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with Iago, in the third act of Othello, his voice in the farewell apostrophe to Content, took the deep intonation of the pealing organ, and heaved from the heart sounds that came on the ear like the funeral dirge of years of promised happiness. So in the midst of the extravagant and irresistible expression of Romeo's grief, at being banished from the object of his love, his voice suddenly stops and falters, and is choked with sobs of tenderness when he comes to Juliet's name. Those persons must be made of sterner stuff than ourselves, who are proof against Mr. Kean's acting, both in this scene, and in his dying convulsion at the close of the play. But in the fine soliloquy beginning, "What said my man, when my betossed soul,” &c.—and at the tomb afterwards
in these, where the sentiment is subdued and profound, and the passion is lost in calm, fixed despair, Mr. Kean's acting was comparatively ineffectual. There was nothing in his manner of delivering this last exquisitively beautiful speech, which echoed to the still sad music of humanity,' which recalled past hopes, or reposed on the dim shadowings of futurity.
Mr. Kean affects the audience from the force of passion instead of sentiment, or sinks into pathos from the violence of action, but seldom rises into it from the power of thought and feeling. In this respect, he presents almost a direct contrast to Miss O'Neill. Her energy always arises out of her sensibility. Distress takes possession of, and overcomes her faculties ; she triumphs in her weakness, and vanquishes by yielding. Mr. Kean is greatest in the conflict of passion, and resistance to his fate, in the opposition of his will, in the keen excitement of his understanding. His Romeo is, in the best scenes, very superior to Miss O'Neill's Juliet ; but it is with some difficulty, and after some reflection, that we should say that the finest parts of his acting are superior to the finest parts of hers--to her parting with Jaffier in Belvidera—to her terror and her joy in meeting with Biron, in Isabella—to the death-scene in the same character, and to the scene in the prison with her husband as Mrs. Beverley. Her acting is undoubtedly more correct, equable, and faultless throughout than Mr. Kean's, and it is quite as affecting at the time, in the most impassioned parts. But it does not leave the same impression on the mind afterwards. It adds little to the stock of our ideas, or to our materials for reflection, but passes away with the momentary illusion of the scene. And this difference of effect, perhaps, arises from the difference of the parts they have to sustain on the stage. In the female characters which Miss O'Neill plays, the distress is in a great measure physical and natural ; that is, such as is common to every sensible woman in similar circumstances. She abandons herself to every impulse of grief or tenderness, and revels in the excess of an uncontrollable affliction. She can call to her aid, with perfect propriety and effect, all the weaknesses of her sex-tears, sighs, convulsive sobs, shrieks, death-like stupefaction, and laughter more terrible than all. But it is not the same in the parts in which Mr. Kean has to act. There must here be a manly fortitude, as well as a natural sensibility. There must be a restraint constantly put upon the feelings by the understanding and the will. He must be "as one, in suffering all, who suffers nothing." He cannot give way entirely to his situation or his feelings, but must endeavour to become master of them and of himself. This, in our conception, must make it more easy to give entire effect and interest to female characters on the stage, by rendering the expression of passion more obvious, simple, and natural; and must also make them less rememberable afterwards, by leaving less scope for the exercise of intellect, and for the distinct and complicated reaction of the character upon circumstances. At least, we can only account in some such way for the different impressions which the acting of these two admired performers makes on our mind, when we see, or when we think of them. As critics, we particularly feel this. Mr. Kean affords a never-failing source of observation and discussion ; we can only praise Miss O'Neill. The peculiarity and the strong hold of Mrs. Siddons' acting was that she, in a wonderful manner, united both the extremes of acting here spoken of-that is, all the frailties of passion, with all the strength and resources of the intellect.
* Is this quotation from Tinterni Abbey conscious or unconscious ? In the former case, it seems odd that Hazlitt should have omitted the quotation marks, for, though the poem had been published for fifteen years, the line could scarcely have been, at that time, one which every reader would recognise.
MR. KEAN'S IAGO.
Examiner, July 24, 1814. We regretted some time ago that we could only get a casual glimpse of Mr. Kean in the character of Iago; we have since been more fortunate, and we certainly think his performance of the part one of the most extraordinary exhibitions on the stage. There is no one within our remembrance, who has so completely foiled the critics as this celebrated actor : one sagacious person imagines that he must perform a part in a certain manner; another virtuoso chalks out a different path for him i and when the time comes, he does the whole off in a way that neither of them had the least conception of, and which both of them are therefore very ready to condemn as entirely wrong. It was ever the trick of genius to be thus. We confess that Mr. Kean has thrown us out more than once. For instance, we are very much inclined to persist in the objection we before made, that his Richard is not gay enough, and that his Iago is not grave enough. This he may perhaps conceive to be the mere caprice of captious criticism ; but we will try to give our reasons, and shall leave them to Mr. Kean's better judgment.
It is to be remembered, then, that Richard was a princely villain, borne along in a sort of triumphal car of royal state, buoyed up with the hopes and privileges of his birth, reposing even on the sanctity of religion, trampling on his devoted victims without remorse, and who looked out and laughed from the high watch-tower of his confidence and his expectations, on the desolation and misery he had caused around him. He held on his way, unquestioned, “hedged in with the divinity of kings," amenable to no tribunal, and abusing his power in contempt of mankind. But as for Iago, we conceive differently of him. He had not the same natural advantages. He was a mere adventurer in mischief, a painstaking, plodding knave, without patent or pedigree, who was obliged to work his up-hill way by wit, not by will, and to be the founder of his own fortune. He was, if we may be allowed a vulgar allusion, a true prototype of modern Jacobinism, who thought that talents ought to decide the place ; a man of “morbid sensibility” (in the fashionable phrase) full of distrust, of hatred, of anxious and corroding thoughts, and who, though he might assume a temporary superiority over others by superior adroitness, and pride himself in his skill, could not be supposed to assume it as a matter of course, as if he had been entitled to it from his birth.
We do not here mean to enter into the characters of the two men, but something must be allowed to the difference of their situations. There might be the same indifference in both as to the end in view, but there could not well be the same security as to the success of the means. Iago had to pass through a different ordeal ; he had no appliances and means to boot; no royal road to the completion of his tragedy. His pretensions were not backed by authority; they were not baptised at the font ; they were not holy-water proof. He had the whole to answer for in his own person, and could not shift the responsibility to the heads of others. Mr. Kean's Richard was therefore, we think, deficient in something of that regal jollity and reeling triumph of success which the part would bear ; but this we can easily account for, because it is the traditional common-place idea of the character, that he is to play the dog-to bite and snarl." The extreme unconcern and laboured levity of his Iago, on the contrary, is a refinement and original device of the actor's own mind, and deserves a distinct consideration. The character of Iago, in fact, belongs to a class of characters common to Shakespeare, and at the same