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The Dramatic Observer.
These lines and thoughts are few that thus I send,
Farewell! the taper burning to its close,
And with Childe Harold cry, Good night'- Good night.'
IN our last we promised a notice of the revival of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," which was lately performed at the Theatre Royal. We were gratified to find that the old Drama was not neglected, and although this was not one of the plays we would be most anxious to see awakened from the slumber of oblivion, we were pleased with the hope it afforded of the production of other and better pieces of the same school.
This play which Malone conjectures in his chronology to be the last of Shakespeare's composition, and to have been written in his retirement in the country after quitting the Theatre, about three years before his death, was, perhaps, an injudicious selection for the purpose of performance; it possesses but few marks of that great genius which is evident in Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and the Tempest-he poetry but seldom aspires to beauty, and the incidents are in many places uninteresting. and unnatural. We would not, however, be understood to deny the wit of Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, which is eminently comic, but, with the exception of their characters and that of Malvolio, we do not recognise much in the piece to amuse an audience. The first scene, according to the original, is the Duke Orsino's palace, in which he reveals his love for Olivia-to this follows the shipwreck, and the landing of Viola-the plot then proceeds with Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, &c. which is succeeded by the Duke's palace,-in which latter scene Viola is introduced in Orsino's service, and as having already been far advanced in his favor-here probability is in some measure shocked by the short space between her landing, and her final establishment at the palace, which the play
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states to be three days, but which no rational being could imagineto be three hours either from the perusal or the performance. In the revived play the sea coast is the first scene, and Viola is at once brought forward, by this means throwing back the time of her reaching the shore to the earliest event in the piece we are fully of opinion that this was judicious, not for the reason alluded to, but because it leaves out a short and uninteresting scene which occurs in the old edition, while the opening speech (which is the best, perhaps, in the Drama) is preserved in another place. We endeavoured to trace the scenes, as they passed on the stage, in a copy which we held in our hands, but this was impracticable, for they were so reversed, and so altered, that we found ourselves unable to follow them, and we were obliged to be satisfied with obtaining a glimpse here and there of the words which the actors were delivering. We observed that, with that spirit which has hitherto marked almost all the revisers of Shakespeare's text, there were great liberties taken with this comedy by the introduction of songs, glees, and duetts, and, had we not known it before, we should have been disposed to consider it as an opera. Amongst other improprieties of this kind we rema: ked that of giving a duett to Olivia and Viola in the first scene between them, which not only outrages nature, from the situation in which they are at the time, but is in itself a sorry amusement for auditors: in Act 2d, Scene 3d, a body of hawkers are brought out for the purpose of singing a chorus; which hawkers and which chorus were never dreamt of by Shakespeare (at least according to those editions which we have seen)—a serenade and a multitude of men and women are introduced under the windows of Olivia, which were equally foreign to the author's design; and in the fourth act, which certainly from its brevity required some addition, the mask of Ceres and Juno is represented, with splendid scenery and dresses.
On the general impression of this play we are not disposed to think favorably of its reception-its comic resources are now obsolete, and the nature of their drift is not now understood-Doctor Johnson fully appreciated its merits when he made the following observation, "the soliloquy of Malvolio is truly comic; but he is betrayed to ridicule merely by his pride. The marriage of Olivia, and the succeeding perplexity, though well enough contrived to divert on the stage, wants credibility, and fails to produce the proper instruction required in the drama, as it exhibits no just picture of life."
As innovations in the musical department were made with so unsparing a hand, we were surprised that they did not put in a grand finale to the exclusion of the clowns little ballad of
When that I was and a little tiny boy, &c.
Mr. Frederick Jones, made his first appearance on the second of February, in the character of Iago. The motives which induced him to this were of such a nature as precluded the danger of an unfavourable reception, and a crowded auditory assembled to witness the performance. Under the circumstances to which we have alluded, and in con
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sideration of his first effort, we will forbear offering any criticism upon his histrionic talents; but with sincerity and candor we will suggest to him a few improvements in his manner. The changes of his features, and the expression of his countenance are not sufficiently marked-it would be well did Mr. J. give the transitions of attitude less frequently, and, dwelling longer on a natural position, assume a style of acting more decisive the arms should not be moved so rapidly, their motion should be governed by the passions, and the voice should not be used in a hurried way, but with more calmness and coolness. Of Mr. Warde's Othello we cannot speak too highly-we think this gentleman is considerably improved since we remember to have seen him first, and his performance of this character convinced us that he possesses an original genius. In the deeply-wrought and impassioned parts he was not so effective as Kean, but on the general impression we were seldom better pleased. His delivery of that beautiful passage
Farewell the tranquil mind, &c.
was excellent. We did not think his address to the Senate was well delivered, nor his scene with Desdemona and Ludovico-but his concluding scene recovered him in our estimation, and, when he finds he has wronged Cassio,
I ask your pardon
was inimitably given. Of the other characters in which we have lately witnessed this gentleman, Chamont in the "Orphan" was the principal. We would observe in this play, that the incident upon which the plot turns is not only improbable but revolting-the catastrophe is a disgusting picture of sin and bloodshed-and there is no virtuous feeling awakened throughout the entire. Otway, who was a beautiful poet, and produced one of the finest dramas in our language, had a vile taste for corrupt and dangerous wit:-he possessed an ascendancy over the heart, and entering its deepest recesses he pourtrayed it in all its secret associations, tore off the veil of affectation and disguise, and exposed it without mercy in all its naked deformity. Who could read the original scenes of "Venice Preserved?"-we forbear dwelling on them-they are offensive to the most abandoned judgment. We would be happy to understand that the "Orphan" was dismissed from the stage. Mr. Warde gave a chaste delineation of the impetuous Chamont, who, by the bye, is the only living character, with the exception of Acasto, at the conclusion of the piece. Mr. Holman earned a reputation in the personification of the Young Soldier, and in that celebrated passage,
Take him to your closet, and teach him better manners
He was considered to have excelled. In that part where Chamont describes his mother's dying commands, Mr. Warde reminded us strongly of Mr. M'Cready- the choaking utterance-the suppressed sighs-were
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all in the style of that actor, and we could not avoid remarking the similitude. There were several passages in which Mr. W. won our applause, ut in none more than in the scene where he upbraids Acasto with Castalio's supposed villainy. We also saw him in Macduff, which is rather below his abilities; we remember Mr. Huntley in this part, and we believe on drawing a comparison we were inclined to consider that he was better than Mr. W. in that scene where he hears of his wife's death; the sudden burst of agony with which Macduff exclaims
He has no children
was finely and naturally given by Huntley. On discovering the murder of the King Mr. W. was very effective. Edgar, in "King Lear" is one of these characters which require a peculiar talent, and in which few performers have excelled. Mr. Conway and Mr. Huntley were the best representatives we had previously seen of it, and it is no small degree of approbation to say that Mr. Warde was infinitely better than
It is not without considerable pleasure we notice the further progress of Miss Kelly's fame-with all our recollections of the excellence of a late actress we could not withhold our warmest approval of her chaste personification of Desdemona-it was a beautiful piece of acting, and had indeed few faults. There was a delicate simplicity about her action, an unaffected manner in her delivery-that fascinated us. To point out those parts where she excelled would be to trace something that was generally attractive, and dwell upon the minute parts of its loveliness. Her early scenes with Othello-her innocent expression of voice and feature when she pleads for Cassio's restitution, her broken-hearted torn when she learns that he doubts her—her struggles to recover his affection, and to convince him that she is faithful-were all eminently natural. Her final scene, however, was not so well; but in making this observation we would remark that the catastrophe of this play is awkwardly managed, and it is almost impossible to render it, at least on Desdemona's part, either effective or just. We regretted to find that Miss Kelly was to perform Monimia in the " Orphan," and, as we anticipated, she utterly failed.
We are sorry we do not oftener see Miss Lacy in those characters which her abilities render interesting, and we were not a little disappointed to observe that the part of Virginia, which was written for her by Mr. Sheridan Knowles, was lately played by Miss S. Booth. Without detracting from the merit of this lady, we must observe that our remembrance of Miss Lacy's performance led us to think that Miss B. did not give that coloring to the distress of the Roman Maid, of which we imagined the design susceptible. The scene between Virginius and his daughter is so beautifully conceived and so delicately furnished that it requires an intimate acquaintance with the fine touches of feeling to render it all the author intended-here Miss Lacy was extremely affecting-because she was extremely natural, and we do not recollect to
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have seen a more faithful representation of a just and admirable original. Miss Lacy's Portia is also well imagined, and we would be glad that those talents which none can question would come more frequently before us.
Of Miss Booth's general performance it is but justice to say that she acquits herself with considerable eclat in a certain range of comedy, but she does not possess the requisites which are necessary to tragedy.
There has been no augmentation in the number or talents of the ladies at the Theatre since our last notice. Miss Byrne still holds the ascendancy in the vocal department, and Mrs. Austin, who certainly executes with much skill the difficult songs that she sometimes undertakes, is still a great defaulter in the articulation of her words. Mrs. Haydn Corri does not appear to be a favorite-at least, she has not yet given us any reason to think she is capable of playing Polly which, however, she attempted. Mrs. Humby has no rival, and with a countenance over which a mingled innocence and roguishness continually play, she perforins to an audience fascinated by her sprightliness. Mrs. Searle and Miss H. Lacy still hold their empire on “ light fantastic toe"-but in making a comparison between those ladies we would remark that however Mrs. Searle may captivate by the brilliancy of her execution and skill, Miss H. Lacy always gains our applause by the simplicity and retiring modesty of her manner.
Mr. Cobham is still affeeted by an unalterable walk;- we are sorry for it. Siccius Dentatus, Acasto, and the rest suffer much by it, and to those who observe it we are sure its sameness must appear unnatural. Is it difficult to walk in upon the stage as if it were a private room?cannot an actor persuade himself to be at repose, and tread the boards without bombast or affectation?
We have not been favored often by Mr. Farren's appearance-but as we owe to his exertions the excellent arrangements of the Theatre we have more to acknowledge than the merits of his acting. The design is hastening rapidly to completion-the entrances have been greatly improved since the opening, and the lobbies and other passages are now neat and comfortable.
Why does Mr. Hamerton play Alonzo, Castalio, or any other character in tragedy?-his face, his action, and his delivery are continually at war with nature.—Mr. Armstrong went on better in Polydore than we suspected he would-this gentleman is very useful and efficient.—Mr. Cunningham has been a long time on the stage, and we are unwilling to speak of him-but if it had been the commencement of his career we would have advised him to adopt any other profession in preference.
The principal novelty which has been lately presented is Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp"-of the scenery and decorations &c. too much cannot be said.-The plot is drawn from the Arabian Fable bearing that name, and there is scarcely any variation from the original; the drainatist wherever he has changed the story has not improved it, for we do not think it combines so much interest as the enthusiasm of an earlier day threw round the former. The rapid succession of beautiful and