Графични страници
PDF файл

shall shew in another paper the several expedients whic practised by authors of a vulgar genius, to move terror, pi admiration, in their hearers.

The tailor and the painter often contribute to the succe a tragedy more than the poet. Scenes affect ordinary min much as speeches; and our actors are very sensible, that a dressed play has sometimes brought them as full audiences well-written one. The Italians have a very good phrase t press this art of imposing upon the spectators by appearan they call it the Furberia della scena, 'The knavery or tri part of the drama.' But however the show and outside of tragedy may work upon the vulgar, the more understanding of the audience immediately see through it, and despise it.

A good poet will give the reader a more lively idea army or a battle in a description, than if he actually saw drawn up in squadrons and battalions, or engaged in the conf of a fight. Our minds should be opened to great concept and inflamed with glorious sentiments, by what the actor sp more than by what he appears. Can all the trappings or equi of a king or hero, give Brutus half that pomp and majesty w he receives from a few lines in Shakespear?


[ocr errors]

* At Drury-Lane, for the benefit of Mrs. Porter, Love's Last Shi The Fool in Fashion: Sir Novelty, Mr. Cibber; Sir W. Wise would, Johnson; Loveless, Mr. Wilks Worthy, Mr. Mills; Snap, Mr. Pinketh Sly, Mr. Bullock; Amanda, Mrs. Porter; Narcessa, Mrs. Oldfield; and ria, Mrs. Bicknell. Spect. in fol.

[blocks in formation]

AMONG the several artifices which are put in practice by the poets to fill the minds of an audience with terror, the first place is due to thunder and lightning, which are often made use of at the descending of a god, or the rising of a ghost, at the vanishing of a devil, or at the death of a tyrant. I have known a bell in troduced into several tragedies with good effect; and have seen the whole assembly in a very great alarm all the while it has been ringing. But there is nothing which delights and terrifies our English theatre so much as a ghost, especially when he appears in a bloody shirt. A spectre has very often saved a play, though he has done nothing but stalked across the stage, or rose through a cleft of it, and sunk again without speaking one word. There may be a proper season for these several terrors; and when they only come in as aids and assistances to the poet, they are not only to be excused, but to be applauded. Thus the sounding of the clock in Venice Preserved, makes the hearts of the whole audience quake; and conveys a stronger terror to the mind, than it is possible for words to do. The appearance of the ghost of Hamlet is a master-piece in its kind, and wrought up with all the circumstances that can create either attention or horror. The mind of the reader is wonderfully prepared for his reception by the discourses that precede it his dumb behaviour at his first entrance, strikes the imagination very strongly; but every time he enters, he is still more terrifying Who can read the speech with which young Hamlet accosts him, without trembling?

Hor. Look, my Lord, it comes!


Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,

That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane. Oh! oh! answer me,
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cearments? why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws
To cast thee up again! what may this mean!
'That thou dead corse again in complete steel
Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous?

I do not therefore find fault with the artifices above mentio when they are introduced with skill, and accompanied by portionable sentiments and expressions in the writing.

For the moving of pity, our principal machine is the hand chief; and indeed in our common tragedies, we should not b very often that the persons are in distress by any thing they if they did not from time to time apply their handkerchief their eyes. Far be it from me to think of banishing this ins ment of sorrow from the stage; I know a tragedy could not sist without it: all that I would contend for, is, to keep it f being misapplied. In a word, I would have the actor's ton sympathize with his eyes.

A disconsolate mother, with a child in her hand, has frequ ly drawn compassion from the audience, and has therefore gai a place in several tragedies. A modern writer, that obser how this had took in other plays, being resolved to double distress, and melt his audience twice as much as those bef

For advent, coming or visiting: the common reading is intent.Compare als: Addison's reading of another passage of Shakespeare in Tatler, No. 117, v. vol. 3. p.-G.

him had done, brought a princess upon the stage with a little boy in one hand and a girl in the other. This too had a very good effect. A third poet being resolved to out-write all his predecessors, a few years ago introduced three children, with great success: and, as I am informed, a young gentleman, who is fully determined to break the most obdurate hearts, has a tragedy by him, where the first person that appears upon the stage is an afflicted widow in her mourning-weeds, with half a dozen fatherless children attending her, like those that usually hang about the figure of Charity. Thus several incidents that are beautiful in a good writer, become ridiculous by falling into the hands of a bad one.

But among all our methods of moving pity or terror, there is none so absurd and barbarous, and what more exposes us to the contempt and ridicule of our neighbours, than that dreadful butchering of one another, which is so very frequent upon the English stage. To delight in seeing men stabbed, poisoned, racked, or impaled, is certainly the sign of a cruel temper: and as this is often practised before the British audience, several French critics, who think these are grateful spectacles to us, take occasion from them to represent us as a people that delight in blood. It is indeed very odd, to see our stage strowed with carcasses in the last scene of a tragedy; and to observe in the ward-robe of the play-house several daggers, poniards, wheels, bowls for poison, and many other instruments of death. Murders and executions are always transacted behind the scenes in the French theatre; which in general is very agreeable to the manners of a polite and civilized people: but as there are no excep tions to this rule on the French stage, it leads them into absurdities almost as ridiculous as that which falls under our present I remember in the famous play of Corneille, written upon the subject of the Horatii and Curiatii; the fierce young hero



who had overcome the Curiatii one after another (instead of congratulated by his sister for his victory, being upbraide her for having slain her lover), in the height of his passion resentment kills her. If any thing could extenuate so bru action, it would be the doing of it on a sudden, before the ments of nature, reason, or manhood, could take place in However, to avoid public bloodshed, as soon as his passi wrought to its height, he follows his sister, the whole leng the stage, and forbears killing her till they are both withd behind the scenes. I must confess, had he murdered her b the audience, the indecency might have been greater; but is, it appears very unnatural, and looks like killing in cold b To give my opinion upon this case; the fact ought not to been represented, but to have been told, if there was any occa for it.

It may be not unacceptable to the reader, to see how So cles has conducted a tragedy under the like delicate cir stances. Orestes was in the same condition with Hamle Shakespear, his mother having murdered his father, and ta possession of his kingdom in conspiracy with her adulterer. T young prince, therefore, being determined to revenge his fath death upon those who filled his throne, conveys himself b beautiful stratagem into his mother's apartment, with a res tion to kill her. But because such a spectacle would have b too shocking to the audience, this dreadful resolution is execu behind the scenes: the mother is heard calling out to her for mercy; and the son answering her, that she showed no me to his father after which she shrieks out that she is wound and by what follows we find that she is slain. I do not rem ber that in any of our plays there are speeches made behind scenes, though there are other instances of this nature to be r with in those of the ancients: and I believe my reader will ag

« ПредишнаНапред »