« ZurückWeiter »
all reading and public speaking the management of the breath requires great care, so as not to be obliged to divide words from one another which have so intimate a connection that they ought to be pronounced in the same breath, and without the least separation. Many sentences are miserably mangled, and the force of the emphasis totally lost, by divisions being made in the wrong place. To avoid this, every one, while he is reading or speaking, should be careful to provide a full supply of breath for what he is to utter. It is a great mistake to imagine, that the breath must be drawn only at the end of a period, when the voice is allowed to fall. It may easily be gathered at the intervals of the period, when the voice is only suspended for a moment; and, by this management, we may have always a sufficient stock for carrying on the longest sentence without impro per interruptions.
OF ENERGY, COMPASS, AND VARIETY OF VOICE. An insipid flatness, or languor, is almost an uni. versal fault in reading. Even public speakers often suffer their words to drop from their lips with such a faint and feeble utterance, that they appear neither to understand nor feel what they say themselves, nor to have any desire that it should be understood or felt by their audience. This is a fundamental fault: a speaker without energy is a lifeless statue.
In order to acquire a forcible manner of pronouncing your words, inure yourself while reading
to draw in as much air as your lungs can contain with ease, and to expel it with vehemence in uttering those words which require an emphatical pronunciation; read aloud in the open air, and with all the exertion you can command; preserve your body in an erect attitude while you are speaking ; let all the consonant sounds be expressed with a full impulse or percussion of the breath, and a forcible action of the organs employed in forming them; and let all the vowel sounds have a full and bold utterance. Continue these exercises with perseverance, till you have acquired strength and energy of speech.
But, in observing this rule, beware of running into the extreme of vociferation. This fault is chiefly found among those who, in contempt and despite of all rule and propriety, are determined to command the attention of the vulgar. Cicero compares such speakers to cripples, who get on horseback, because they cannot walk : they bellow, because they cannot speak.
Within a certain compass of notes, above or below which articulation would be difficult, propriety of speaking requires variety in the height, as well as in the strength and tone of the voice. Different kinds of speaking require different heights of voice. Nature instructs us to relate a story, to support an argument, to command a servant, to utter exclamations of anger or rage, and to pour forth lamentations and sorrows, not only with different tones, but with different elevations of voice. Men, at different ages of life, and in different situations, speak in very different keys. The vagrant, when he begs; the soldier, when he
gives the word of command; the watchman, when he announces the hour of the night; the sovereign, when he issues his edict; the senator, when he harangues; do not differ more in the tones which they use, than in the key in which they speak. Reading and speaking, therefore, in which all the variations of expression in real life are copied, must have continual variations in the height of the voice.
To acquire the power of changing the key on which you speak at pleasure, accustom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys, from the lowest to the highest notes on which you can articulate distinctly. Many of these would neither be proper nor agreeable in speaking ; but the exercise will give you such a command of voice, as is scarcely to be acquired by any other method. Having repeated this experiment till you can speak with ease at several heights of the voice; read, as exercises on this rule, such compositions as have a variety of speakers, or such as relate dialogues; observing the height of voice which is proper to each, and endeavouring to change it as nature directs.
HAMLET TO THE PLAYERS. SPEAK the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lieve the town crier had spoke my lines. And do not saw the air too much with your hand; but use
all gently : for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh! it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings; who (for the most part) are capable of nothing, but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. Pray you, avoid it.
Be not too tame neither: but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature ; for any thing so overdone, is from the purpose of playing; whose end is— to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show Virtue her own feature, Scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now, this overdone, or. come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of one of which must, in your allowance, o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. Oh! there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, that, neither having the accent of Christian, nor the gait of Christian, Pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made them, and not made them well; they imitated humanity so abominably.
And let those that play your clowns, speak no more than is set down for them : for there be of them that will themselves laugb, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too ; though, in the meantime, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered :-that's vil. lanous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.
ON READING THE COMMON PRAYER. The reading of the Common Prayer well is of so great importance, and so much neglected, that I take the liberty to offer to your consideration some particulars on that subject.
It is indeed wonderful, that the frequent exercise of it should not make the performers of that duty more expert in it. This inability, as I conceive, proceeds from the little care that is taken of their reading, while boys, and at school, where, when they are got into Latin, they are looked upon as above English, the reading of which is wholly neglected, or at least read to very little purpose, without any due observations made to them of the proper accent and manner of reading; by this means they have acquired such ill habits as will not easily be removed. The only way that I know of to remedy this, is to propose some person of great ability that way as a pattern for them; example being most effectual to convince the learned, as well as instruct the ignorant.
You must know, sir, I've been a constant frequenter of the service of the church of England for above these four years last past, and till Sunday was seven-night never discovered, to so great a degree, the excellency of the Common Prayer;