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In the last scene of Othello, when this noble-minded hero is sunk into the jealous murdering husband, the struggle between his former sense of elevation, and present sense of misery and guilt, are by the poet, it is well known, admirably depicted. The first paroxysms of rage and remorse having subsided, he appears to sink into that gloomy despair, which soon terminates in suicide. In this mood, he, the once high-minded, haughty Othello, stoops plaintively to inquire of his cruel enemy, the motive of his villainy.
Will you, I pray, demand that demi-devil,
Why he hath thus ensnared my soul and body? These words were expressed by Fennel with his usual energy of emphasis ; so as neither to excite censure nor applause. But Cooper, as if forgetful of the previous dignity of his character, uttered this sentence with the querulous accent of piercing agony: his knees bending under him and knocking against each other, as if borne down by the accumulated pressure of misery and guilt.
Every attentive spectator was then made to feel how much the elevated hero was lost in the heart-broken culprit.
Oh now, forever,
It cannot be necessary that I should call into view any actor of the third order: nor would it be agreeable to my feelings to do so; but there are enough of them before the public.
There are, however, on our stage, several who lean to the first and, second classes, though with the exception of Mrs. Wilmot, none are comparable to the actors whom I have above cited.
Having now sufficiently illustrated my theory, I shall conclude by an analysis of the performance of Mr. Wood and Master Barret. The former of these appears less endowed even than Fennel, with the innate fire of Thespis. If he ever kindles, it is in the comic scene. In tragedy, he is purely of the second order. He has no doubt derived advantage from the examples afforded by Fennel and Cooper; but this does not degrade him to the third class; for he never descends to a servile imitation of tones and gestures: a folly which is too conspicu
ous in some others. He may have studied their excellence as he has that of his poet, with a view to obtain a just conception of the principles of good acting: but he does not mimic their peculiarities. Hence his style of acting is original; and though Nature has forbidden him to attain the highest rank as a tragedian, in comedy she has enabled him to attain great excellence. In no character has he been more successful than in that which, of all others, is the most difficult to assume, I mean the character of a gentleman; in which he always appears to be at home, whether on the stage or in the social circle.
Master Barret is undeniably among those, who have undergone a theatrical apprenticeship. But this has been the effect of accident, not of necessity : for nature has in my view, placed him among actors of the primary order. His education and age, preclude him from any affinity to the second class; and consequently, when not borne aloft by his native fire, he must dwindle to the third. This may account for the different impressions, made by his acting. He cannot feel all characters; nor perhaps every part of any character: and when not inspired by fancy or feeling, he cannot as yet find adequate aid, in study, or reflection.
The powers of his voice, and the energy of his action, are limited by the delicacy of his constitution, and the immaturity of his age. Of course those who expect the vehemence of Cooper, will be disappointed: nor agreeably to what I have stated above, can those be gratified, who look for the classical elegance, and correctness of Fennell. The excellence of our juvenile performer, lies in the vivacity, the correctness, and strength of his feelings. In the character of Norval, he excites much apprehension in the spectators, that the anger depicted in his countenance and gesture, will break out in a premature chastisement, of the insolent Glenalvon. Throughout the whole of the dialogue, with this artful chief, his action, expression and emphasis, gave delight to an audience, which though small, was respectable.
The heroism of his deportment, often led his spectators to forget that he acted, particularly in the last scene, when under the agony of a mortal wound; supported by his own sword, and that of his conquered adversary, the struggles of an heroic heart against the approaching influence of dissolution, were so admirably expressed in his countenance and gesture; that independently of the dialogue, the interest of the spectators was kept up for many minutes. All seemed to sympathize with the sensations which oppressed him, and many tears dropped ere he fell.
I do not hesitate to pronounce Barret a very promising actor; and even at the present moment one of the most interesting: for though the immaturity of his powers, may in some respects, render him less competent than his seniors; there are few of these, whom he does not excel, in the natural qualifications of the actor : but we ought readily to pardon deficiencies, which time will rectify; and should not be dissatisfied; if in the opening bud we do not find the fragrance, or beauty of the full blown rose.
• Occoquon, within a few years, has become familiar to the traveller, from the circumstance of its having been made the stage route from Phila. delphia to Richmond. Let the reader paint to his imagination a small river pursuing a serpentine course along mountains that rise abruptly from its bank; vessels taking on board flour under the foam of two large mills, and others deeply laden expanding their white sails to the breeze; let him group with these a tavern, and a dozen other houses erected upon rocks, with I know not how many waggons, and waggoners, a foot-traveller and his wife, emigrating back from Kentucky to Philadelphia, a Virginian gentleman on horse-back, followed by his African groom, half a dozen noisy children, just let loose from an old field school, and the schoolmaster taking the direct path that leads to the tavern, together with the passengers getting out of the stage, and the whole hamlet. gaping at them, while the blacksmith's iron cools on the anvil; let the reader picture this scene in his mind's eye, and he will behold DAY AT OCCOQUAN.
'Tis sweet upon the vessel's side To stand, and view th’unruffled tide; Sadly to mark the silent scene, In the evening's close serene. To muse on one who, far away, Perhaps, beholds this setting ray, And, at the sight, may think, the while, What welcome words, what cheerful smile, Shall greet the youth, whose love-taught toil Has driven him from his native soil.
Ah! how such thoughts can sooth his soul Who bends, a slave, to Love's control! Heedless he hears old Ocean roar And waste his fury on the shore :
Without dismay he boldly braves
Gay Hope then gilds with brighest rays
In gloomy hours a silent tear
Fancy, brings her witching aid,
The music strikes Leyrida's ear!
The sylphs whose wings around her fly,
Well-pleas’d to find their favour'a fair;