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* Spectator ; then Venus blushing, and Mars a beseeching ; in a Word, he acted the whole « Fable so well, that Demetrius much pleas'd « with the Spectacle, as the greatest Praise, that « could be bestow'd upon him, cry'd out in a " loud Voice, I hear my Friend, what you a nor do I only see them, but methinks
you “ speak with
Hands. This Instance not only shews the Difference of these Pantomimes from our old dumb Shews, but the Power of Action, which a Player ought to study with his utmost Application. The Orator at the Bar, and in the Pulpit, ought to understand the Art of Speaking perfectly well; but Astion can never be in its Perfection but the Stage, and in ourTiine the Pulpit and the Bar have left off even that graceful A&ion, which was necessary to the Business of those Places, and gave a just Weight and Grace to the Words they uttered. And I wonder that our Ministers do not a little more consider this point, and reflect, that they speak to the People as inuch as the Orators of Greece and Rome ; and what Influence Action had on them will be evident from some Instances we shall give in their proper
Places. ACTION indeed has a natural Excellence in it, superiour to all other Qualities; A&tion is Motion, and Motion is the Support of Nature, which without it would again fink into the sluggish Mass of Chaos. Motion in the various and regular Dances of the Planets surprizes and delights : Life is Motion, and when that ceases,
the Humane Body so beautiful, nay, so divine when enlivened by Motion, becomes a dead and putrid Coarse, from which all turn their Eyes. The Eye is caught by any thing in Motion, but passes over the sluggish and motionless things as not the pleasing Objects of its View.
This Natural Power of Motion or Action is the Reason, that the Attention of the Audience is fixt by any irregular or even fantastic Action on the Stage of the most indifferent Player; and supine and drowsy, when the best Actor speaks without the Addition of A&tion.
'Twas the Skill the ancient Players of Athens and Rome had in this, which made them not only so much admir'd by the Great Men of those Times and Places, but rais'd them to the Reputation of being Masters of two of the greatest Orators that Athens or Rome ever saw; and who had it not been for the Instructions of the Actors Satyrus, Roscius, and Æsopus, had never been able to convey their admirable Parts to the World.
Demosthenes being, after many unsuccessful Attempts, one Time exploded the Assembly, went home with his Head muffled up in his Cloak, very much affected with the Disgrace ; in this Condition Satyrus the Actor follow'd hiin, being his intimate Acquaintance, and fell into Discourse with him. Demosthenes having bemoan'd himself to him, and his Misfortune, that having been the most industrious of the Pleaders, and having spent almost the whole
Strength and Vigour of his Body, in that Employment, yet could he not render himself acceptable to the People ; That Drunkards, Tarpaulins, Sots, and illiterate Fellows found fo favourable a Hearing, as to possess the Pulpit, while he himself was defpis’d. What you fay (replied Satyrus) is very true, but I will soon remove the cause of all this, if you will repeat some Verses to me out of Sophocles, or Euripides. When Demofthenes had pronounc'd after his way, Satyrus presently repeating the same Verses with their proper Tone, Mien, and Gesture, gave such a Turn to them, that Demoftbenes himself perceiv'd they had quite another Appearance. By which being convinc'd how much Grace and Ornainent accrues to Speech by a proper and due Adion, he began to think it of litle Consequence for a Man to exercise himself in declaiming, if he neglected the just Pronunciation or Decency of Speaking. Upon this he built himself a Place under ground (which remain'd in the Time of Plutarcb) whither he retir'd every Day to form his Action, and exer : cife his voice. To shew what Pains this
great Man took as an Example to our young Actors, who think not them felves oblig'd to take any at all, I shall proceed with Plutarch. In his House he had a great Looking-Glass, before which he would stand and repeat his Orations, by that means observing how far his Action and Gesture were graceful or unbecoming.
The same Demosthenes, when a Client came to him on an Assault and Battery ; he at large gave him an Account of what Blows he had receiv'd from his Adversary, but in so calm and unconcern'd a manner, that Demofthenes faid, Surely my good Friend thou hast not fuffer'd a ny one thing of what thou makest thy Complaint : Upon which his Client warmd, cry'd aloud How Demosthenes? Have I suffer'd nothing? Ay marry, replies he, now I hear the Voice of a Man that has been injur’d and beaten. Of so great Consequence did he think the Tone and Adion of the Speaker towards the gaining Belief.
This was the Case of Demosthenes, as Plus tarch affures us, (if I may credit the Translation, as without doubt I may;) and that of Cicero was not much different At first (says Plutarcb) he was, as well as Demofthenes, very defective in Action, and therefore he diligently apply'd himself to Roscius the Comedian Tome times, and sometimes to Æfopus the Tragedian, And such afterwards was the Action of Cicero, that it did not a little contribute to make his Eloquence persuasive ; deriding the Rhetoricians of his Time, for delivering their Orations with fo much Noise and Bawling, saying, that it was their want of Ability to speak, which made them have Recourse to bellowing, as lame People who cannot walk, get on Horse-back and ride.
The fame might be said to many of our bawling Actors, of which number Æfopus was not, yet so possessed with his Part, that he took his acting to be so real, and not a Representation, that whilft he was on the Stage representing Atreus deliberating on the Revenge of Tbyeftes, he was so transported beyond himself, that he smote one of the Servants hastily crossing the Stage, and laid him dead on the Place.
But my Lord Bacon, in his Advancement of Learning, gives us a History from the Annals of Tacitus, of one Vibulenus, formerly an Actor on the Stage, but at that time a common Soldier in the Pannonian Garrisons; which is a wonderful Instance of the Power of Action, and what Force it adds to the Words. The Account is this.
This Fellow, on the Death of Augustus Cæfar, had rais'd a Mutiny, so that Blasus the Lieutenant committed some of the Mutineers to Prison ; but the Soldiers violently broke open
the Prison-Gates, and set their Comrades at Liberty; and this Vibulenus, in a Tribunitial Speech to the Soldiers, begins in this manner
You “ have given Life and Light to these poor inu nocent Wretches
but who restores my « Brother to me, or Life to my Brother? Who “ was sent hither with a Meslage from the Le“ gions of Germany to treat of the common « Cause ; and this very last Night has he mur. “ der'd him by some of his Gladiators, fome « of his Bravo's, whom he keeps about him