« السابقةمتابعة »
be adopted, as shall be easily conceived, and easily execa: ted; which, though not expressive of any particular passion, shall not be inconsistent with the expression of any passion; which shall always keep the body in a graceful position, and shall so vary its motions, at proper intervals, as to see the subject operating on the speaker, and not the speaker on the subject. This it will be confessed, is a great desideratum; and an attempt to this, is the principal object of the present publication.
The difficulty of describing action by words, will be allowed by every one ; and if we were never to give any instructions, but such as should completely answer our wishes, this difficulty would be a good reason for not attempting to give any description of it. But there are many degrees between conveying a precise idea of a thing and no idea at all. Besides, in this part of delivery, instruction may be conveyed by the eye; and this organ is a inucha more rapid vehicle of knowledge than the ear.
This vehicle is addressed on the present occasion; and plates, representing the attitudes which are described are annexed to the several descriptions, which it is not doubted, will greatly facilitate the reader's conception.
Plate I, represents the attitude in which a boy should always place himself when he begins to speak. He should rest the whole weight of his body on the right leg ; the other, just touching the ground, at the distance at which it would naturally fall, if lifted up to show that the body does not bear upon it. The knees should be straight, and braced, and the body, though perfectly straight, not perpendicular, but inclining as far to the right as a firm position on the right leg will permit. T'he right arm must then be held out, with the palm open, the fingers stright and close, the thumb almost as distant from them as it will go; and the flat of the hand neither horizontal nor vertical, bui exactly between both. The position of the arm, perhaps will be best described, by supposing an oblong hollow square formed by the measure of four. arnis as in plate I, where the arın, in its true position, forms the diagonal of such an imaginary figure. So that if lines were drawn at right angles from the shoulder, extending downwards, forwards and sideways, the arm will form an angle of forty-five degrees every way. :
en to keep the hand open, and the thumb at some distance from the fingers; and particular attention must be paid, to keeping the hand in an exact live with the lower part of the arm, so as not to bend the wrist, either when it is held out, without motion, or when it gives the emphatic stroke. And, above all, the body must be kept in a straight live with the leg on which it bears and not suffered to bend to the opposite side.
At first, it may not be improper for the leacher, after placing the pupil in the position, (Plate 1) to stand soine distance, exactly opposite to him, in the same position, the right and left sides only reversed ; and, while the pupil is speaking, to show him, by example, the action he is to make use of. In this case, the teacher's left hand will correspond to the pubs right; by which means he will see, as in a lookingglaws, how to regulate his gesture, and will soon catch the method of doing it by himself.
It is expected the master will be a little discouraged, at the awkward figure his pupil makes, in his first attempts to teach him. But this is no more than what happens in dancing, fencing, or any other exercise which depends on habit. By practice the pupil will soon begin to feel his position, and be easy in it. Those positions which were at first distressing to him, he will fall into naturally; and, if they are such as are really graceful and becoming (and such it is presumed are those which have been just described) they will be adopted, with more facility than any other that can be taught him.
On the Acting of Plays at Schools.-WALKER.
THOUGH the acting of plays, at schools, has been universally supposed a very useful practice, it has, of late years, been much laid aside. The advantages arising from it have not been judged equal to the inconveniences; and the speaking of single speeches, or the acting of single scenes, has been, generally, substituted in its slead. În. deed, when we consider the leading principle, and prevail
ing sentiinents of most plays, we shall not wonder, thai they are not always thought to be the most suitable einployment for youth at school; nor, when we reflect on the long interruption to the common school exercises, which the preparation for a play must necessarily occasion, shall we think it consistent with general improvement. But, to wave every objection from prudence or morality. it may be confidently affirmed, that the acting of a play is not so conducive to improvement in elocution, as the speaking of single speeches,
In the first place, the acting of plays is of all kinds of delivery the most difficult; and therefore, cannot be the most suitable exercise for boys, at school. In the next place, a dramatic performance requires so much attention to the deportment of the body, se maried an expression of the passions, and so strict an adherence to character, that education is in danger of being neglected ; besides, exact propriety of action, and a nice discrimination of the passions, however essential on the stage, are but of secondary importance in a school. It is plain, open, distinct and forcible pronunciation, which school boys should aiın at; and not that quick transition from one passion to another, that archness of look, and that jeu de theatre, as it is called, so essential to a tolerable dramatic exhibition, and which actors themselves can scarcely attain. In short, it is speaking, rather than acting, which school boys should be taught, while the performance of plays is calculated to teach them acting, rather than speaking.
But there is a contrary extreme, into which many teachiers are apt to run, and chiefly those who are incapable of speaking themselves; and that is, to condemn every thing, which is vehement and forcible, as theatrical. It is an odd trick, to depreciate what we canuot attain ; and calling a spirited... pronunciation theatrical, is but an artful method of hiding an utter inability of speaking, with force and energy. But, though school boys ought not to be taught those nice touches wbich form the greatest difficulties in the profession of an actor, they should not be too much restrained from the exertion of voice, so necessary to strengthening the organs of sound, because they may sometimes be too loud and vociferous. Perhaps nine out of ten, instead of too much confidence, and too violent a
manner of speaking, which these teachers seem so much to dread, bave, as Dr. Johnson calls it, a frigid equality, a stupid languor, and a torpid. apathy. These must be roused by something strong and excessive, or they will never rise even to mediocrity; while the few who have a tendency to rant, are very easily reclained, and ought to be treated, in pronunciation and action, as Quintillian advises us to do, in composition ; that is, we should rather allow of an exuberance, than, by too much correctness, check the vigour and luxuriancy of nature.
Though school boys, therefore, ought not to be taught the finesses of acting, they should, as much as possible, be accustomed to speak such speeches, as require a full, open, animated pronunciation, for which purpose they should be confined, chiefly, to orations, odes and such single speeches of plays, as are in the declamatory and vehement style. But as there are many scenes of plays, which are justly reckoned amongst the finest compositions in the language; some of these may-be adopted among the upper class of boys, and those, more particularly, who have the best deportments; for action, in scenes, will be found much more difficult, than in single speeches. And here it will be necessary to give some additional instructions respecting action; as a speaker who delivers himself singly to an auditory, and one who addresses another speaker, in view of an auditory, are under very different predica-, ments. The former has only one object to address; the latter has two. For if a speaker on the stage were to address the person he speaks to, without any regard to the point of view in which he stands, with respect to the audience, he would be apt to turn his back on them, and to place himself in such positions as would be highly ungrace. ful and disgusting. When a scene, therefore, is represented, it is necessary that the two personages, who speak, should form a sort of picture, and place themselves in a position agreeable to the laws of perspective. In order to do this, it will be necessary that each of them should stand obliquely, and, chiefly make use of one hand. That is, supposing the stage or platform where they stand quadrangle, each speaker should, respectively, face the corner of it next to the audience; and use that hand, and rest on that leg, which is next to the person he speaks to,
and which is farthest from the audience. This disposition is absolutely necessary, to form any thing like a pieturesque grouping of objects, and without it, that is, if both speakers use the right hand, and stand exactly fronting each other, the impropriety will be palpable, and the spectacle disgusting.
It need scarcely be noted, that if the speaker in a scene, uses that hand which is next the audience, he ought likewise to poise his body upon the same leg : This is almost an invariable rule in action; the hand should act on that side only, on which the body bears. Good actors and speakers may sometimes depart from this rule, but such only, will know when to do it, with propriety. Occasion
be taken in the course of the scene, to change sides. One speaker, at the end of an impassioned speech, may cross over to the place of the other, while the latter, at the same moment, crosses over to the place of the former. This, however, must be done with great care, and so as to keep the back from being turned to the audience. But if this transition be performed adroitly, it will have a very good effect, in varying the position of the speakers, and giving each an opportunity of using his right hand—the most favorable to grace and expression.-And, if, from so humble a scene as the school, we may be permitted to raise our observations to the senate, it might be hinted, that gentlemen on each side of the house, while addressing the chair, can, with grace and propriety, only make use of one hand ; namely, that which is next to the speaker; and it may be observed in passing, that to all the other advantages of speaking which are sapposed to belong to one side of the house-may be added—the graceful use of the right hand.
The better to conceive the position of two speakers in a scene, a Plate is given, representing their respective attitudes : And it must be carefully noted, that, when they are not speaking, the arms must hang in their natural place, by the sides : Unless what is spoken, by one, is of such importance, as to excite agitation and surprise in the other. But if we should be sparing of gesture at all times, we should be more particularly so, when we are not speaking.
From what has been laid down, it will evidently appear,