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unnatural expression of his surprise, I know that many difficulties oppose themselves to this perfection; the rage for novelties in the directors, the false taste of the actors, who, eager to dazzle, frequently prefer the acclamations of the multitude to the eloquent silence of the connoisseur.
If each particular character ought to be studied according to its connexion with the ensemble of the piece, it is equally necessary that the actor, in the study of the scenes, should never lose sight of the general idea of his part.
Enlightened by the comparison of his particular proportions, he will learn to restrain or give loose to his feelings by science and by rule: one passage may contain much scope for warmth and passion, but in such or such a scene there may perhaps chance to be another still more highly coloured; so that if he exhausts his energies in the first scene of his part, he will, most probably, be languid and ineffective in the last.
Suppose that a brother, witness of the despair of a beloved sister abandoned by the object of her affections, swears, by all that is sacred, to avenge her cause on the perfidious youth, and that the actor, charged with this part, should declaim the imprecation with too much violence; there would remain no distinguishing mark of passsion, when, encountering the object of his vengeance—he has to charge him with his injuries in person.
Nevertheless, this fear of exhausting the powers ought not to be carried too far by the actor, as it might destroy the effect of his own part as well as the ensemble of the play. For if he languishes through four acts to give effect to the fifth, the loss to the spectators is inadequate to the gain. This is a very favourite scheme of our actors, and I have seen some of them jump from one extreme to the other, without any apparent cause or motive; as the thunder, which we have heard in feeble murmurs at a distance, will sometimes, when we least expect it, roll over our heads in all its noise and fury. Doubtless, these strokes are louder, but, instead of making an impression, they only serve to stun us, whilst preparatory ones, and following each other in just gradations, impress the soul with fear—the mind with terror.
With regard to such plays as are represented on the stage, I have many reasons for judging them in the closet rather than in the theatre, I agree with you, that the reader ought to be a man gifted with every qualification; that he should not only be endowed with an ardent imagination, but should add to that advantage a refined and exquisite sensibility: a man who, always alive to the scene, does not confine himself to keeping the dramatis personae in his thoughts, but who sees them present, and acts their several parts in his own imagination, as he proceeds.
The remark has been frequently made, that such or such a piece produces a good effect, because its mediocrity is in the most perfect harmony with that of the actors, and that many beautiful passages are lost in others, because they stand in need of a Garrick to feel and to express them.
Would it not be the height of injustice to prefer the mediocre to the great poet, because the representatives of the characters of the latter were unable to do justice to his writings? This would be as false a judgment as to despise the sublime compositions of Handel, because an ignorant musician had shocked our ears by his execrable mode of playing them.
On Approach and Removal—On Choler—Joy—The Transition from Jealousy to Love.
Your attention must now be carried to the progressive march of the passions, on which the merit of the candidate for dramatic fame must generally repose. When the affections resemble each other in the march of the ideas, they approach, and, vice versa, recede when this is not the case. Before I proceed, I wish you to contemplate four plates, where I have attempted to delineate the progressive march of inattention to a sort of climax, or curiosity and eagerness: you will thus perceive that, in every different shade, one object approaches nearer to the other.
These figures represent a lawyer reading a will to a client, who had no vehement expectations from the result:—Plate XLIII, I think, delineates this tolerably correctly. The lawyer, in Plate XL1V, has just come to the part where the name of the client is mentioned:—you will immediately see that he is drawing nearer. In