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SECTION the FIRST.
Of the interior Qualifications which an Au
dience requires in the Players, who per-' form the capital Parts.
A gaiety of Temper is absolutely necessary to the
Players in Comedy, whose Business it is to make us laugh.
F we wou'd be determined by consulting the
we shou'd be for wholly banishing from comedy those characters of footmen, waiting maids and country ignorants, which at present take up fo much of our attention in the generality of the dramatic picces of this clats: And the fame taste wou'd also discard a great many other perfonages of the drama, whom the author has introduc'd to excite our laughter by their pleasantries, or by their ridiculousness.
These delicate judges are for making it a law, that no characters under a certain rank are to be introduc'd upon the stage; they tell us that it is a want of respect to the public to suppose an audience can be entertain'd with people of less importance; and before they will condercend to give their attention to an actor in a new
comedy, they expect him to produce his credentials in the titles and qualities of the person he represents.
It is not to be deny'd, that good comedies may be written without these subaltern characters; but Steel, Congreve, Farquhar, and many more of our own authors, who have succeeded beft in this way; and among the French, Moliere, Reynard, Dancour, &c. Îhew us that these characters may be introduc'd into pieces, which are nevertheless allow'd to be excellent comedies : And indeed tho' we highly esteem those writers, who have given into the other method, and confin'd theme selves solely to what we peculiarly call genteel comedy ; yet we cannot allow they are the only authors who deserve applause in this kind of writing:
Perhaps it is a pretty just observation, that the true end of comedy is to make us laugh; and tho' it may be made to fucceed very well in this attempt, when it employs only the higher characters that are allotted to it, yet surely it is no reproach to it to take in these other, tho' fomewhat lower ones, provided only that they are natural and decent. It is certainly poffible that a scene may give us in every sentence the true delicate genteel comedy, even tho' the characters are not taken from high life, and perhaps it may be said with truth, that there is no fuch thing as, low comedy, except that which discovers a low genius and a creeping fpirit in the author.
Let the poet therefore, who knows how to make a man of the common rank speak agreeably to his character and station in life, and at the fame time to throw an entertaining spirit into his
discourse, never hesitate to bring him on the stage before the most polite or delicate audience : But let not the actor, who is naturally of a genteel and serious turn, chuse to exhibit himself in the merriment of a character of this rank. We have before observed, that the actress who wifhes to succeed, thou'd always keep her mind in a ftate of ease, and be ready to take up every paffion her part for the night requires her to shine by the feeling of; and particularly not to suffer the good or ill açcidents of her private life to inAuence her to any peculiar fettled turn of mind. The comic actor who wou'd excell and wou'd endeavour to please, is even more fubject to this general rule, than those to whom we have oria ginally apply'd it. The desire of applause on their juft performing, is almost the only paffion that ought to be allow'd to actors in comedy: As
general turn of their minds, they should be the moft joyous people in the world, and have searce a sense of anything but pleafure. Above all things the affluence or narrowness of their circumstances ought never to be allow'd to affect their tempers, nor ought they to be ina fluenced by the number of the audience, or the receit of the house.
A person who acted in the double capacity of player and manager, wou'd be doubly subject to be affected by these chances; but it is our good fortune, that at one of the houses, the manager is not an actor at all; and at the other he is such an actor that he is out of the reach of an accident of this kind, as his performing will at any time command a crowded audience.
The ordinary players, tho'not immediately concern’d' in the profits of the house for any single night, are yet many of them affected by a thin company in a manner that
little favours the hopes of the manager of having better success afterwards.
We are' indeed in justice to excuse from any charge of this kind, the persons who might with most reason be touch'd by such a sight, we mean the better actors; but the others, to a man, are infufferable on these occasions. Let us recollect Mr. Quin, and his fellow tragedians, in such a situation. 'Tis a provoking circumstance to see a player like him act the part of Falstaff to empty benches'; yet fuch is the caprice of the town, that we have had an opportunity of being witnesses to that within these few months, and of seeing at the same time that he was above the reach of such an accident, while he knew the fault was not his own. He play'd on this occasion as well as he had ever done in his life; but the majesty of the greit Worcester, Douglass and Glendower, was hurt by it beyond ineasure, and the whole set of nameless things beside that fill the stage in tragedy, as the guards do at an opera, were fo highly enrag'd that the world paid fo little respect to their merit as to go to the other house, that not recollecting they were as much oblig'd to the few that were there, as if ten thousand more had join'd them, they fkip'd over half their parts; deliver'd the relt with an indolence sufficient to prevent any person's coming again where they play'd ; and took snuff, or talk'd of something else in whispers, in the most interesting scenes.
The house where Mr. Quin is engaged, cannot boast alone the honour of having sometimes empty benches; the Tempeft, as acted lately at Drury Lane, had indeed an audience of Calibans in the gallery ; but the pit mourn’d its vacant seats, and scarce ten people were to be numbered in the boxes.
We are to observe on this occasion however, that the presence of a master behind the scenes kept the people employed in this murdered comedy, as much in order, as the incouraging attention paid by a full house cou'd have done; and not a drunken sailor but play'd his part at least as well as he ever did in his life, or is ever likely to do.
We wish to see the laugh of an infelt pleasure follow the comedians at every step ; and we are never so perfectly pleas’d, as when we can discover that in diverting us, they are heartily entertaining themselves.
'Tis only by thoroughly relishing the comedy in their own breasts that they can ever represent it feelingly to us, or acquire our applause by it. When a man gives us all the wit and drollery of a comic character, without himself sharing in the diversion he affords us, the infipid coldness is easily perceiv’d, and we only look upon him as a mercenary drudge, who has taken up the profession of the player, because he had not industry enough to get his bread by any other.
On the other hand, when the actor can bring himself to share the pleasure with his aulence, he is always sure to please: A just relih of the spirit of the character he represents, is the true inspiring God, the real Apollo of the comic player; and we shall never find a man who is joyous in