« EdellinenJatka »
for on that their Authority with the People depends and on their Authority in great'measure their Influence. They should consider, that the Infamy,that the Profession lies under is not deriv'd from the Business, which is truly valuable and noble; that the Players in Athens were honourable, and fo higlıly esteem'd, that they were sometimes Ambassadors, and the Masters to two of the most noble and glorious Orators that ever Greece or Rome produc'd ; I mean, Demosthenes and Cicero, as we shall immediately fee; that in Rome it self, where the Stage had a more disadvantageous Rife, than in Athens, Cicero looks on it as fuch a piece of Ill-breeding and Barbarism not to grieve for the Death of old Roscius, that he could suppose no Noble-man of Rome or Commoner could be guilty of. He likewise calls it an excellent Art. All which is a sufficient Proof, that the Business it self was never infamous in either of those two Cities ; nor could be here, if the Professors of it by their own loose Lives, by an open Contempt of Religion, and making Blafphemy and Profaneness the Marks of their Wit and good Breeding ; by an undisguis'd Debauchery and Drunkenness, coming on the very Stage, in Contempt of the Audience, when they are scarce able to speak a Word; by having little Regard to the Ties of Honour and Common Honesty : to say nothing of the Irregularities of the Ladies, which rób them of that Deference and Respect, that their Accomplishments of Person would elfe command froin
their Beholders, especially when set off to such an Advantage as the Stage supplies in the Inprovement of the Mind and Person.
This is an Evil, which, tho in the Mouths of half the Town, yet to tell those, who know themselves guilty of it, is an Affront never to be forgiven; so much more fond are they of defending their Follies, than of removing them, tho to their own Advantage ; and so much in Love seem they with Infamy more, than a general Respect and Reputation. Mr. Harrington in his Oceana, proposing something about a regulated Theatre, would have all Women, who have suffer'd
any Blemish in their Reputation, excluded the Sight of the Play, by that means to deter Women from Lewdness, while by that they lost the Benefit of Public Diversions. If this were push'd farther, and all Ladies of the House immediately discarded on the Discovery of their Follies of that Nature, I dare believe, that they would sooner get Husbands, and the Theatre lose Abundance of that Scandal it now lies under.
Nor is this so hard a Task but even our Times, as corrupt as they are, have given us Examples of Virtue in our Stage Ladies. I shall not name them, because I would draw no Cenfure on those, who are not nam'd.
From what I have said I believe it is plain, that I wish such a Reformation of the People of the Stage, as would render it more reputable than it is at this Time. I would have no Man
of it a common Drunkard, public Debauchee ; nor fo fond of his own Opinion, as to imagine that a dull Ridicule on things facred will pass for Wit with any Man of Sense or Probity; nor would I have him thunder out a Volley of Oaths and Execrations to supply the Emptiness of his Discourse, with a Noise that is offensive to all Mens Ears, who are not daily conversant with the Refuse of Mankind, but acquainted with good Manners and good Breeding ; nor to be vain of owing a great Deal, because by Tricks and expensive Evasions they can keep a Man from his lawful Debts, tho they might pay them with half the Money. In short, I would have them keep a handsome Appearance with the World ; to be really virtuous if they can, if not, at least, not to be publickly abandon'd to Follies and Vices, which render them contemptible to all ; that they would live within the Compass of what their Business affords them, and then they would have more Leisure to study their Parts, raise their Reputation, and Salaries the sooner, and meet with Respect from all Men of Honesty and Sense.
The Ladies likewise should set a peculiar Guard on their Actions, and remember, that tho it may happen, that their parting with their Honour, and setting up for Creatures of Prey on all that address to them, may bring them in mercenary Advantages, yet that by keeping their Reputation entire, they heighten their Beauties, and would infallibly arrive at
more Happiness (if not Wealth) in Marriages; which they can never find in making themselves subject to the Insults of Rakes, and Infrinities of Debauchees, and other Slaveries and Evils not proper to mention, which the Virtuous are free from, admir'd and ador'd by all.
Thus much I thought was proper for me to say on the Conduct of our Players, Male and Female, off the Stage ; which is a Lesson as well worth their learning as any I shall deliver.
Tho these are Duties which seem abfolutely necessary to make our Players shine, and draw that Respect from the People, which now they want, yet are not these fufficient to make a good Actor; but there are other Lessons to be learn'd for his Qualifications on the Stage.
From his very Name we may derive his Duty, he is calld an Actor, and his Excellence confifts in A&tion and Speaking : The Mimes and Pantomimes did all by Gesture, and the Action of Hands, Legs, and Feet, without making use of the Tongue in uttering any Sentiments or Šounds; so that they were something like our dumb Sbows, with this difference, one Pantomime expressed several Persons, and that to the Tunes of Musical Instruments ; the dumb Shows made use of several Persons to express the Design of the Play as a filent Action ; and the Nature of this is best exprefs’d in Hamlet, before the E11trance of his Players in the third Act.
Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly, the Queen embracing him ; jbe kneels, and makes
fbew of Protestation unto him; he takes her up, and declines bis Head on her Neck. Lays bim down on a Bed of Flowers ; she seeing him asleep, leaves bim. Anon comes in a Fellow, takes off bis Crown, kisses it, and pours Poison into the King's Ear, and exit. The Queen returns, finds the King dead, and makes passionate Aktion. The Poisoner with two or three Mutes comes in again, seeming to lament with her ; the dead Body is carry'd away. The Poisoner woes the Queen with Gifts ; she seems loaths and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his Love.
I only repeat this to thew the manner of the old Time, and what they ineant by dumb Shows, which Shakespear himself condemns in this
very Play, when Hamlet says to the Players -- O! it
offends me to the Soul to see a robustuous Per-
very Raggs, to split the Ears of the Groundlings, « who (for the most part) are capable of no" thing but inexplicable dumb Shows and Noise--
But the Pantomimes or Roman Dancers expressed all this in one Person, as we have it in Mr. Mayne’s Lucian ; where Demetrius the Cynic Philosopher railing against Dancing, is invited by one of them in the Time of Nero, to see him perform without either Pipe or Flute, and did fo; « for having impos’d Silence on the Instru
ments, he by himself danc'd the Adultery of “ Mars and Venus, the Sun betraying them, and « Vulcan plotting, and catching them in a Wire “ Net; then every God, who was severally