Abbildungen der Seite

Jachimo. This Posthumus-methinks I see him now

Post. Ay, so thou dost,
Italian fiend ! ah me, most credulous fool,
Egregious murderer, thief, any thing,
That's due to all the villains past, in being,
To come-oh give me cord, or knife, or poison,
Some upright justicer? Thou king, send out
For torturers ingenious ; it is I
That all th' abhorred things o'th'earth amend
By being worse than they. I am Posthumus
That killed thy daughter ; villain-like, I lie,
That caus'd a lesser villain than myself,
A sacrilegious thief to do't. The temple
Of virtue was she, yea, and she herself-
Spit and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set
The dogs o'th' street to bait me: every villain
Be call's Posthumus Leonatus, and
Be villany less than 'twas. Oh! Imogen,
My queen, my life, my wife ! O Imogen,
Imogen! Imogen!

In this example we find the fury of the passion very apt to carry the voice too high, but the poet has very judiciously thrown in breaks and alterations in the passion, which give the speaker an opportunity of lowering and altering his voice. Thus the voice is at its highest pitch of rage at to come, when the break and different shade of the same passion, at 0 give me cord, &c. affords an opportunity of lowering the voice by means of a mixture of intreaty. The voice is at its utmost extent of height at kill'd thy daughter; as in this passage he declares openly his guilt, in order to provoke his punishment; but the next clause, villain-like, I lie, gives a different shade of force to the voice by a mixture of remorse. The next sentence, The temple of virtue, &c. has a regret and tenderness in it that affords an alteration of voice; but as this alteration slides into extreme grief, in which the voice is very apt to go too high, the next sentence, Spit and throw stones, hic, by the deep hatred it falls into, gives the speaker an oppor. tunity of lowering and recovering the force of his voice, in order to conclude with that force and ten. derness which the latter part of the speech necessa. rily requires. Thus, by properly distinguishing the different shades and mixtures of the passions, we not only produce variety, but afford the voice such resources of energy, as can alone support it in the pronunciation.

Rule VII. When we are speaking extempore, and have carried the voice to its utmost extent in a high key, in order to bring it down to a lower, we ought, if possible, to adopt some passion which requires a low key ; such as shame, hatred, admonition, &c. as in the spirited speech of T. Quintius to the Roman people, quoted under Rule IV.

The same may be observed of the speech of the Angel, in Milton, to Satan.

Think we such toils, such cares disturb the peace
Of heav'n's blest habitants ?...alike I scorn
Thy person, and imposture.


The former part of this speech raises the voice to the highest pitch, and is finely relieved and contrasted by the low tone which scorn requires in the conclusion.


Gesture, considered as a just and elegant adaptation of every part of the body to the nature and import of the subject we are pronouncing, has always been considered as one of the most essential parts of oratory. Its power, as Cicero observes, is much greater than that of words. It is the language of nature in the strictest sense, and makes its way to the heart, without the utterance of a

single sound. Ancient and modern örators are fult of the power of action ; and action, as with the itlustrious Grecian orator, seems to form the beginning, the middle, and end of oratory

Such, however, is the force of custom, that though we all confess the power and necessity of this branch of publick speaking, we find few, in our own country at least, that are hardy enough to put it in practice. The most accomplished speakers in the British Senate are very faulty in their use of action, and it is remarkable that those who are excellent in every other part of oratory are very deficient in this. The truth is, though the reason of action in speaking is in the naturc of things, the difficulty of acquiring the other requisites of an orator, and the still greater difficulty of attaining excellence in action, which after all our pains is less esteemed than excellencies of another kind); these, I say, seem to be the reasons why action is so little cultivated among us : to this we may add, that so different are national tastes in this particular, that hardly any two people agree in the just proportion of this so celebrated quality of an orator. Perhaps the finished action of a Cicero or a Demosthenes would scarcely be borne in our times, though accompanied with every other excellence. The Italians and French, though generally esteemed better publick speakers than the English, appear to us to overcharge their oratory with action ; and some of their finest strokes of action would, perhaps, excite our laughter. The oratory, therefore, of the Greeks and Romans in this point, is as ill suited to a British auditor, as the accent and quantity of the ancients is to the English language. The.common feelings of nature, with the signs that express them, undergo a kind of modification, which is suitable to the taste and genius of every nation ; and it is this national taste which must necessarily. be the vehicle of every thing we convey agreeably, to the publick we belong to. Whether the action of the ancients was excessive, or whether that of the English be not too scanty, is not the question :: those who would succeed as English orators must speak to English taste; as a general must learn the modern exercise of arms to command modern, armies, and not the discipline and weapons of the ancients.

But though-the oratory of the moderns does not require all those various evolutions of gesture which was almost indispensable in the ancients, yet a certain degree of it must necessarily enter into the composition of every good speaker and reader. To be perfectly motionless while we are pronouncing: words which require force and energy, is not only: depriving them of their necessary support, but rendering them unnatural and ridiculous. A very vehement address, pronounced without any motion but that of the lips and tongue, would be a burlesque upon the meaning, and produce laughter ; nay, so unnatural is this total absence of gesticulation, that it is not very easy to speak in this manner.

As some action, therefore, must necessarily accompany our words, it is of the utmost consequence, that this be such as is suitable and natural. No matter how little, if it be but akin to the words and passion; for if foreign to them, it counteracts and destroys the very intention of delivery. The voice and gesture may be said to be tuned to each other : and if they are in a different key, as it may be called, discord must inevitably be the consequence. An awkward action, and such as is unsuitable to the words and passion, is the body out of tune, and gives the eye as much pain as discord does the ear.

In order therefore, to gain a just idea of suitable action and expression, it will be necessary to observe that every passion, emotion, and sentiment, has, a

particular attitude of the body, cast of the eye, and tone of the voice, that particularly belongs to that passion, emotion, or sentiment : these should be carefully studied, and practised before a glass when we are alone; and before a few friends, whose can: dour and judgment we can rely on. Some good piece of composition should then be selected, and every period or sentence be marked with that passion, emotion, or sentiment, indicated by the words, that the eye in reading may be reminded of the passion or sentiment to be assumed. These passions and emotions we should express with the utmost force and energy we are able, when we are alone, that we may wear ourselves into the habit of assuming them easily in publick. This forcible práctice in private, will have the same effect on our publick delivery, that dancing a minuet has on our general air and deportment. What Pope says of writing is perfectly applicable to action in oratory,

True ease in action comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

To descend, however to a few of those particulars, to which it seems the most necessary to attend ; it may not be improper to take notice, that in reading, much less action is required than in speaking. When we read to a few persons only in private, it may not be useless to observe, that we should accustom ourselves to read standing, that the book should be held in the left hand ; that we should take our eyes as often as possible from the book, and direct them to those that hear us. The three or four last words, at least, of every paragraph, or branch of a subject, should be pronounced with the eye pointed to one of the auditors. When any thing sublime, lofty, or heavenly, is expressed, the eye and the right hand may be very properly ele

« ZurückWeiter »