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MOVEMENTS PREPARATORY TO SPEAKING. Oratory consists of two parts;-one addressing the ear, through the voice; and the other, the eye, by action or gesture. The latter implies a certain attitude of body, as essential to it; and hence the necessity of attending, in the first instance, to the attitude or position in which the speaker presents himself to the eye. The characteristics of good attitude are firmness, freedom, appropriateness, and grace.
It becomes necessary here to advert to the manner in which young speakers introduce themselves to their audience; the introductory bow being seldom what it should be, a salutation of respect, actually addressed to the assembly, but commonly a very awkward attempt at a bow, and one so performed as to cast down the eyes towards the floor of the room, or the feet of the speaker, and to show not his countenance, but the crown of his head. A bow, or any other mark of respect, (except prostration,) has no meaning in it, unless the eye of the individual who performs it, is directed to he eyes of hose to whom it is addressed.
In figure 1, of the engraved illustrations, the rounding of the shoulders, and the dangling or drooping of the arms, are added to the above fault.
The opposite and somewhat comic effects of the fault of bending the body mechanically, drawing in the elbows, and turning up the face, are represented in figure 2.
The proper form of the bow, with its moderate curve, is illustrated in figure 3.
The common faults of the bow and other preparatory movements, are feebleness, constraint, embarrassment, impropriety, and awkwardness.*
*In most dialogues, and in some very animated pieces of poetry, the commencing bow should be omitted, as unfavourable to the full effect of the dramatic or poetic character of the delivery, which, in some instances, requires abruptness.
POSITION OF THE FEET.* General Remarks. It is of the utmost consequence to observe a correct position of the feet, not merely because an incorrect position is ungraceful, but because the easy and natural movement of every part of the body, depends on the feet being properly placed. Awkward and constrained movements of the feet, and rigid, unseemly action, are inseparable from a bad attitude. An easy and graceful position, on the contrary, favours appropriate and becoming movement, and tends to render it habitual.
The following sentiments, quoted from Austin's Chironomia, may be serviceable in this place, as introductory to details.
" The gracefulness of motion in the human frame, consists in the facility and security with which it is executed; and the grace of any position consists in the facility with which it can be varied. Hence, in the standing figure, the position is graceful when the weight of the body is principally supported on one leg, while the other is so placed as to be ready to relieve it promptly and without effort.” 6. The foot which sustains the principal weight must be so placed, that a perpendicular line, let fall from the pit of the neck, shall pass through the heel of that foot. Of course, the centre of gravity of the body is, for the time, in that line; whilst the other foot assists merely for the purpose of keeping the body balanced in the position, and of preventing it from tottering.” [See Figs. 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th.]
“In the various positions of the feet, care is to be taken that the grace which is aimed at be attended with simplicity. The position of the orator is equally removed from the awkwardness of the rustic, with toes turned in, and knees bent, and from the affectation of the dancing-master, whose position runs to the opposite extreme. The orator is to adopt such posi
* Much of the effect of gesture depends on the attitude in which it is performed, and from which it seems to spring. Attitude is, in fact, a preliminary to gesture, and as the character of attitude depends chiefly on the position of the feet, this last mentioned point becomes the first in order, in practical lessons on gesture.
tions only as consist with manly and simple grace. The toes are to be moderately turned outward, but not to be constrained; the limbs are to be disposed so as to support the body with ease, and to admit of flowing and graceful movement. The sustaining foot is to be planted firmly; the leg braced, but not contracted; the other foot and limb must press lightly, and be held relaxed, so as to be ready for immediate change and action."
"In changing the positions of the feet, the motions are to be made with the utmost simplicity, and free from the parade and sweep of dancing. The speaker must advance, retire, or change, almost imperceptibly; and it is to be particularly observed that changes should not be too frequent. Frequent change gives the idea of anxiety or instability, both of which are unfavourable.”
ERRORS. The common faults in the position of the feet, are,
1. That of resting on both feet equally, which gives the whole frame a set and rigid attitude. [See Figs. 4 and 5.]
2. Pointing the toes straight forward, which, when combined with the preceding fault, forms the climax of awkwardness and squareness of attitude, and, even when unaccompanied by any other error, has the bad effect of exposing the speaker's side, instead of his full front, and consequently assimilating all his movements and gestures to those of attack in fencing. [See Fig. 6.]
3. Placing the feet too close to one another, which gives the whole body a feeble and constrained appearance, and destroys the possibility of energy in gesture. [See Fig. 7.]
4. The placing of the feet too widely distant, and parallel to each other, which gives the speaker's attitude a careless and slovenly air. [See Fig. 8.]
5. The placing of the feet at too wide a distance from each other, but with the one in advance of the other. This is the attitude of assumption, or of a boasting and overbearing manner. It would be appropriate in the swaggering air of Pistol or of Captain Bobadil. It is only through gross inattention that it can be exhibited, as it not unfrequently is, on occasions of public declamation. [See Fig. 9.]
RULE. The body should rest so fully on one foot, that the other could be raised, for a moment, without loss of balance; the toes turned outward; the feet neither more nor less distant than a space equal to the broadest part of the foot; and the relative position of the feet such, that if two lines were drawn on the floor, under the middle of the sole of each foot, from the toes to the heel, the lines would intersect each other under the middle of the heel of that foot which is placed behind the other. [See Figs. 10, 11, 12, 13.]
This general rule is applied in detail as follows. The recitation of poetry, as it gives scope to vivid expression, and sometimes requires actual delineation or personation, is not confined to any one, or even to a few attitudes. The position of the feet, therefore, is various, as accommodated to the different passions or emotions introduced in the piece which is spoken. Declamation, or the delivery of common speeches in prose, does not admit of any degree of representation; the attitude is that of self-possession, and of energetic or persuasive address; and the positions of the feet are limited to the following:
1. The first position of the right foot, -at the distance and in the relative situation mentioned before; the right foot is planted firmly, and supports the weight of the body, the left touches the floor but slightly, rising a little at the heel.* [See Fig. 10.]
* This position is denominated the second, in the Chironomia. But as it is usually the first in the commencement of a speech, the natural order would seem to present it as the first in instruction and exercise.
2. The second position of the right foot keeps the same distance and relative situation of the feet as in the first, (except a slight outward inclination of the left heel, for firm and easy support.) The weight of the body, however, is on the left foot, which is, of course, firmly placed; while the right foot rests lightly on the floor, without rising from it. [See Fig. 11.]
3. The first position of the left foot* is exactly as the first of the right;—the left taking the place of the right, and the right that of the left. [See Fig. 12.]
4. The second position of the left is the same, in all respects, as the second of the right; substituting the left for the right, and the right for the left. [See Fig. 13.]
Note.-The observance of these different positions ill produce a firm, easy, and graceful attitude, appropriate to earnest and natural delivery. In complying with rules, however, there should be no anxiety about measured exactness, and no appearance of studied precision. Force and freedom, and general propriety of manner, are the main points to be aimed at; grace is but a subordinate consideration; and strict accuracy is apt to become but a mechanical excellence.
MOVEMENT OF THE FEET.
Remarks. An occasional change of the position of the feet, is a natural and necessary relief to the speaker, in the delivery of a speech or piece of considerable length; it associates, also, in an appropriate and agreeable manner, with the introduction of a
*Attitude as affected by the advanced foot. The ancients restricted their orators to the advance of the left foot. From this rule modern practice deviates entirely. The best speakers, thongh they occasionally advance the left foot, give the preference to the right, and adhere undeviatingly to the rule, that when the left hand is used in the principal gesture, the left foot must be advanced ; and when the principal gesture is made with the right hand, that the righ foot should be advanced, unless the use of the retired hand is very brief, and soon to give place to the advanced.”