« AnteriorContinuar »
of the pulpit or the Bible with the hands, or stamping with the feet; or, except under very special circumstances, weeping so as to distort the countenance, or interrupt the regular flow of delivery.—How different the effect of such exhibitions, from that produced by the earnest but graceful action of him who stands up in the true dignity of an ambassador for Christ; and, while perhaps the manly tears may dim his eye or fall in rapid succession over his cheek, yet with firm and unfaltering voice, prays his fellow men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God!
I shall close these suggestions with a few words in regard to the proper structure of pulpits.—From time immemorial, both in England and in this country, the local situation of the preacher has been any thing but favorable for either the graces or energies of delivery. The state of things in this respect is improving; and just as soon as the principles of delivery are properly understood by those who occupy our pulpits, will there be a universal change.—The platform upon which the preacher stands, should be raised only about as high as the breasts of the congregation; and for extemporaneous delivery, all that is required farther is a chair or sofa, and a table not sufficiently high to embarrass the action of the speaker. The lights also should be movable; and, if possible, should be so arranged as not to interfere with the free action of the arms, even when in the horizontal oblique or extended positions. Till our churches shall be generally arranged according to some such plan, our pulpit orators will have to modify their action to conform to the various situations in which they may be placed, and sometimes almost wholly to refrain from gesture; or else become themselves the subjects of unpleasant criticisms, which, however, properly belong not to them, but to the place in which they officiate.
OF THE ACTION ADAPTED TO DRAMATIC REPRESEN.
OF THE ELEMENTS OF DRAMATIC ACTION.
Of the vocal expression adapted to the Drama, nothing remains to be said. The vocal elements have been so fully presented, and so many hints have been given in regard to their employment for purposes of expression, that it is believed nothing but practice on proper examples is requisite, to give to the learner all the vocal capabilities possessed by the most distinguished orators or actors. As however this Manual has in view mainly to assist in forming the orator, most of the examples given have been selected with reference to this.-Even the elements however of Dramatic action have not all been presented. This section is intended to supply this defect.
It would not perhaps be entirely easy to point out the precise difference between the action suited to oratory,
and that of the stage. The principle, however, on which this difference depends has been before hinted at: the actor appears in an assumed character, while the orator appears
It is the part of the actor, then, to represent and sustain the character which he has assumed; and this may be entirely at variance with the dignity of oratory. The actor personates every passion and feeling which makes up the human character,—from the nobler passions and manners of the hero, down through those of common life, even to the vulgarity of the buffoon; hence the different grades of actors, from the tragedian down to the performer of low comedy. He may imitate nature ; while imitative action is denied to the orator. He may be affected, he may be extravagant, or exhibit the weakness of ungovernable emotion; while, as regards the orator, affectation defeats his objects, extravagance disgusts his audience and renders him ridiculous, and weakness gives him over to contempt.
in his own.
We here find a sufficient reason, why the action of the theatre can never be taken as a model for the orator. Yet as in the theatre all the qualities of perfect gesture are required, the action of the stage may furnish many useful hints to the discriminating orator. It has been well said, “ He may learn from the theatre energy, variety and precision of action. The simplicity of action he must derive from his own unaffected sincerity; and grace from habit and taste. And as to the other qualities, he must know how to use them discreetly, or to retrench them altogether. But he must carefully guard against attempting to introduce the full license of theatrical action into rhetorical delivery of
If he be a mere imitator, and cannot discriminate, his gesture will be the subject of just reprehension.”
Dramatic action, as distinguished from oratorical, consists, then, primarily, in the exhibitions of other passions, or of the same passions in a higher degree of excitement. The tendency of this excitement is—to render the muscles rigid, to lengthen the step, and to give rapidity to all the movements of the body. A secondary element of difference may now be presented, which is found in the fact, that the actor has for his object to please rather than instruct. Hence, if he can better accomplish his object thereby, his action may take the lead of his sentiment, and become itself as it not unfrequently does upon the stage, the chief object of attraction. To render it thus, he not only uses all the varied
action allowed to the orator, but uses it inore freely than oratory allows; and superadds to this, as we have just suggested, other elements of gesture still, by the employment of which Boldness and Magnificence of gesture are produced, which constitute the chief characteristics of the Epic style. The principal of these new elements we shall now enumerate.
THE FEET AND LOWER LIMBS.- Under the influence of strong excitement, as when one advances with boldness or retires in alarmn, the positions of the feet before described may be exhibited in what may properly be called an extended state, which consists simply in a wider separation of the feet. The moderate step, which is most graceful in oratory, in the theatre may often become a stride; and while the orator is limited to the simple movement of advancing and retiring, and that by a single step, the actor may traverse the whole stage, as he is moved by passion or by the circumstances of the scene.—Instead of moving on the stage only backwards and forwards, in dramatic action and in all dialogue the movement may be lateral. If it is in the direction of the free foot, the person is said to traverse, and he falls into the same position as when he advances. If the movement is in the contrary direction from the free foot, he crosses ;—if from the second position, carrying the free foot forward of the other, and falling into the first position of that foot; if from the first, carrying it behind the other and falling into the second position of the advanced foot. It is by the aid of the lower limbs also, that the actor kneels, or starts, or stamps.
The Trunk.-- The erect posture has been presented as the only one suited to the dignity of the orator. Indeed the manly attitude of the body, which neither inclines nor stoops, with the head in an erect and natural position, as exhibited in the painting of Washington by Trumbull, * may be presented as the very symbol of dignity. Grief depresses the body, and the person under its influence is said to be cast down ; while pride may throw the body back too far. The expression of the passions however depends ·more upon the head than upon the trunk, which rarely gives any expression but in sympathy with the lower limbs, as in kneeling or prostration, or with the head, or the arms and hands.
THE HEAD AND EYES.—When the head is hung down, it expresses humility; when turned upwards, arrogance; and when inclined to one side, languor or indifference. Beside these, and, says Quintilian, “beside those motions, which by a nod signify assent, or rejection, or approbation; there are other motions of the head known and common to all, which express modesty, doubt, admiration, and indignation.” These are expressions which oratory has little occasion to exhibit: hence a reference to them has been reserved for this place.— The positions of the head, which have been distinctly designated, and most of which are used only in theatrical expression, are as follows:
The Head alone. Inclined. Erect. Assenting. Denying. Shaking. Tossing. Aside.
The Head considered with reference
THE COUNTENANCE.-" It is of man alone,” says Sir Charles Bell, that we can with strict propriety say, the
* This portrait is in the gallery of paintings belonging to Yale College; an engraving of it may be found in the National Portrait Gallery, vol. i.