Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

conviction. It suggests not a single movement, but simply preserves the gestures employed for other purposes from all awkwardness. The opposites of this are awkwardness, vulgarity, or rusticity.

7. Propriety of Gesture-always indicates some obvious connection between the sentiment and the action. It implies the use of such gestures as are best suited to illustrate or to express the sentiment; and thus often calls into use the significant gestures. The opposite of this is solecism in gesture, implying the recurrence of false, contradictory, or unsuitable gestures.

8. Precision of Gesturearises from the just preparation, the due force, and the correct timing of the action. · The stroke of the gesture must not only fall on the emphatic syllable, but its force must exactly suit the character of the sentiment and the speaker. This gives the same effect to action, that neatness of articulation does to speech.-The opposites are-gestures which distract the attention, while they neither enforce nor illustrate the sentiment. Such are most of those which consist in a mere swing of the arm, while the stroke of the gesture is wanting.

The Styles of gesture, for all practical purposes, may be reduced to three; the Epic, the Rhetorical, and the Colloquial.

The Epic Style is suited to the delivery of tragedy, epic poetry, and sublime description ; and calls into requisition all the qualities of gesture just enumerated. Boldness is peculiar to this style of gesture, and magnificence is rarely admissible elsewhere; hence these qualities are seldom exhibited but in the theatre.

The Rhetorical Style requires energy, variety, simplicity, and precision; and cannot be exhibited in its highest perfection, without

grace

of action. This is the style of oratory —whether in the pulpit, in the senate, or at the bar.

The Colloquial Style is the opposite of the Epic. The gestures of the hand, when employed, proceed mainly from the elbow, and exhibit only the qualities of simplicity and grace, except so far as precision will follow as a matter of course. The emphasis however is more frequently marked by a moderate nod of the head, than by the movements of the hand. This style is employed in the intercourse of polite society, and by persons who deliver lectures in the sitting posture. The principal dependence, in such cases, for the effect required, is on the countenance, the direction of the eye, and the intonation of the voice.

CHAPTER III.

GENERAL PRECEPTS.

SECTION I.

OF THE FREQUENCY, MODERATION, AND INTERMISSION OF GESTURE.

GESTURE is valuable, only as it illustrates or enforces sentiment. It requires then to be managed with great discretion, lest it seem to take the lead of sentiment, or conflict with its expression. The absence of gesture is to be preferred to either of these; and this, it is presumed, is the cause why so little gesture is used among speakers who have not studied the art sufficiently to acquire a confidence in their skill in its employment. The speaking without gesture, or the uttering of exciting sentiments with only the gestures which belong to the colloquial style, is an unnatural phenomenon—a violent sundering of what nature's earliest and strongest dictates have joined together. The cause of such unnatural disruption, if carefully sought for, will probably be found in the almost total neglect of this branch of elocution in our schools, connected with the idea which most young speakers have, that it is better to use little or no gesture, than to attempt the employment of an agent whose power they have never learned to wield. To avoid the practical errors, then, of speaking without action, or of using too feeble a style of action, the young speaker needs nothing but first to have the full command of the elements of gesture, and then to have his mind strongly imbued with the principles by which he should be guided in their employment. It is to the further development of these principles, that this chapter is devoted.

One may be in possession of all the elements of the most effective and graceful system of gesture, and yet fail in applying them to practice. The gesture may be varied, graceful, and appropriate; and yet fail of its legitimate effect, from being too frequent or too violent. An important general precept may be given in regard to both these errors, viz. :—that the orator should never for a moment seem to lose his self-possession, or to forget the respect due to the audience whom he is endeavoring to instruct or persuade. Constant action of such a character as to attract any attention, is not required even on the stage. Dr. Gregory says of Garrick,—. He used less action than any performer I ever saw.” The orator then may well put himself on his guard against all excess both as to frequency and violence. By so doing, he will preserve his own dignity and secure the respect of his audience, at the same time that he will be able to keep the command of himself. With only moderate gestures, accompanied with moderate tones of the voice, the passions of the speaker can never get beyond his control.

1. To be more particular, gesture should be in accordance with the character of the speaker.— With the actor, the character may be assumed; and the action may

thus

vary as the assumed character varies. The orator, except when for a moment he would personate another, always appears in his own his true character; and he should use caution never to transcend the standard of manly decorum which he deems suitable to himself. This standard however should be fixed with reference to the age of the speaker, and to his position in society ;—more vivacity and variety being allowed in the young speaker than with one who is aged, or in the pleader at the bar than with the judge on the bench.--Within this outermost limit of propriety fixed by the speaker's idea of decorum, there are many stages. The gesture of the same speaker may then vary with his feelings, never transcending them, even though he supposes them below the interest of his subject. The voice also, as the best index of the feelings, should do much to regulate the action. If it be languid and dull, it will be in vain to attempt any thing like energy or brilliancy in the action. So also the sentiment and the style of the language employed may determine the frequency and energy of the action, within the limits prescribed.

2. The orator should adapt his style of gesture to the character of his audience. This is so obvious as scarcely to need illustration. An address to a popular assembly admits a boldness of action, which would be considered entirely out of place in one delivered to a prince, or in an argument before a bench of judges. The animated popular harangue admits a style of gesture bordering on the very extreme limit to which decorum allows the speaker to proceed.

3. The orator should vary his style of gesture, with the objects of his address.—Abstract reasoning and demonstration have nothing to do with oratory; and just so far as the speaker makes his address to the understanding alone, so

he discard all the aids of rhetorical action. The syllogisms of the logician, mere naked evidences of facts, and law arguments, would be examples of appeal to the understanding alone; and any considerable action would in these cases be entirely out of place. Facts, statistics, the details of calculation and finance, evidence, law, and logical deductions, occupy a prominent place at the bar and in the business of legislation; and just so far as these exclude appeals to the feelings, and to the heart, gesture is unimportant. Only that of the most limited kind is called into requisition. Of the same character also are those ser

far inay

« AnteriorContinuar »