« PreviousContinue »
To how much greater advantage Mr. Cooper would appear if he would stoop to a consideration of these points, and endeavour to conform to the suggestions resulting from them, few can imagine: yet let the 'most ignorant or thoughtless spectator compare his laborious efforts in Othello with his natural easy and, even elegant deportment in the Duke d'Aranza, and they may readily conceive how much more dignified as well as pleasing he would be by taming his action in the former a little more than midway down to that in the latter.
We repeat it—there is nothing that we expect from Mr. Cooper which he may not easily perform to be as perfect in the soliloquy beginning with “ If it were done when 'tis done,” as he is the dagger scene, or as great in the caldron scene and the conjuration of the witches, as he is in the bustle of the fifth and last scene of the last act, we would not insist upon. Wonderfully and so near to perfection as Barry played Othello, his exclamation of « Excellent wretch! Perdition catch me, if I do not love thee," &c., and his speech on first meeting Desdemona in Cyprus, were so transcendently superior to all the rest,
-one would almost think, so much more than human, that no one ever hoped to see them paralleled by him in the other parts. But without equaling his masterly exhibition with the airdrawn dagger, Mr. Cooper might do much more than he does, with the passages to which we refer. Particularly, he ought to avoid laying such ludicrous stress upon the words “ Shut the door."
We assure Mr. Cooper that it is with great reluctance we speak in the language of censure of any one: we seldom do il;—and, if we are to trust to the opinions of most of our readers, much too seldom. We have been ourselves often censured for our forbearance by those who never took time to consider whether those at whom they would haveus direct our censure, were of force to sustain it, or whether the offence was of sufficient importance to demand it. Mr. C. is one of those from whose performance many lay up their small stock of dramatic judgment, and, therefore, is a prominent object of critical investigation; besides which he possesses, and justly possesses, so large a share of public favour, that, with all our scruples, we are much less afraid of his sustaining any injury from our candid avowal of disapprobation than we are apprehensive that our well-meant advice will be less regarded than it ought to be.
It may be objected to these animadversions, that the audience
take no notice of those faults, and that, if the officious critic did not point them out, they never would be observed, and the people would be perfectly well satisfied. To this we answer, “So much the worse!" The continued practice of such things' perpetuates that ignorance which it should be the player's care, as it is one of the ends of the drama, to remove. Must it not be mortifying to our high-reaching auditors, any one of whom would resent an insinuation that he was not as good a judge of dramatic performances as any other person whatever, to hear how very low we stand, as a criticalaudience, compared with the crowded amphitheatres of Rome before the birth of Christ. Cicero, discussing one of the paradoxes maintained by the stoics, viz. that “all faults are equal," states it as a fact that if a player erred even in one syllable, by making it longer or shorter than it ought to be, so as to injure the measure by a single number, he was hissed and driven from the stage. " Histrio si paullum se movit extra numerum, aut si versus pronun. ciatus est SYLLABA UNA, brevior, aut longior, exsibilatur et exploditur."*-Even those who do not exactly know the words of the poet must, if they have metrical ears, natural or acquired, perceive a gross violation of the rhythm.
The defect we now point out is but too perceptible in almost every character Mr. Cooper performs—even those he has performed a hundred times and more; and though we advert to it here, we do not think his Macbeth has more, perhaps not so much of it, as his other characters. We lament that it has any, to detract from the lustre of so much excellence as we have seen him display in it.
THE HONEY MOON.- -As truth has compelled us to assert that Mr. Cooper in Macbeth, Hamlet and Richard, has this season rather fallen short of his autrefois performances of them which we have seen, so candour demands from us this tribute to his Duke Aranza, that it was considerably superior to his personation of that character when we first saw him in it, some time since in Charleston. Giving it more ease and more tenderness, with much less stateliness, he comes much nearer to the idea conveyed by the elegant author of the Honey Moon:-take it altogether, it is one of the most unexceptionable of his performances, and is at the same
See article Paradoxa (Parad. 3.) Ciceron. op. Verburg, volume x.
time marked with many striking beauties. The disparity of differ-
I'll have no glittring gewgaws stuck about you
Makes proud the flesh that bears it.
Thus modestly attired,
The soft persuasive tenderness which ought to break through his assumed dogmatism, and be artfully evinced by a fond modulation of the voice and a glowing expression of fondness in the eyes, was lost in a formality of demeanour and gravity of utterance rather too stoical for the enamoured duke of Aranza. We have heretofore hinted at a distant resemblance which we imagined between Mr. Cooper, and Mr. Mossop. His duke Aranza was from beginning to end Mossopian, wanting however a little of that great man's strict correctness in speaking.
Of the other male characters, Jaques alone seemed to us to deserve much praise. The ladies were well represented. Volante requires much vivacity and comic spirit, and had no reason at all to complain of her treatment by Mrs. Twaites. Imagining that lady's
talents to lie in a different direction, we were the more pleased and indeed surprised at the handsome manner in which she acquitted herself of the undertaking.
All who know the character of Zamora would naturally expect from Mrs. Wood a just and appropriated delineation of that tender, interesting character, and whatever their expectations might have been, they could not have been disappointed by her performance.
From Mrs. Mason we always look for much; and until something happens to alter our opinion of her, shall continue to look for every thing that can reasonably be expected from great merit, alloyed by less defect than we have perceived in any actress we can think of. In Juliana, she surpassed our expectations. To us the character seemed to be new made by her. It is impossible to convey to those who have not seen her, an adequate idea, or to speak in too high praise of the just manner in which she conceived, and the skill and ability with which she executed the various gradations of change, which the poet has made in the character of Juliana, from the furious uncontrollable shrew, to the tender and obedient wife. Tobin's is perhaps the first imitation that ever excelled its prototype. And his Juliana far exceeds Shakspeare's Catherine, not in force of expression, but in likelihood of nature. He has so skilfully shaded down the various transitions in her temper and disposition, and made them arise from circumstances so likely, and from influencing principles so natural that the reformation which takes place delights and surprises, without violating probability. Mrs. Mason, in Juliana, is the first actress we have seen, who in her personation of the character seemed to improve upon the author's outline. When she first feigns acquiescence, her latent purpose and duplicity are finely marked: and her natural stubbornness, like an ill cured sore, occasionally breaking out, in concealed acts and expressions of impatience, in the by-play of the person and the significant glances of the eye, showed her the perfect mistress of her art, particularly in the dancing scene, during which she gradually melts down into affection for her husband. In a word we have no fear of affirming that, for so much as the character contains, Mrs. Mason's Juliana may be put in competition with the specimens of histrionism which are most loudly spoken of on the British stage for their purity and cxcellence.
MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.Here was one of the first comic productions in the world, played in every character of consequence, to great perfection. To speak of Warren's Falstaff is superfluous: his fame in the fat old knight is built on so solid, long established a foundation that, as nothing can increase, so nothing can shake or diminish it. If we could add to the public estimate by say. ing how much we think of it, we could with pleasure write page after page upon the subject; but as that is impossible, we shall only say that we hope to see our friend court Ford's wife often, and many years to come.-Jefferson is a choice sir Hugh; and Blissett was what every one expected from him, (he could not be more,) in Doctor Caius; and M.Kenzie deserves his share of praise in Ford.
The chief novelty of the night, and on many accounts a most pleasing one, was Mr. Jefferson's eldest son, in master Slender. To a fine boy, and he the son of one of the greatest favourites (deservedly) of the people of Philadelphia, it might naturally be expected, that public favour would be prodigally poured forth on such an occasion, even though it were not entirely deserved: but the general sentiment was disclosed in a manner more judicious and kind on the part of the public, and more honourable to its object:-There was no blind undistinguishing enthusiasm 'exhibited on the occasion. Far from applauding in a way that would imply a gratuitous tribute to their old friend, the audience chose rather to reserve their praises, till it would do the youth substantial credit by being bestowed only on desert; and in the full truth of severe criticism we declare that of the loud applause bestowed upon the boy, there was not a plaudit which he did not deserve. From this juvenile specimen we are disposed to believe that he inherits the fine natural talents of his father; but friend Jef. ferson must excuse us, if, to our wishes for the boy's success, we superadd one, namely, that he may make a better use of them, than his father sometimes does.
RULE A WIFE AND HAVE A WIFE.- Of Mr. Cooper's Michael Ducas in Adelgitha, we have heretofore spoken so fully, that it would be superfluous to say more here than that, as we then thought, so we continue to think it a most able and striking performance; but which, being inferior in variety, and, therefore, affording less scope for the exercise of his talents, we think excelled by his Leon; a character in which he cannot reasonably VOL. IV.