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and then, by a smart motion of the elbow and wrist, the hand is flung upward in a vertical direction. (See Fig. 72.) The flourish, when the hand describes a circular movement, above the head. (See Fig. 73.)
The sweep, when the hand makes a curved movement descending from the opposite shoulder, and rising with velocity to the utmost extent of the arm, or the reverse;
changing its position from supine to vertical in the first case, and from vertical to supine in the latter. The sweep is sometimes doubled by returning the arm back again through the same arch. (See Fig. 74.)
Beckoning, when with the fore-finger, or the whole hand, the palm being turned inward, a motion is made in the direction of the breast.
Repressing, when the fore-finger, or the whole hand, the palm being turned outward, makes a motion in opposition to the person addressed. This is the reverse of the preceding gesture; and the motions in both these gestures are often repeated.
Advancing, when the hand, being first moved downward and backward, in order to obtain greater space for action, is then moved regularly forward, and raised as high as the horizontal position, a step being at the same time made in advance, to aid the action.
Springing, when the hand having nearly arrived at the intended limit of the gesture, flies suddenly up to it by a quick motion of the wrist; like the blade of a pocket-knife when it suddenly snaps into its proper situation by the recoil of the spring.
Striking, when the arm and hand descend with rapidity and force, like a stroke arrested by having struck what it was aimed against.
Bending, when the arm is brought into a position preparatory to striking.
Recoiling, when after a stroke, as in the former gesture, the arm and hand return back to the position whence they proceeded.
Throwing, when the arm by the force of the gesture is flung as it were in the direction of the person addressed.
Clinching, when the hand is suddenly clinched, and the arm raised in a posture of threatening or contempt.
Collecting, when the arm, from an extended posture sweeps inward.
Shaking, when a tremulous motion is made by the arm and hand.
Pressing, when, the hand being already laid on some part, the effort of pressing is marked by raising the elbow, and contracting the fingers.
Rejecting, when the hand, in the vertical position is pushed towards the object, the head being at the same time averted.
Whoever has observed the general system of action employed in the schools for the instruction of the deaf and dumb, has some idea of the ancient pantomime, in which the action to a great extent was imitative. The elements of imitative action embrace all the movements which the human body can perform; and would scarcely be reducible to a system. But with these, oratory or dignified tragedy has nothing to do. Leaving this kind of gesture with the actor of low comedy, we may remark, that the Abbé du Bos has drawn the proper distinction between this kind of action and that suited to oratory:-"Nothing can be more vicious in an orator, than to employ in his declamation imitative gestures. The action of an orator ought to be altogether different from that of a pantomime. An orator ought to suit his gesture to the general sentiment which he expresses, and not to the particular signification of the word which he pronounces."
Because we have introduced, under the head of Dramatic action, several elements of significant gesture, it is not hence to be inferred, that all or even a great part of the
action of the theatre is of this character. "The significant gestures," says Austin, "however numerous and correct, which a great actor makes in the representation of an entire dramatic character, bear no proportion to the greater number of his gestures, which are not significant, and which are no less necessary, though not so splendid nor imposing. The painter is struck by the boldest and finest of the significant gestures which are called attitudes, and he records them; they are the proper objects of his art; they are striking and less evanescent than the other gestures, which pass unnoticed by him, although they make up by far the greater and more important part of the gestures requisite for illustrating the sentiments. These less prominent gestures give to the declamation its precision and force. A slight movement of the head, a look of the eye, a turn of the hand, a judicious pause or interruption of gesture, or a change of position in the feet, often illuminates the meaning of a passage, and sends it full of light and warmth into the understanding. And the perfection of gesture in a tragedian will be found to consist more in the skilful management of the less showy action than in the exhibition of the finest attitudes. Attitudes are dangerous to hazard; the whole powers of the man must be wrought up to their highest energy, or they become forced and frigid. Every one will recollect, that excellent players have been seen, who have never ventured an attitude; but none deserving the name of excellence have ever appeared, whose declamation has been deficient in precision or propriety. Where all the solid foundation of just and appropriate action has been laid, attitude, when regulated with taste and discretion, may be added to ornament the superstructure; but introduced unseasonably or overcharged, it is an evidence of deficiency of understanding as well as depravity of taste.”
OF SIGNIFICANT GESTURES AND ATTITUDES.
SIGNIFICANT gestures and attitudes, according to the sentiments of the last section, are to be considered but as the mere" ornaments" of a system, of which the action suited to the orator is the "superstructure." Yet with theatrical action, whose chief object is to please, the ornament is very important. With oratory, on the contrary, whose principal design is to instruct and persuade, the sentiment is the principal thing, and gesture is employed only to enforce that; and this is done by the aid of a class of gestures which rarely have any distinct signification when used without words. They are not imitative,--they are not, in any proper sense of the term, conventional, but are produced by the promptings of nature, requiring only to be chastened and polished by study and art; while much of the action of the stage, especially as it departs from the more dignified exhibition of tragedy and epic poetry, is imitative and artificial. With this additional suggestion as to the distinction between dramatic and oratorical action, we proceed to some particulars touching the import of the significant gestures of which we have been treating, when simple, and also the mode of combining them for the production of rhetorical effect.
*See Chironomia, chap. xxi.
EXAMPLES OF SIMPLE SIGNIFICANT GESTURES.
The Head and Face.
The hanging down of the head denotes shame or grief. The holding of it up, pride or courage.
To nod forward implies assent.