No. 541. Thursday, November 20, 1712. John Hughes.

Format enim Natura prius nos intus ad omnem Fortunarum habitum; juvat, aut impellit ad iram, Aut ad humum mærore gravi deducit et angit; Post effert animi motus interprete Lingua.'

My Friend the Templar, whom I have so often mentioned in these Writings, having determined to lay aside his Poetical Studies, in order to a closer Pursuit of the Law, has put together, as a Farewell Essay, some Thoughts concerning [Pronunciation and Action, [1]] which he has given me leave to communicate to the Publick. They are chiefly collected from his Favourite Author, Cicero, who is known to have been an intimate Friend of Rostius the Actor, and a good Judge of [Dramatick [2]] Performances, as well as the most Eloquent Pleader of the Time in which he lived.

Cicero concludes his celebrated Books de Oratore with some Precepts for Pronunciation and Action, without which Part he affirms that the best Orator in the World can never succeed; and an indifferent one, who is Master of this, shall gain much greater Applause. What could make a stronger Impression, says he, than those Exclamations of Gracchus:

'Whither shall I turn? Wretch that I am! To what Place betake my self? Shall I go to the_ Capitol?--_Alas! it is overflowed with my Brother's Blood. Or shall I retire to my House? Yet there I behold my Mother plung'd in Misery, weeping and despairing!'

These Breaks and Turns of Passion, it seems, were so enforced by the Eyes, Voice, and Gesture of the Speaker, that his very Enemies could not refrain from Tears. I insist, says Tully, upon this the rather, because our Orators, who are as it were Actors of the Truth it self, have quitted this manner of speaking; and the Players, who are but the Imitators of Truth, have taken it up.

I shall therefore pursue the Hint he has here given me, and for the Service of the British Stage I shall copy some of the Rules which this great Roman Master has laid down; yet, without confining my self wholly to his Thoughts or Words: and to adapt this Essay the more to the Purpose for which I intend it, instead of the Examples he has inserted in his Discourse, out of the ancient Tragedies, I shall make use of parallel Passages out of the most celebrated of our own.

The Design of Art is to assist Action as much as possible in the Representation of Nature; for the Appearance of Reality is that which moves us in all Representations, and these have always the greater Force, the nearer they approach to Nature, and the less they shew of Imitation.

Nature herself has assigned to every Emotion of the Soul, its peculiar Cast of the Countenance, Tone of Voice, and Manner of Gesture; and the whole Person, all the Features of the Face and Tones of the Voice, answer, like Strings upon musical Instruments, to the Impressions made on them by the Mind. Thus the Sounds of the Voice, according to the various Touches which raise them, form themselves into an Acute or Grave, Quick or Slow, Loud or Soft Tone. These too may be subdivided into various kinds of Tones, as the gentle, the rough, the contracted, the diffuse, the continued, the intermitted, the broken, abrupt, winding, softned, or elevated. Every one of these may be employed with Art and Judgment; and all supply the Actor, as Colours do the Painter, with an expressive Variety.

Anger exerts its peculiar Voice in an acute, raised, and hurrying sound. The passionate Character of King Lear, as it is admirably drawn by Shakespear, abounds with the strongest Instances of this kind.

'--Death! Confusion! Fiery!--what Quality?--why_ Gloster! Gloster! I'd speak with the Duke of_ Cornwall _and his Wife. Are they informed of this? My Breath and Blood! Fiery? the fiery Duke?--&c.'

Sorrow and Complaint demand a Voice quite different, flexible, slow, interrupted, and modulated in a mournful Tone; as in that pathetical Soliloquy of Cardinal Wolsey on his Fall.

'Farewel!--a long Farewel to all my Greatness! This is the State of Man!--to-day he puts forth The tender Leaves of Hopes; to-morrow Blossoms, And bears his blushing Honours thick upon him, The third Day comes a Frost, a killing Frost, And when he thinks, good easie Man, full surely His Greatness is a ripening, nips his Root, And then he falls as I do.'

We have likewise a fine Example of this in the whole Part of Andromache in the 'Distrest-Mother', particularly in these Lines.

'I'll go, and in the Anguish of my Heart Weep o'er my Child--If he must die, my Life Is wrapt in his, I shall not long survive. 'Tis for his sake that I have suffer'd Life, Groan'd in Captivity, and out-liv'd Hector. Yes, my_ Astyanax, _we'll go together! Together to the Realms of Night we'll go; } There to thy ravish'd Eyes thy Sire I'll show,} And point him out among the Shades below.' }

Fear expresses it self in a low, hesitating and abject Sound. If the Reader considers the following Speech of Lady Macbeth, while her husband is about the Murder of Duncan and his Grooms, he will imagine her even affrighted with the Sound of her own Voice, while she is speaking it.

'Alas! I am afraid they have awak'd, And 'tis not done; th' Attempt, and not the Deed, Confounds us--Hark!--I laid the Daggers ready, He could not miss them. Had he not resembled My Father as he slept, I had done it.'

Courage assumes a louder tone, as in that Speech of Don Sebastian. [3]

'Here satiate all your Fury:

Let Fortune empty her whole Quiver on me, I have a Soul that like an ample Shield Can take in all, and Verge enough for more.'

Pleasure dissolves into a luxurious, mild, tender, and joyous Modulation; as in the following Lines in 'Caius Marius'. [4]

'_Lavinia! _O there's Musick in the Name, That softning me to infant Tenderness, Makes my Heart spring, like the first Leaps of Life.'

And Perplexity is different from all these; grave, but not bemoaning, with an earnest uniform Sound of Voice; as in that celebrated Speech of Hamlet.

'To be, or not to be?--that is the Question: Whether 'tis nobler in the Mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of Troubles, And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep; No more; and by a Sleep to say we end The Heart-ach, and the thousand natural Shocks That Flesh is Heir to; 'tis a Consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep-- To sleep; perchance to dream! Ay, there's the Rub. For in that sleep of Death what Dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this Mortal Coil, Must give us pause--There's the Respect That makes Calamity of so long Life; For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of Time, Th' Oppressor's Wrongs, the proud Man's contumely, The Pangs of despis'd Love, the Law's Delay, The Insolence of Office, and the Spurns That patient Merit of th' unworthy takes, When he himself might his Quietus make With a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardles bear, To groan and sweat under a weary Life? But that the Dread of something after Death, The undiscover'd Country, from whose Bourn No Traveller returns, puzzles the Will, And makes us rather chuse those Ills we have, Than fly to others that--we know not of.'

As all these Varieties of Voice are to be directed by the Sense, so the Action is to be directed by the Voice, and with a beautiful Propriety, as it were to enforce it. The Arm, which by a strong Figure Tully calls The Orator's Weapon, is to be sometimes raised and extended; and the Hand, by its Motion, sometimes to lead, and sometimes to follow the Words, as they are uttered. The Stamping of the Foot too has its proper Expression in Contention, Anger, or absolute Command. But the Face is the Epitome of the whole Man, and the Eyes are as it were the Epitome of the Face; for which Reason, he says, the best Judges among the Romans were not extremely pleased, even with Roscius himself in his Masque. No Part of the Body, besides the Face, is capable of as many Changes as there are different Emotions in the Mind, and of expressing them all by those Changes. Nor is this to be done without the Freedom of the Eyes; therefore Theophrastus call'd one, who barely rehearsed his Speech with his Eyes fix'd, an absent Actor.

As the Countenance admits of so great Variety, it requires also great Judgment to govern it. Not that the Form of the Face is to be shifted on every Occasion, lest it turn to Farce and Buffoonery; but it is certain that the Eyes have a wonderful Power of marking the Emotions of the Mind, sometimes by a stedfast Look, sometimes by a careless one, now by a sudden Regard, then by a joyful Sparkling, as the Sense of the Words is diversified: for Action is, as it were, the Speech of the Features and Limbs, and must therefore conform itself always to the Sentiments of the Soul. And it may be observed, that in all which relates to the Gesture, there is a wonderful Force implanted by Nature, since the Vulgar, the Unskilful, and even the most Barbarous are chiefly affected by this. None are moved by the Sound of Words, but those who understand the Language; and the Sense of many things is lost upon Men of a dull Apprehension: but Action is a kind of Universal Tongue; all Men are subject to the same Passions, and consequently know the same Marks of them in others, by which they themselves express them.

Perhaps some of my Readers may be of Opinion, that the Hints I have here made use of, out of Cicero, are somewhat too refined for the Players on our Theatre: In answer to which, I venture to lay it down as a Maxim, that without Good Sense no one can be a good Player, and that he is very unfit to personate the Dignity of a Roman Hero, who cannot enter into the Rules for Pronunciation and Gesture delivered by a Roman Orator.

There is another thing which my Author does not think too minute to insist on, though it is purely mechanical: and that is the right pitching of the Voice. On this occasion he tells the Story of Gracchus, who employed a Servant with a little Ivory Pipe to stand behind him, and give him the right Pitch, as often as he wandered too far from the proper Modulation. Every Voice, says Tully, [5] has its particular Medium and Compass, and the Sweetness of Speech consists in leading it through all the Variety of Tones naturally, and without touching any Extreme. Therefore, says he,

'Leave the Pipe at home, but carry the Sense of this Custom with you.'

[Footnote 1: Action_ and _Pronunciation.]

[Footnote 2: Dramatical, and in first reprint.]

[Footnote 3: Dryden's.]

[Footnote 4: Otway's.]

[Footnote 5: Near the end of the De Oratore.]

Translation of motto:
HOR. Ars Poet. v. 108.
'For nature forms and softens us within,
And writes our fortune's changes in our face:
Pleasure enchants, impetuous rage transports,
And grief dejects, and wrings the tortured soul:
And these are all interpreted by speech.'