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Abstain from pleasure and restrain your will,
Shun secresy, and talk in open sight;
No. 541. THURSDAY, NOV. 20, 1712.
Format enim natura prius nos intus ad omnem
HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 108.
For nature forms and softens us within,
My friend the Templar, whom I have so often mentioned in these writings, having determined to lay aside his poetical studies, in order to a closer pursuit of the law, has put together, as a farewell essay, some thoughts concerning pronunciation and action, which he has given me leave to communicate to the public. They are chiefly collected from his favourite author Cicero, who is known to have been an intimate friend of Roscius the actor, and a good judge of dramatical performances, as well as the most eloquent pleader of the time in which he lived.
Cicero concludes his celebrated books De Oratore with some precepts for pronunciation and action, without which part he affirms that the best orator in the world can never succeed; and an indifferent one, who is master of this, shall gain much greater applause. "What could make a stronger impression, says he, “than those exclamations of Gracchus? -" Whither shall I turn? Wretch that I am! to what place betake myself? Shall I go to the Capitol? Alas! it is overflowed with my brother's blood. Or shall I retire to my house? Yet there I behold my mother plunged in misery, weeping and despairing !" These breaks and turns of passion, it seems, were so inforced by the eyes, voice, and gesture of the speaker, that his very enemies could not refrain from tears. 'I insist; says Tully, “upon this the rather, because our orators, who are as it were actors of the truth itself, have quitted this manner of speaking; and the players, who are but the imitators of truth, have taken it up.'
I shall therefore pursue the hint he has here given me, and for the service of the British stage I shall copy some of the rules which this great Roman master has laid down, yet without confining myself wholly to his thoughts or words; and to adapt this essay the more to the purpose for which I intend it, instead of the examples he has inserted in this discourse out of the ancient tragedies, I shall make use of parallel passages out of the most celebrated of our own.
The design of art is to assist action as much as possible in the representation of nature; for the appearance of reality is that which moves us in all representations, and these have always the greater force the nearer they approach to nature, and the less they show of imitation.
Nature herself has assigned to every emotion of the soul its peculiar cast of the countenance, tone of voice, and manner of gesture; and the whole person, all the features of the face and tones of the voice, answer, like strings upon musical instruments, to the impressions made on them by the mind. Thus the sounds of the voice, according to the various touches which raise them, form themselves into an acute or grave, quick or slow, loud or soft, tone. These too may be subdivided into various kinds of tones, as the gentle, the rough, the contracted, the diffuse, the continued, the intermitted, the broken, abrupt, winding, softened, or elevated. Every one of these may be employed with art and judgment; and all supply the actor, as colours do the painter, with an expressive variety.
Anger exerts its peculiar voice in an acute, raised, and hurrying sound. The passionate character of king Lear, as it is admirably drawn by Shakspeare, abounds with the strongest instances of this kind.
Death! Confusion ! Fiery ?—what quality ?-why Gloster! Gloster! I'd speak with the duke of Cornwall and his wife. Are they inform’d of this ? my breath and blood ! Fiery ? the fiery duke ? Sorrow and complaint demand a voice quite different: flexible, slow, interrupted, and modulated in a mournful tone: as in that pathetical soliloquy of cardinal Wolsey on his fall.
Farewell!-a long farewell to all my greatness !
We have likewise a fine example of this in the whole part of Andromache in the Distrest Mother, particularly in these lines
I'll go, and in the anguish of my heart Weep o'er my child - If he must die, my life Is wrapt in his, I shall not long survive. 'Tis for his sake that I have suffer'd life, Groan'd in captivity, and outliv'd Hector. Yes, my Astyanax, we'll go together! Together to the realms of night we'll go; There to thy ravish'd eyes thy sire I'll show, And point him out among the shades below.' Fear expresses itself in a low, hesitating, and abject sound. If the reader considers the following speech of lady Macbeth, while her husband is about the murder of Duncan and his grooms, he will imagine her even affrighted with the sound of her own voice while she is speaking it.
“Alas! I am afraid they have awak',
My father as he slept, I had done it.' Courage assumes a louder tone, as in that speech of Don Sebastian.
• Here satiate all your fury;
Pleasure dissolves into a luxurious, mild, tender, and joyous modulation; as in the following lines in Caius Marius.
• Lavinia ! O there's music in the name,
And perplexity is different from all these : grave, but not bemoaning, with an earnest uniform sound of voice; as in that celebrated speech of Hamlet.
To be, or not to be! that is the question.
- There's the respect
As all these varieties of voice are to be directed by the sense, so the action is to be directed by the voice, and with a beautiful propriety, as it were, to enforce it. The arm, which by a strong figure Tully calls the orator's weapon, is to be sometimes raised and extended; and the hand, by its motion, sometimes to lead, and sometimes to follow, the words as they are uttered. The stamping of the foot too has its proper expression in contention, anger, or absolute command. But the face is the epitome of