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from the shoulder, extending downwards, forwards and sideways, the arm will form an angle of forty five degrees every way.
When the pupil has pronounced one sentence, in the position thus described, the hand, as if lifeless, must drop down to the side, the very moment the last accented word is pronounced; and the body, without altering the place of the feet, poise itself on the left leg, while the left hand raises itself into exactly the same position as the right was before, and continues in this position till the end of the next sentence, when it drops down on the side as if dead; and the body poising itself on the right leg as before, continues with the right arm extended, till the end of the succeeding sentence; and so on from right to left, and from left to right, alternately, till the speech is ended.
Great care must be taken, that the pupil end one sentence completely before he begin another. He must let the arm drop to the side, and continue, for a moment, in that posture, in which he concluded, before he poises his body on the other leg, and raises the other arm into the diagonal position, before described; both which should be done, before he begins to pronounce the next sentence. Care must also be taken, in shifting the body from one leg to the other, that the feet do not alter their distance. In altering the position of the body, the feet will necessarily alter their position a little,but this change must be made, by turning the toes in a somewhat different direction without suffering them to shift their ground. The heels, in this transition, change their place, but not the toes. The toes may be considered as pivots, on which the body turns, from side to side.
If the pupil's knees are not well formed, or incline inwards, he must be taught to keep his legs at as great a distance as posssible, and to incline his body so much to that side on which the arm is extended, as to oblige him to rest the opposite leg upon the toe; and this will, in a great measure, hide the defect of his make. In the same manner, if the arm be too long, or the elbow incline inwards, it will be proper to make him turn the palm of his hand downwards, so as to make it perfectly horizon
tal. This will infallibly incline the elbow outwards, and prevent the worst position the arm can possibly fall into, which is that of inclining the elbow to the body. This position of the hand, so necessarily keeps the elbow out, that it would not be improper to make the pupil sometimes practise it, though he may have no defect in his make; as an occasional alteration of the former position to this, may often be necessary, both for the sake of justness and variety. These two last positions of the legs and arms are described in Plate II.
When the pupil has got the habit of holding his hand and arm properly, he may be taught to move it. In this motion he must be careful to keep the arm from the body. He must neither draw the elbow backwards, nor suffer it to approach to the side; but while the band and lower joint of the arm are curving towards the shoulder, the whole arm, with the elbow, forming nearly an angle of a square, should move upwards from the shoulder, in the same position as when gracefully taking off the hat; that is, with the elbow extended from the side, and the upper joint of the arm nearly on a line with the shoulder, and forming an angle of a square with the body; (See Plate * III;) this motion of the arm will naturally bring the hand, with the palm downwards, into a horizontal position, and when it approaches to the head, the arm should, with a jirk, be suddenly straightened into its first position, at the very moment the emphatical word is pronounced. This coincidence of the hand and voice, will greatly enforce the pronunciation; and, if they keep time, they will be in tune, as it were, to each other; and to force and energy, add harmony and variety.
As this motion of the arm is somewhat complicated, and may be found difficult to execute, it would be advisable to let the pupil at first speak without any motion of the arm at all. After some time, he will naturally fall into a small curvature of the elbow, to beat time, as it were, to the emphatic word; and if, in doing this, he is constantly urged to raise the elbow, and to keep it at a distance from the body, the action of the arm will natu rally grow up into that we have just described. So the diagonal position of the arm, though the most graceful
and easy when the body is at rest, may be too difficult for boys to fall into at first; and therefore it may be necessary, in order to avoid the worst extreme, for some time, to make them extend the arm as far from the body as they can, in a somewhat similar direction, but higher from the ground, and inclining more to the back. Great care must be taken to keep the hand open, and the thumb at some distance from the fingers; and particular attention must be paid, to keeping the hand in an exact line with the lower part of the arm, so as not to bend at the wrist, either when it is held out, without motion, or when it gives the emphatic stroke. And, above all, the body must be kept in a straight line with the leg on which it bears, and not suffered to bend to the opposite side,
At first, it may not be improper for the teacher, after placing the pupil in the position, (PLATE I) to stand at some distance, exactly opposite to him, in the same position, the right and left sides only reversed; and while the pupil is speaking, to shew him, by example, the action he is to make use of. In this case, the teacher's left hand will correspond to the pupil's right; by which means he will see as in a looking-glass, how to regulate his gesture, and will soon catch the method of doing it by himself.
It is expected the master will be a little discouraged, at the awkward figure his pupil makes, in his first attempts to teach him. But this is no more than what happens in dancing, fencing, or any other exercise which depends on habit. By practice the pupil will soon begin to feel his position, and be easy in it. Those positions which were at first distressing to him, he will fall into naturally; and, if they are such as are really graceful and becoming (and such it is presumed are those which have been just described) they will be adopted, with more fagility than any other that can be taught him,
On the Acting of Plays at Schools.—Walker.
HOUGH the acting of plays, at schools, has been universally supposed a very useful practice, it has, of late years, been much laid aside. The advantages arising from it have not been judged equal to the inconveniences; and the speaking of single speeches, or the acting of single scenes, has been, generally, substituted in its stead. Indeed, when we consider the leading principles, and prevailing sentiments of most plays, we shall not wonder, that they are not always thought to be the most suitable employment for youth at school; nor, when we reflect on the long interruption to the common school exercises, which the preparation for a play must necessarily occasion, shall we think it consistent with general improvement. But, to wave every objection from prudence or morality, it may be confidently affirmed, that the acting of a play is not so conducive to improvement in elocution, as the speaking of single speeches.
In the first place, the acting of plays is of all kinds of delivery the most difficult; and therefore, cannot be the most suitable exercise for boys, at school. In the next place, a dramatic performance requires so much attention to the deportment of the body, so varied an expression of the passions, and so strict an adherence to character, that elocution is in danger of being neglected; besides, exact propriety of action, and a nice discrimination of the passions, however essential on the stage, are but of secondary importance in a school. It is plain, open, distinct and forcible pronunciation, which school boys should aim at; and not that quick transition from one passion to another, that archness of look, and that jeu de theatre, as it is called, so essential to a tolerable dramatic exhibition, and which actors themselves can scarcely attain. In short, it is speaking, rather than acting, which school boys should be taught; while the performance