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at Covent Garden Theatre, and, though it must be in favourable terms, it cannot be in very favourable ones. We have been rather spoiled for seeing any one else in this character, by Mr. Kean's performance of it, and also by having read the play itself lately. Mr. Macready was more than respectable in the part; and he only failed because he attempted to excel. He did not, however, express the individual bursts of feeling, nor the deep and accumulating tide of passion, which ought to be given in Othello. It may perhaps seem an extravagant illustration, but the idea which we think any actor ought to have of this character, to play it to the height of the poetical conception, is that of a majestic serpent wounded, writhing under its pain, stung to madness, and attempting by sudden darts, or coiling up its whole force, to wreak its vengeance on those about it, and falling at last a mighty victim under the redoubled strokes of its assailants. No one can admire more than we do the force of genius and passion which Mr. Kean shows in this part, but he is not stately enough for it. He plays it like a gipsy, and not like a Moor. We miss in Mr. Kean, not the physiognomy, or the costume, so much as the architectural building up of the part. This character always puts us in mind of the line
Let Afric on its hundred thrones rejoice.
It not only appears to hold commerce with meridian suns, and that its blood is made drunk with the heat of scorching skies, but it indistinctly presents to us all the symbols of Eastern magnificence. It wears a crown and turban, and stands before us like a tower. All this, it may be answered, is only saying that Mr. Kean is not so tall as a tower; but any one, to play Othello properly,
ought to look taller and grander than any tower. We shall see how Mr. Young will play it. But this is from our present purpose. Mr. Macready is tall enough for the part, and the looseness of his figure was rather in character with the flexibility of the South; but there were no sweeping outlines, no massy movements in his action.
The movements of passion in Othello (and the motions of the body should answer to those of the mind) resemble the heaving of the sea in a storm; there are no sharp, slight, angular transitions, or, if there are any, they are subject to this general swell and commotion. Mr. Kean is sometimes too wedgy and determined; but Mr. Macready goes off like a shot, and startles our sense of hearing. One of these sudden explosions was when he is in such haste to answer the demands of the Senate on his services: "I do agnise a natural hardness," &c., as if he was impatient to exculpate himself from some charge, or wanted to take them at their word lest they should retract. There is nothing of this in Othello. He is calm and collected, and the reason why he is carried along with such vehemence by his passions when they are roused, is that he is moved by their collected force. Another fault in Mr. Macready's conception was that he whined and whimpered once or twice, and tried to affect the audience by affecting a pitiful sensibility, not consistent with the dignity and masculine imagination of the character; as where he repeated, "No, not much moved,' and again, "Othello's occupation's gone," in a childish treble. The only part which should approach to this effeminate tenderness of complaint is his reflection, "Yet, oh the pity of it, Iago, the pity of it!" What we liked best was his ejaculation, "Swell, bosom, with thy fraught, for 'tis of aspicks' tongues." This was forcibly given, and as if his
expression were choked with the bitterness of passion. We do not know how he would have spoken the speech, "Like to the Pontic sea that knows no ebb," &c., which occurs just before, for it was left out. There was also something fine in his uneasiness and inward starting at the name of Cassio, but it was too often repeated, with a view to effect. Mr. Macready got most applause in such speeches as that addressed to Iago, "Horror on horror's head accumulate!" This should be a lesson to him. He very injudiciously, we think, threw himself on a chair at the back of the stage, to deliver the farewell apostrophe to Content, and to the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war." This might be a relief to him, but it distressed the audience. On the whole, we think Mr. Macready's powers are more adapted to the declamation than to the acting of passion—that is, that he is a better orator than actor. As to Mr. Young's Iago, "we never saw a gentleman acted finer." Mrs. Faucit's Desdemona was very pretty. Mr. C. Kemble's Cassio was excellent.
MR. STEPHEN KEMBLE'S FALSTAFF. Examiner, October 13, 1816. The town has been entertained this week by seeing Mr. Stephen Kemble in the part of Sir John Falstaff, as they were formerly with seeing Mr. Lambert in his own person. We see no more reason why Mr. Stephen Kemble should play Falstaff, than why Louis XVIII. is qualified to fill a throne, because he is fat and belongs to a particular family. Every fat man cannot represent a great man. The knight was fat-so is the player; the Emperor was fat-so is the King who stands in his shoes. But there the comparison ends. There is no sympathy in
mind-in wit, parts, or discretion. Sir John (and so we may say of the gentleman at St. Helena) "had guts in his brains." The mind was the man. His body did not weigh down his wit. His spirits shone through him. He was not a mere paunch, a bag-pudding, a lump of lethargy, a huge falling sickness, an imminent apoplexy, with water in the head.
The managers of Drury Lane, in providing a Sir John Falstaff to satisfy the taste of the town, seem to ask only, with Mr. Burke's political carcass-butchers, "How he cuts up in the cawl; how he tallows in the kidneys!" We are afraid the junto of managers of Drury Lane are not much wiser than the junto of managers of the affairs of Europe. This, according to the luminous and voluminous critic in the Courier, is because their affairs are not under the management of a single person. Would the same argument prove that the affairs of Europe had better have been under the direction of one man? "The gods have not made" the writer in the Courier logical as well as "poetical." By the rule above hinted at, every actor is qualified to play Falstaff who is physically incapacitated to play any other character. Sir John Falstaffs may be fatted up like prize oxen. Nor does the evil in this case produce its own remedy, as where an actor's success depends upon his own leanness and that of the part he plays. Sir Richard Steele tells us (in one of the Tatlers) of a poor actor in his time who, having nothing to do, fell away, and became such a wretched, meagre-looking object, that he was pitched upon as a proper person to represent the starved apothecary in Romeo and Juliet. He did this so much to the life that he was repeatedly called upon to play it; but his person improving with his circumstances, he was in a
short time rendered unfit to play it with the same effect as before, and laid aside. Having no other resource, he accordingly fell away again with the loss of his part, and was again called upon to appear in it with his former reputation. Any one, on the contrary, who thrives in Falstaff, is always in an increasing capacity to overlay the part. But we have done with this unpleasant subject.
MR. KEMBLE'S CATO.
Examiner, October 27, 1816. MR. KEMBLE has resumed his engagements at Covent Garden Theatre for the season—it is said in the playbills, for the last time. There is something in the word last that, "being mortal," we do not like on these occasions; but there is this of good in it, that it throws us back on past recollections, and when we are about to take leave of an old friend, we feel desirous to settle all accounts with him, and to see that the balance is not against us on the score of gratitude. Mr. Kemble will, we think, find that the public are just, and his last season, if it is to be so, will not, we hope, be the least brilliant of his career. As his meridian was bright, so let his sunset be golden, and without a cloud. His reception in Cato, on Friday, was most flattering, and he well deserved the cheering and cordial welcome which he received. His voice only failed him in strength; but his tones, his looks, his gestures, were all that could be required in the character. He is the most classical of actors. He is the only one of the moderns who, both in figure and action, approaches the beauty and grandeur of the antique. In the scene of the
This is a very much amplified version of the story of the actor, Will Peer, as humorously told in the Guardian.