Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

any more than he himself could ever expect it, to see any one of his dramatic works completely rendered to us by an adequate personation of all its characters, that we should neglect to derive such scattered illustrations as even a very imperfect theatrical representation may afford us. Speaking from the experience of our own heart and mind, we should say that the more earnestly and cordially any reader shall have applied himself to follow up the dramatic spirit and expression of any one of our great poet's productions, to the utmost limit to which the verbal text can lead him, the more thankfully will he repair to the scene where he may be gratified and instructed by that far more complete, more vivid and precise expression which the truly inspired actor or actress will always convey to him—even though that perfectness of expression should be confined to a single character in any given play; and in this spirit it is that we return to an attentive consideration of Miss Faucit's acting in the first great scene of Cymbeline.

Here, especially, we find the advantage of this lady's figure, and the dignity which pervades her conception of the part. To this scene, above all others, the absence of these requisites would be peculiarly fatal. They are demanded by its every circumstance; but we see more particularly the truth and forcé which they lend to Iachimo's expressions of admiration upon first beholding the princess; for we must be permitted to observe, that although the mental powers of a performer can do a great deal in overcoming personal disadvantages, no amount of them would be enough to overcome the absurdity, for instance, of Iachimo's exclamation, “ All of her that is out of door most rich!" &c., addressed to an actress of ungraceful or undignified aspect, whether as to manner or to figure. Nevertheless, it is far more important, as well as interesting, to trace in the performer the intellectual powers and graces—the nice and just discrimination of those rapidly rising or sinking gradations of feeling

6

[ocr errors]

K

which pass over the heroine's heart, from the beginning of Iachimo's exclamations to the end of his retractation -which, as we have remarked already, the actress is here called upon to render, much less by the brief words that drop from her lips in the intervals of Iachimo's speeches, than by that mute expressiveness of figure as well as feature, which is so familiar to the consideration of every true physiognomist, as well as to every genuine professor of histrionic art.

After shewing us, then, in the opening of the scene, that unalterable dignity of the woman, noble in mind yet more than in station, which is requisite to prevent the soliloquy,

A father cruel and a stepdame false, &c.from degenerating into merely weak and querulous complaining,—and her sudden joy at receiving the news from her husband, and grateful cordiality towards the bearer, from taking the commonplace character of a childish fondness and thankfulness,--this actress proceeds through the first great trial of her more delicate skill, in exhibiting to us the changing and deepening impressions which Iachimo's exclamations and disclosures make upon Imogen's mind, until it sinks oppressed by the full consciousness of her husband's falsehood. In the varying aspect of the performer, we read, successively, the look of mere surprise at his first exclamation, “What! are men

, mad?”—that of enquiring interest at his rumination upon the difference “’twixt two such shes;"—the anxious curiosity as his meaning begins to unfold itself-deepening into the most painful concern when she is told how her lord “laughs from's free lungs” at those who believe in feminine constancy ;-and so on, by the nicest gradations, to that appealing look, and gesture of unutterably agonizing suspense, with which she urges him,

Since doubting things go ill, often hurts more

Than to be sure they do,to declare explicitly what is the matter. Then, see

66

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

a

the whole expression of that face and figure, thus wound up to the highest pitch of painful expectation, relaxing gradually, yet rapidly, under Iachimo's direct intimation of her lord's infidelity, “ Had I this cheek,” &c.—until we trace, in their look of blank and utter desolation, that dying of the heart which prompts the faint ejaculation, “ My lord, I fear, has forgot Britain !"

The bursting into tears with the exclamation, « Revenged! how should I be revenged?” so naturally expressing the first convulsive effort which the overcharged heart makes to relieve itself, gives also the fuller effect to that sudden transition of idea and of feeling which takes place in her mind, while she listens to the few brief sentences that

convey

Iachimo's most unexpected and most insulting proposal. Here we think that Miss Faucit's mute acting is peculiarly happy. The sudden passing away of the whole cloud that has gathered over Imogen's mind and heart,the silent conviction so instantly wrought within her, that the man addressing her is a villain,--are vividly and beautifully set before us, in that withdrawing of the hands from the weeping face, that gradual elevating of the depressed brow, and recovery of the drooping form, till they reach that thorough clearness of the countenance and firmness of the figure with which she delivers her first call to Pisanio. So far, however, we are come only to the look and tone of prompt decision. That one step further of Iachimo's, “Let me my service tender on your lips," raises, most properly, both the look, and voice, and attitude of the actress to a pitch of proudly and even fiercely indignant expression, the contrast of which to the habitual gentleness, not tameness, of manner in Imogen’s representative, is in strict accordance with the contrast which the indignant bitterness of the speech, “ Away! I do condemn mine ears,” &c., presents to the tone of the heroine's ordinary language. This particular passage is one of those which display to the highest advantage those characteristic powers of this lady as a Shakespearian performer, which we have had occasion to point out in a former notice of her acting.

a

1

Again, the relaxing of the whole aspect, in the course of lachimo's apologetic retractation, until it reaches the dignified complacency with which she says, “ All's well

, sir: take my power i’ the court for yours," requires no less delicacy of discrimination and execution than is demanded by all the earlier parts of the scene.

And in the verbal text of the dialogue that follows, there is nothing beyond the difference between “ You are kindly welcome” and “You are very welcome,” to mark the difference of manner which undoubtedly the dramatist conceived his heroine as displaying, notwithstanding her recovered goodwill towards her Italian visitor, after his presumptuous experiment. Here, again, we regard Miss Faucit's performance as truly illustrating that implied blending of the graceful pride of offended delicacy with the kind complacency of a generous forgiveness.

So far as violent revulsion of feeling can make it so, the passage where Imogen reads the letter from her husband commanding Pisanio to kill her, is the most arduous of all in this diversified part. To have her joyful anticipation of the affectionate meeting with her beloved lord checked at its height by a communication like this—what a shock of feeling for the actress to represent, with no more precise indication to guide her than Pisanio's exclamation

What shall I need to draw sword ?—The paper

Hath cut her throat already! In expressing to us the stunning blow given to the adoring wife by the very first words, “Thy mistress,

, Pisanio, hath played the strumpet in my bed;" the staggering and faltering of her eye and voice, in sheer bewildered incredulity, until she comes to the murderous command, “Let thine own hands take away her life;" the fainting away of her accents at the close, under the withering conviction that her eyes have not deceived her, but that her calamity is real; the sinking senseless to the ground; and the hysterical reviving ;-in all these the actress has had nothing

my

66

[ocr errors]

66

to direct her but her own instinct as to the true spirit of the character and the situation. That instinct, we think, has directed her aright, leaving us indebted to her for so much genuine illustration of the dramatist's conception.

And here, in justice to the performer, we must point out a certain misconception as to the predominant spirit of this scene, which her judgment has led her to avoid. Mrs. Jameson, for example, tells us, in relation to it, that, after Imogen's, " affecting lamentation over the falsehood and injustice, of her husband," "she then resigns herself to his will with the most entire submission.” The critic bere' falis into the error of making Imogen đesire Pisanio to “ do his master's bidding,” simply from a motive of obedience to the will of a man whom she is all the while so emphatically assuring us that she feels called upon to regard with indignant pity. This, however, is but one instance of the mistakes occasioned by the low estimate of Imogen's character, in her conjugal relation, which has been so unaccountably prevalent among the critics; abasing her from her proper station as a noble, generous, and intellectual woman, whose

, understanding has sanctioned the election of her heart, to that of a creature blindly impassioned and affectionate, ready to submit quite passively to any enormity of indignity and injustice inflicted upon her by the man to whom she has devoted herself. The present actress of the character makes herself no party to this degradation. The most nobly characteristic passages which she ought to deliver in this scene are, indeed, struck out, on the principle, no doubt, of indispensable saving of time, especially the grand one cited in our last paper:

Though those that are betray'd Do feel the treason sharply, &c. But it is plain that she has studied them attentively; and so has raised her conception and expression of the heroine's character, as shown in this trying situation,

« AnteriorContinuar »