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and which are owing to the address and merit of the performer.
Whether this Quality of the Heart be more
important to the Performers in Tragedy, or in Comedy ?
the language to express a very
qualification in an actor, and one which more than any other enables him to affect and please us. The French, who esteem it one of the greatest requisites to every player, of whatever kind, call it Sentiment, a term that carries much the same meaning with the word Sensibility, by which we have chosen to express it ; and by which we would be understood to mean, a difpofition to be affected by the pasfions, which are the subjects of dramatic writing.
It is evident that different people have this quality of the heart in a very different degree : if we look round among the audience at a Tragedy, we shall find people variously affected by the same words, delivered by the fame voice, and under the fame circumstances ; and in the reading, the same scene in a play shall pass offfmoothly from the tongue of one person, while the dirturbance of the heart of another, as he goes thro' it, shall render the organs of his voice incapable of pronouncing the words articulately. The de
gree of understanding is not concern'd in this difference of the effect from the same words; the person who feels least from them often understanding their true meaning, and entering into their beauties perhaps better than the other. 'Tis Sensibility, a peculiar quality in the mind, that determines the force of the scene ; and 'tis evident that this is a quality of more confequence in playing than in any other profession. In what road of playing it is most important, remains to be enquired into.
People who find themfelves naturally of a tender disposition, are apt to believe that they are therefore form’d for playing well in tragedy ; and, on the contrary, those who are of a lively, jocund, and sprightly turn, commonly flatter themselves that they shall therefore be able to shine in comedy. It must be allowed, that a turn to seriousness, tenderness, and melancholy in the tragedian, and a natural gaiety of temper in the comedian, are two as considerable advantages as we could wish in them. They are not, however, of that confequence the poffeffors of them are apt to imagine ; nay, they are so far from alone furnishing out the player, that, at the very best, they make only a part of that qualification which we have here called fenfibility. The sense of this term is very extensive it takes in not only the natural turn of mind in the player, but that pliantness of difpofition by means of which the different passions are made easily to succeed to one another in his foul. The heart that enjoys this, in a proper degree, is like soft wax, which, under the hands of a judicious artist, is capable of becoming, in the same minute, a Medea and a Sappho ; an easy 4
ducility in the wax is not more requisite to fit it for the purpose of the modeller, than is this sensibility in the heart of the actor, by means of which it is to receive whatever modifications the writer pleases, and that in an easy, an uno constrain’d fuccession. Whoever, on a candid examination of himself, finds that he cannot eafily submit his mind to all these changes, let him not think of offering himself to the public as a player. The performer, who does not himself feel the several emotions he is to express to the audience, will give but a lifeless and infipid representation of them. All the art in the world can never supply the want of Sensibility in the player ; if he is defective in this eliential quality, all the advantages of nature, all the accomplishments he may have acquired by study, are thrown away upon him ; he will never make others feel what he does not feel himself, and will always be as different from the thing he is to represent, as a mask from a face.
The being able to subject the soul to succeeding paflions, tho' they be contrary ones, as is frequently the case, is universally allowed to be necessary, in the highest degree, to the tragedian : the common opinion seems to judge it less efsential to the comic performer ; but, in reality, it is not only equally necessary to the last, but even more fo.
The dignity of tragedy does not permit it to represent to us any other than great and striking incidents. The actions of the persons it reprefents are all to be of this kind; and it is there-: fore reduced to a necessity of constantly having recourse to those passions which are the most proper to produce them.
The three great resources of these actions are love, hatred, and ambition ; 'and it is in consequence of tragedy's being ty'd down to these narrow bounds, that the principal characters it gives us are tender and passionate lovers, who generally water with their tears the paths by which they are to arrive at the period of their misfortunes ; generous avengers of injuries, whose souls are bent to appease the manes of their murder'd fathers, relations, or friends, or to give liberty to their native land, by the death of fome murtherer or usurper ; or glorious crimina's, who tread under foot the most sacred ties to raise themselves to a throne, from which they are afterwards to be thrown down in their turn. Sometimes, indeed, the tragic poet has made a maternal, or a conjugal affection, the subject of his most interesting scenes : The first of these never fails to engage the attention and the hearts of an audience in an uncommon manner ; but the same success has not always attended the other.
The affection of an Andromache for her son, has never fail'd to draw tears from even the less tender part of an audience. Who ever heard, without this filent, this most fincere applause, Mrs. Cibber deliver the maternal affection of the widow of Hector, in the natural, the expressive words of
-my swoll'n heart is fullI have a thousand farewels for my son, But tears break in-grief interrupts my speech ; My soul o'erflows in fondness- let him know, I dy'd to save him, and wou'd die again. Season his mind with early hints of glory;
Make him acquainted with his ancestors.
Let him reflect upon his royal birth
Or those often celebrated, but never too often repeated ones, which close the first act.
I'll go, and in the anguish of my heart,
Yes, my Aftyanax, we'll go together;
It may not be amiss to observe, in regard to these last lines, a thing which will however be treated of more at large hereafter ; viz. that it is often neceffary for the actor to facrifice the measure of the verfe to the fenfe. The three first lines of this last quotation, perhaps, never were spoke without commanding the tears of the audience, except by Mrs. Roberts; but the, tho' in the whole, far from a despicable player, always destroyed the force of them by keeping lo