Графични страници
PDF файл

qualifications for her profession are indeed, such as we might expect from one so parented and related. Her head is nobly formed and admirably placed on her shoulders—her brow is expansive and shaded by very dark hair—her eyes are full of a gifted soul, and her features are significant of intellect to a very extraordinary degree. Though scarcely reaching the middle height, she is finely proportioned, and she moves with such dignity and decision that it is only on recollection we discover she is not tall. In boldness and dignity of action she unquestionably approaches more nearly to Mrs. Siddons than any actress of our time excepting Pasta. Her voice, whilst it is perfectly feminine in its tones, is of great compass, and though, perhaps, not yet entirely within her command, gives proof of being able to express the sweetest emotions without monotony, and the sternest passions without harshness. She seems to know the stage by intuition, “as native there and to the manner born,” and she understands even now, by what magic we cannot divine, the precise effect she will produce on the most distant spectators. She treads the stage as if she had been matured by the study and practice of years. We dreamed for a while of being able to analyze her acting, and to fix in our memory the finest moments of its power and grace; but her attitudes glide into each other so harmoniously that we at last gave up enumerating how often she seemed a study to the painter's eye and a vision to the poet's heart. At the first sight, Miss Kemble's countenance conveys an impression of extraordinary intellect, and the manifestation of that faculty is a pervading charm of her acting. It gives her courage, it gives her promptitude—the power of seeing what is to be done, and of doing it without faltering or hesitation. She always aims at the highest effect, and almost always succeeds in realizing her finest conceptions. The Juliet of Shakspeare is young and beautiful; but no mistake can be greater than the idea that her character can be impersonated with probability by a merely beautiful young woman. Juliet is a being of rich imagination; her eloquence breathes an etherial spirit; and her heroic devotedness is as different from common-place romance, as superficial gilding is unlike the solid ore. By many an observer, the beautiful surface of her character is alone ap

preciated, and not that force and grandeur in it which is capable of sustaining itself in harmony, not only with the luxuriant commencement of the piece, but with the funereal terrors of its tragic close. Hence the expectation has been so often excited, that a lovely girl, who can look the character very innocently, and speak the garden-scene very prettily, is quite sufficient to be a representative of the heroine throughout; and hence the same expectation has been so often disappointed. The debutante may be often carried, without apparent failure, through a scene or two, by her beauty and pretty manner of love-making; but when the tragedy commences in earnest, her intellectual expression sinks under its terrors, and she appears no more than a poor young lady, driven mad with the vexation of love.

Far remote from this description is the Juliet of Miss Kemble. It never was our fortune to see Mrs. Siddons in the part, but Miss Kemble gives it a depth of tragic tone which none of her predecessors whom we have seen ever gave to it. Miss O'Neil, loth as we are to forget her fascinations, used to lighten the earlier scenes of the piece with some girlish graces that were accused of being infantine. Be that as it may, there were certainly a hundred little prettinesses enacted by hundreds of novices in the character, which attracted habitual applauses, but which Miss Kemble at once repudiated with the wise audacity of genius; at the same time, though she blends not a particle of affected girlishness with the part of Juliet, her youth and her truth still leave in it a Shakspearian naiveté. As the tragedy deepens, her powers are developed in unison with the strengthened decision of purpose which the poet gives to the character. What a noble effect she produced in that scene where the Nurse, who had hitherto been the partner of all her counsels, recommends her to marry Paris, and to her astonished exclamation, “ Speak'st thou from thy heart?" answers, “ And from my soul, too, or else beshrew them both.” At that momentous passage Miss Kemble erected her head, and extended her arm, with an expressive air which we never saw surpassed in acting, and with a power like magic, pronounced “Amen!" In that attitude, and look, and word, she made us feel that. Juliet, so late a nurseling, was now left alone in the world that the child was gone, and that the heroic wo

man had begun her part. By her change of tone and manner she showed that her heart was wound up to fulfill its destiny, and she bids the Nurse “Go in,” in a tone of dignified command. That there was such a change in Juliet we have always felt, but to mark its precise moment was reserved for this accomplished actress in a single tone. It is hardly needless to say, that Mr. Kemble's Mercutio was delightful, independent even of the gallant spirit with which he carried off the weight of his anxieties on the first evening. It was charmingly looked, acted, and spoken— with only one little touch of baser matter in the mimickry of the Nurse—and closed by a death true to nature, and exhibiting, in milder light, all the brilliant traits of the character. Warde showed his good feeling in accepting the part of Friar Laurence, and his good taste in speaking the poetry of which it is made up: Mrs. Davenport played the Nurse as excellently as she has played it for the last twenty years, and not better than she will play it for twenty years to come; and Mrs. Kemble went through the little she had to do in Lady Capulet with true motherly grace.


THERE is at Paris, where all extremes meet, a kind of subtheatrical public, which makes amends for the severity of the orthodox dramatic code, by running wild after the most extravagant violations of all rules, and the strangest outrages on feeling and taste. Thus the members of this living paradox keep the balance even, and avenge the beautiful and the romantic. If they turn away with disgust from the Weird Sisters, and defy the magic in the web of Othello's handkerchief, they dote on Mr. Cooke in the Monster, and consecrate ribands to his fame. If they refuse to pardon the grave/ diggers in Hamlet, they seek for materials of absorbing interest in the charnal-house which no divine philosophy illumines. If they refuse to tragedy any larger bounds of time than their own classical poets could occupy with frigid declamations, they will select three days from distant parts of a wretched and criminal life, in order to exhibit in full and odious perfection, the horrors which two fifteen years of atrocity can accumulate and mature. Of all the examples of the daring side of their eternal antithesis, the melo-drama against gambling, produced within the last few months, is the most extraordinary and the most successful. Each act is crowded with incidents, in which the only relief from the basest fraud and the most sickening selfishness is to be found in deeds which would chill the blood if it had leisure to freeze. We do not only “sup full of horrors,” but breakfast and dine on them also. A youth, who on the eve of his wedding-day sells the jewels of his bride to gamble with the price, and who deceives her by the most paltry equivocations; a friend, who

supplies this youth with substituted diamonds which he has himself stolen; a broken-hearted father who dies cursing his son; and a seduction of the wife, filthily attempted while the husband is evading the officers of justice, are among the attractions which should enchain the attention, and gently arouse curiosity in the first act of this fascinating drama. The second act, exhibiting the same pair of fiends, after a lapse of fifteen years, is replete with appropriate fraud, heartlessness, and misery. But the last act crowns all, and completes the “ moral lesson.” Here, after another fifteen years passed in the preparatory school of guilt, the hero verging on old age is represented as in the most squalid penury-an outcast from society, starving with a wife bent down by suffering, and a family of most miserable children crying for bread. His first exploit is to plunder a traveller, murder him, and hide his body in the sand; but this is little; the horror is only beginning. While his last murder is literally “ sticking on his hands," his old tempter and companion, who had attempted to seduce his wife and had utterly blasted his fortunes, enters his hut, ragged and destitute, and by a few sentences rekindles the old love of play, and engages him in schemes of fraudulent gaming. After this little scene of more subdued interest, the parties leave the hut to inter the corpse of the assassinated traveller, and give opportunity for the entrance of the eldest son of the hero, and his recognition by his mother. In her brief absence, contrived for this special occasion, the friends resolve on murdering the youth, of whose name they are ignorant; the father watches while his familiar stabs the stranger on his couch; and just as the full horror is discovered, a thunderbolt sets fire to the dwelling of iniquity, and the father hurls his tempter into the flames and follows him! Such is the piece which has delighted the dainty critics of Paris, who revolt from Julius Cæsar as bloody, and characterize Hamlet as “the work of a drunken savage."

But the most offensive circumstance attendant on the production of this bloody trash is the pretence that it is calculated to advance the cause of morality by deterring from the passion of gambling. What a libel is this on poor human nature! Of what stuff must that nature be made, if it could

« ПредишнаНапред »