« AnteriorContinuar »
tion; as a speaker, who delivers himself singly to an auditory, and one who addresses another speaker, in view of an auditory, are under very different predicaments. The former has only one object to address; the latter has two. For if a speaker on the stage were to address the person he speaks to, without any regard tc the point of view in which he stands, with respect to the audience, he would be apt to turn his back on them, and to place himself in such positions as would be highly ungraceful and disgusting. When a scene, therefore, is represented, it is necessary that the two personages who speak, should form a sort of picture, and place themselves in a position agreeable to the laws of perspective. In order to do this, it will be necessary that each of them should stand obliquely, and chiefly make use of one hand That is, supposing the stage or platform where they stand to be quadrangle, each speaker should, respectively, face the corner of it next to the audience ; and use that hand, and rest upon that leg, which is next to the person he speaks to, and which is farthest from the audience. This disposition is absolutely necessary, to form any thing like a picturesque grouping of objects, and without it, that is, if both speakers use the right hand, and stand exactly fronting each other, the impropriety will be palpable, and the spectacle disgusting.
It need scarcely be noted, that if the speaker in a scene, uses that hand which is next ihe audience, he ought likewise to poise his body upon the same leg : This is almost an invariable rule in action ; the hand should act on that side only, on which the body bears. Good actors and speakers may sometimes depart from this rule, but such only, will know when to do it, with propriety:
Occasion may be taken in the course of the scene, to change sides. One speaker, at the end of an impassioned speech, may cross over to the place of the other, while the latter, at the same moment, crosses over to the place of the former. This, however, must be done with great care, and so as to keep the back from being turned to the audience. But if this transition be performed adroitly, it will have a very good effect, in varying the position of the speakers, and giving each an opportunity of using his right hand—the most favourable to grace and expression.—And if, from so humble a scene as the school, we may be permitted to raise our observations to the senate, it might be hinted, that gendemen on each side of the house, while addressing the
chair, can, with grace and propriety, only make use of one hand; namely, that which is next to the speaker; and it may be observed in passing, that to all the other advantages of speaking which are supposed to belong to one side of the house, may be added—the graceful use of the righủ hand.
The better to conceive the position of two speakers in a scene, a Plate is given, representing their respective attitudes; and it must be carefully noted, that when they are not speaking, the arms must hang in their natural place, by the sides : unless what is spoken by one, is of such importance, as to excite agitation and surprise in the other. But if we should be sparing of gesture at all times, we should be more particularly so, when we are not speaking.
From what has been laid down, it will evidently appear, how much more difficult and complicated is the action of a scene, than that of a single speech; and in teaching both to children, how necessary it is, to adopt as simple and easy a method as possible. The easiest method of conveying instruction, in this point, will be sufficiently difficult; and therefore, the avoiding of awkwardness and impropriety, should be more the object of instruction, than the conveying of beauties.
There are, indeed, some masters, who are against teaching boys any action at all, and are for leaving them in this point entirely to nature. It is happy, however, that they do not leave that action to nature, which is acquired by dancing; the deportment of their pupils would soon convince them they were imposed on by the sound of words. Improved and beautiful nature is the object of the painter's pencil, the poet's pen, and the rhetorician's action, and not that sordid and common nature, which is perfectly rude and uncultivated. Nature directs us to art, and art selects and polishes the beauties of nature : It is not sufficient for an orator, says Quintilian, that he is a man: he must be an improved and cultivated man; he must be a man, favoured by nature and fashioned by art.
But, the necessity of adopting some method of teaching action, is too evident to need proof. Boys will infallibly contract some action ; to require them to stand stock still while they are speaking an impassioned speech, is not only exacting a very difficult task from them, but is, in a great measure, checking their natural exertions. If they are left to themselves, they will, in all probability, fall into very wild and ungraceful action, which, when once formed
into habit, can scarcely ever be corrected : Giving them, therefore, a general outline of good action, must be of the utmost consequence to their progress and improvement in pronunciation
The great vise, therefore, of a system of action like the present, is, that a boy will never be embarrassed, for want of knowing what to do with his legs and arms; nor will he bestow that'attention on his action, which ought to be directed to his pronunciation; he will always be in a position which will not disgrace his figure, and when this gesture is easy to him, it may serve as a groundwork to something more perfect: he may either by his own genius or his master's instructions, build some other action upon it, which may, in time, give it additional force and variety.
Thus, what seemed either unworthy the attention, or too difficult for the execution of others, the author of the present publication has ventured to attempt. A conviction of the necessity of teaching some system of action, and the abundant success of the present system, in one of the most respectable academies near London, has determined him to publish it, for the use of such seminaries as make English pronunciation a part of their discipline.
It may not be useless to observe, that boys should be classed in this, as in every other kind of instruction, according to their abilities ; that a class should not consist of more than ten; that about eight or ten lines of some speech should be read first by the teachers, then by the boy who reads best, and then by the rest in order, all having a book of the same kind, and all reading the same portion. This portion they must be ordered to get by heart against the next lesson ; and then the first boy must speak it, standing at some distance before the rest, in the manner directed in the Plates ; the second boy must succeed him, and so on till they have all spoken. After which another portion must be read them, which they must read and speak in the same manner as before. When they have gone through a speech in this manner by portions, the two or three first boys may be ordered, against the next lesson, to speak the whole speech; the next lesøon, two or three more, and so on to the rest. This will excite emulation, and give the teacher an opportunity of ranking them according to their merit.
Rules for expressing, with propriety, the principal Passions
and Humors, which occur in Reading, or public Speaking.
EVERY part of the human frame contributes to express the passions and emotions of the mind, and to show in general its present state. The head is sometimes erected, sometimes hung down, sometimes drawn suddenly back with an air of disdain, sometimes shows by a nod a particular person, or object : gives assent, or denial, by different motions; threatens by one sort of movement, approves by another, and expresses suspicion by a third.
The arms are sometimes both thrown out, sometimes the right alone. Sometimes they are lifted up as high as the face, to express wonder; sometimes held out before the breast, to show fear; spread forth with the hands open to express desire or affection; the hands clapped in surprise, and in sudden joy and grief; the right hand clenched, and the arms brandished, to threaten; the two arms set akimbo, to look big, and express contempt or courage. With the hands we solicit, we refuse, we promise, we threaten, we dismiss, we invite, we entreat, we express aversion, fear, doubting, denial, asking, affirmation, negation, joy, grief, confession, penitence. With the hands we describe and point out all circumstances of time, place, and manner of what we relate; we excite the passions of others, and sooth them; we approve and disapprove, permit or prohibit, admire or despise. The hands serve us instead of many sorts of words, and where the language of the tongue is unknown, that of the hands is understood, being universal, and common to all nations.
The legs advance, or retreat, to express desire or aversion, love or hatred, courage or fear, and produce exultation, or leaping in sudden joy; and the stamping of the foot expresses earnestness, anger and threatening.
Especially the face, being furnished with a variety of muscles, does more in expressing the passions of the mind than the whole human frame besides. The change of colour (in white people) shows, by turns, anger by redness, and sometimes by paleness, fear likewise by paleness, and shame by blushing. Every feature contributes its part. The mouth open, shows one state of mind ; shut, another; the gnashing of the teeth, another. The forehead smooth, eye