« AnteriorContinuar »
vivid medium. The stage alone can thoroughly eradicate those current misconceptions regarding Shakespeare which the stage has implanted. In this view it becomes an indispensable part of the duty which we have undertaken to perform towards Shakespeare and his readers, to point out, not only any source of perversion, but any means of correction, that is to be found upon our stage as at present existing.
The comparatively low popular notions, then, respecting the character of Rosalind, can be rapidly and thoroughly rectified only by a true Shakespearian actress, in the highest and most peculiar sense of the
She must no more be either a tragic or a comic performer, in the limited and exclusive sense, than the “As You Like It’ is a comedy, or “Cymbeline,' for instance, is a tragedy, in the narrow signification. Indeed, the power of competently personating Imogen, affords of itself a far greater presumption of capacity for enacting Rosalind than is to be inferred from the most perfect performance of all the properly comic parts in the world. These are two of the noblest and most exquisitely compounded among the ideal women of Shakespeare, each the ascendant character in the drama to which she belongs. In both we find the same essential tenderness,—the same clear and prompt intelligence,—the same consummate grace and self-possession in enacting those respective masculine parts which the exigencies of their fortune compel them to assume.
The deeper pathos and the graver wisdom which lend a more solemn though scarcely more tender colouring to the character of Imogen, seem hardly more than may
be sufficiently accounted for by that maturer developement which one and the same original character would receive from the maturer years, the graver position, and more tragic trials of the wife, in which the heroine of Cymbeline' is set before us,—as compared with that early bloom, and those fond anxieties of youthful courtship, which we behold in
Rosalind. Each, too, let us observe, is a princely heiress, bestowing her affections upon “a poor but worthy gentleman.”
In a former paper, we have spoken at length of Miss Helen Faucit's personation of Imogen; and it now becomes our duty to point the attention of our readers to her performance of Rosalind—the more so, for the very reason that the present lamentable position of the London stage compels the actress of highest and truest Shakespearian genius that we possess to be enacting this among the rest of her most interesting characters before provincial audiences. During the successive engagements which have occupied her for several months past at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle, we learn, from the journals of the respective places, that Juliet and Rosalind, but especially the latter, have been the most favourite and most admired of her Shakespearian parts. In our introductory paper, we have characterised in general this lady's personation of the heroine of “As You Like It,' after witnessing it for the first time, at Drury-Lane, on occasion of the indisposition of the comic actress to whom it had been assigned for the season.
We saw it, therefore, under all the disadvantages of hasty preparation; and since then, have seen it under the scarcely lesser ones of the very inefficient support afforded on a provincial stage. Nevertheless, we found our anticipations, derived from our general conception as to the inmost spirit of Miss Faucit's Shakespearian personations, more than realised. In her protracted absence from the London boards, we will not specify details of her acting in this part, which our metropolitan readers have no means of immediately verifying: we prefer citing one or two of the most comprehensively expressive sentences on the subject that we find among those notices by the Edinburgh press which, with every variety in their expressions, have been unanimously enthusiastic in their admiration of this performance, which, after its repetition for the sixth or seventh time, we find The
Scotsman' of the 6th instant describing as “now her favourite part.”
Among the notices in question, the remarks of • The Edinburgh Observer (20th Feb.) seem the most to our present purpose. As regards this actress's nice preservation of that identity of dignity and delicacy between the Rosalind of the court and the Rosalind of the forest, which we had especially admired in witnessing her performance, but which both critics and performers have so commonly overlooked, the northern critic says:
66 As we have but too often seen the Rosalind of the stage, she was merely the pretty coquette, roguish and knowing in the small artifices of a cold nature; or, what is worse, a coarse and not over nice woman of fashion, who had laid down her maidenhood with her dress, as if she thought, in despite of the author, that it was actually necessary that she should wear doublet and hose in her disposition. How different is it with this lady's Rosalind! In the most joyous outbursts of her sparkling fancy amid the freedom of the forest, we never miss the důke's daughter, whom, in the first act, we have seen, in the gentleness and unconscious grace of her deportment, the leading ornament of the court of her usurping uncle. never less than the high-born and high-bred gentlewoman.
And then, as to that other important point, the peculiar character which the performer gives to the liveliness of the heroine, the same observer states his conviction, “that the secret of Miss Helen Faucit's excellence lies in her fine intuitions of human character in its most diverse aspects, and knowing that the deepest and most delicate sportiveness springs only from an earnest and sensitive nature, to which thoughtfulness and the capacity of strong emotion are habitual.”
Feeling, so thoroughly as we do, the perfect truth of these testimonies, owing to the very attentive study of this lady's Shakespearian acting which we took occasion to make during her last London season, we
can only add, in pure zeal for the better diffusion of a genuine understanding of the poet, our hope, that so able an illustrator of his nobler conceptions, may be speedily restored to the widest and most effective scene for the exercise of her versatile powers.
DECEMBER 24TH, 1846.
We have only now to add, that the increased frequency with which Miss Faucit has acted this character, has obtained for her performance a constantly increasing appreciation. Thus, for instance, her personation of it at the Haymarket, in one of those rare appearances which, for so long a period, she has made on the London boards, gave occasion to the theatrical reporter of “The Athenæum,' in the number of that journal for Nov. 8th, 1845, to attest her true and exquisite spiritualization of the part-presenting to us, he says, " the poetic impersonation
“ of a vision rather than the bodily actualization of it on the stage.” And, more recently, “The Dublin Evening Mail,' of Oct. 30th, 1846, describing her performance there on the previous Wednesday (since repeated by the Lord Lieutenant's command), bears testimony to “the tones of a voice which is all music, and the graces of a person which is all symmetry, and the charms of a face beaming with the intellectual beauty of genius and inspiration," which enable her to present to her audience “Rosalind herself-the wise, the witty, the arch, the tender, the romantic, the faithful, the high-born, courtly-mannered, and beautiful”-“the very Rosalind” of Shakespeare.
CHARACTERS IN MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.'
1.-BEATRICE AND BENEDICK AT WAR.
(August 10th, 1844.]
AMONGST all the dramatic characters of Shakespeare, there are no two of which the developement is more closely intertwined than that of the personages most prominent in the drama now before us. This developement, let us also observe, is, in fact, the main subject of the piece. We find it the more necessary to indicate this emphatically at the outset, because Hazlitt, Campbell, and others, in their critical notices of this play, have mistakingly represented the dramatic use here made of the characters of Beatrice and Benedick, as merely subordinate to the interest which attaches to the nuptial fortunes of Hero. Coleridge, on the contrary, seeing ever more truly and deeply into the inmost spirit of Shakespeare's dramatic art, instances this very piece as illustrating that “independence of the dramatic interest on the plot,” which he enumerates among those characteristics by which, he says, it seems to him that Shakespeare's plays “are distinguished from those of all other dramatic poets.”
* 'Literary Remains,' vol. ii. pp. 77, 80.