene On this account I submit to
he speaks of his father and to his his consideration the following sug- father — language which Shakegestions.
speare surely never meant to be inMuch discussion has turned on significant, and which the actors the question of Hamlet's madness, always omit. Here is the scene whether it be real or assumed. It after the exit of the ghost :is not possible to settle this ques
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS. tion. Arguments are strong on both sides. He may be really mad,
Mar. How is't, my noble lord ?
What news, my lord ! and yet, with that terrible con
Ham. O, wonderful ! sciousness of the fact which often
Good my lord, tell it.
No; A worthy pioneer |--Once more remove,
Now, why are these irreverent
Nor I, my lord.
words omitted ? Because the actors
feel them to be irreverent, inconBut you'll be secret, --.
gruous ? If spoken as Shakespeare
meant them to be—as Hamlet in
his excited and bewildered state
must have uttered them — they Hlor. There needs no ghost, my lord, would be eminently significant. It
come from the grave,
is evading the difficulty to omit
expressive, and will throw the audi-
But this scene is only the begin-
ning. From the moment of the
Ghost's departure, Hamlet is a Ham. Yes, by St Patrick, but there is, changed man. All the subsequent
scenes should be impregnated with And much offence too, touching this vision here.
vague horror, and an agitation comIt is an honest ghost, that let me tell you; pounded of feverish desire for venFor your desire to know what is between
geance with the perplexities of O'ermaster it as you may. And now, good thwarting doubt as to the reality friends,
of the story which has been heard. As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers, This alternation of wrath and of Give me one poor request.
doubt as to whether he has not been llor. What is't, my lord ?
the victim of an hallucination, We will. Ham. Never make known what you have
should be represented by the feverseen to-night.
ish agitation of an unquiet mind, Hor., Mar. My lord, we will not. visible even under all the outward Nay, but swear't.
calmness which it may be necessary Hor.
to put on; whereas the Hamlets I Mar.
Nor I, my lord, in faith. have seen are perfectly calm and Ham. Upon my sword.
self-possessed when they are not in Mar.
We have sworn, my lord, already.
a tempest of rage, or not feigning Ham. Indeed, upon my sword, indeed. madness to deceive the King. It Ghost. (Beneath.] Swear.
is part and parcel of this erroneous Ham. Ila, ha, boy, say'st thou so ? art conception as to the state of Ham
thou there, truepenny?
let's mind (unless it be the mistake age,
of substituting declamation for actConsent to swear,
ing) which, as I believe, entirely Ilor.
Propose the oath, my lord.
misrepresents the purport of the
This is not a set speech to Ghost. Beneath,) Swear.
be declaimed to pit, boxes, and galHam. Hic et ubique! then we'll shift lery, nor is it a moral thesis debated
our ground :Come hither, gentlemen,
by Hamlet in intellectual freedom;
Because it is a fine speech, pregnant
for an oratorical display ; but I