Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

entirety. Take, for example, "Antony most Shakespearean productions are and Cleopatra.” We have no evidence given to the star artists is not that it was ever played in Shake- only the fault of the manager-the chief speare's own time, but if it were, the culprit was himself an author-actorloose construction of Act III, involving manager. He wrote great parts, and as it does the necessity of no less than great parts require great actors. Shakeeleven changes of scene, could hardly speare and Adequacy! What a comhave fulfilled the ideal dramatic re- bination! Adequacy! quirements of even those days.

The last of the attacks against the Now, as to the constitution of the modern method of mounting ShakesShakespearean casts of the present day, peare with which I propose to deal is it is asserted that the parts are not en- the accusation that under the present trusted to the right exponents. With system scenic embellishment is not simall respect, I submit that the public ple and inexpensive or subordinate to has the right to choose its own favor- the dramatic interest. To this I say, ites; and surely the manager has the that worthily to represent Shakespeare right to select his own company from the scenic embellishment should be as the ranks of these favorites, rather than beautiful and costly as the subject of from the ranks of those whose practice the drama seems to demand; that it --however useful-has been limited to should not be subordinate to, but rather the range of Shakespearean drama, and harmonious with, the dramatic interwho have not yet gained their spurs in est, like every other element of art inthe wider field of our arduous calling; troduced into the representationfor the more varied his experience, the whether those arts be of acting, paintbetter equipped is the actor for the ing, sculpture, music, or what not. The presentation of the essentially human man who in his dramatic genius has characters of Shakespeare. If we fol- made the nearest approach to Shakelow the argument to the end, we are led speare is probably Wagner. Did Wagto the conclusion that it is more satis- ner regard his work as independent of fying to see the young lady who has the aids which his time gave him to but three years been emancipated from complete the illusion of the spectator? the high school, playing Ophelia and No; he availed himself of all the effects Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Viola and which modern art could help him, no Rosalind, than Miss Ellen Terry, Miss doubt saying to himself as Molière Mary Anderson, Miss Julia Neilson and said, “Je prends mon bien où je le other actresses of their proved talents trouve." All these he enslaved in the and experience. I venture to think that service of the theatre, Wagner's the public is once more right. What works are primarily dramas heightened is this clamor about the modern cast? by the aid of music, of scenery, of atNot to cite more modern instances, let mosphere, of costumes, all gorgeous or us take the cast of "Henry VIII" at simple as the situation requires. the Lyceum. Henry Irving as Wolsey, Stripped of these aids, would Wagner William Terriss as the King, Arthur have the deep effect on audiences such Stirling as Cranmer, Forbes Robertson we have witnessed at Bayreuth? as Buckingham, Alfred Bishop as the No! Every man should avail himself Chamberlain, Ellen Terry as Queen of the aids which his generation affords Katharine, Mrs. Arthur Bourchier as him. It is only the weakling who harks Anne Boleyn and Miss La Thière as back to the methods of a by-gone gen. the Old Dame. How should we better eration. That painter is surely greater this? That

the

chief parts in who sees nature-human and otherwise

as

-with the clear eyes of his own time be breaking the illusion. Even more rather than through the blurred spec- disturbing, however, would it be for tacles of a by-gone age.

Indeed, no the audience to turn to one another man is great in any walk of life unless and to whisper, “But there ain't no he is in the best sense of his time. A castle!” It is quite conceivable that in good workman does not quarrel with former times a finely painted scene the tools his generation has given him, would have distracted the attention of any more than a good general will re- the audience because it was unexpectject the weapons of modern warfare ed-but now appropriate illustration is on the ground that muzzle-loaders were the normal condition of the theatre. I "good enough” for his forefathers. repeat that I can understand such

Having noticed what there is to be writers as Hazlitt, Lamb and Emerson said against the modern stage, let us declaring that they preferred that now see what the modern stage has to Shakespeare should not be presented on say for itself. I take it that the entire the stage at all, for there is undoubtedbusiness of the stage is-Illusion. To ly a tendency, in performances other gain this end all means are fair. Illu- than those of the first order, to destroy sion is the first and last word of the the illusion of the highly cultured; and stage; all that aids illusion is good, all I can conceive that such a one would that destroys illusion is bad. This sim- say to himself, “Why undergo the unple law governs us-or should govern necessary discomfort and expense of a us. In that compound of all the arts visit to the theatre, when I can read which is the art of the modern theatre my Shakespeare at ease in my armthe sweet grace of restraint is, of chair?" I can realize that a satisfaccourse, necessary, and the scenic em- tory result may be obtained by a numbellishments should not overwhelm the ber of ladies and gentlemen in ordinary dramatic interest-or the balance is up- attire playing before a green baize curset-the illusion gone! This nice bal- tain, and reciting the verse without reance depends upon the tact of the pre- course to stage appointments of any siding artist, and often the greatest kind, for the imagination would not illusion will be attained by the simplest be offended by inappropriate accessormeans. For instance,,a race run off the ies. But I cannot admit a compromise stage and witnessed by an excited and between this primitive form of drainterested crowd of actors will prob- matic representation and that which ably be more effective than one devised obtains to-day. It must be a frank of cardboard horses jerking to the win- convention or an attempt at complete ning-post in the face of the audience. illusion. To illustrate this, suppose we Is illusion destroyed by getting as near have a scene which takes place in as we can to a picture of the real thing? Athens; it would be better to have no Supposing that in the course of a play scene at all than a view of the Marylea scene is placed “Before a castle," and bone Road. a reference is made in the dialogue to But possibly the best means of justithe presence of the castle, would it be fying the modern method of putting disturbing to an audience's imagination Shakespeare upon the stage, and the to see that castle painted on the cloth? public's liking of that method, is to If it did so disturb an audience, then demonstrate that in principle, at least, the castle would be out of place. That it departs in no way from the manner is to say, if the audience turned to one in which the dramatist himself indicat. another and whispered, “That is a ed that his works should be presented. castle-how extraordinary!" that would Let us call Shakespeare himself as a

witness on this issue, and show that he not only foresaw, but desired, the system of production that is now most in the public favor. Surely no complaint can be raised against those who seek, in putting an author's work upon the stage, to carry out the author's wishes in the matter, as it is better to follow those directions than to listen to the critics of three hundred years later, who clamor for a system exactly opposite to the one which the author distinctly advocated. In spite of what has been said to the contrary, I adhere to my feeling of the prelude to "Henry V," and contend that in those most beautiful lines Shakespeare regretted the deficiencies of the stage of his day, for it is reasonable to suppose that in writing those lines he did not mean the opposite of what he said, as we are ingeniously told he did. Here it will be seen what store Shakespeare sets on illusion for the theatre, and how he implores the spectator to supply by means of his imagination the deficiencies of the stage. It is, of course, impossible on the stage to hold in numbers “the vasty fields of France"—but it is not impossible to suggest those "vasty fields." Can it be reasonably argued that, because in these lines he prays his auditors to employ the powers of their imagination, therefore we in these days are to be debarred from helping that imagination with the means at hand? But if we would get a really just view of Shakespeare's notions of how his dialogue and action were to be theatrically assisted, we need do nothing else than turn to the stage directions of his plays. To take three examples, I would beg you carefully to read the stage instructions in “The Tempest," "Henry VIII" and "Pericles," and ask yourselves why, if Shakespeare contemplated nothing in the way of what we term a production, he gave such minute directions for effects which, even in our time of artistic and scientific mounting,

are difficult of realization. Surely no one reading the vision of Katharine of Aragon can come to any other conclu. sion than that Shakespeare intended to leave as little to the imagination as possible, and to put upon the stage as gorgeous and as complete a picture as the resources of the theatre could supply.

And are we not inclined to undervalue a little the stage resources of the Elizabethan period? Are we not prone to assume that Shakespeare had far less in this direction to his hand than we give him credit for? Of scenery in the public theatres there was practically none, but in the private houses and in the castles of the nobles, when plays were played at the celebration of births and marriages and comings-ofage, we find that mounting, scenery, costume and music were largely employed as adjuncts to these performances. In fact, when we read the description of some of the masques and interludes, when we consider the gorgeousness of display and the money that was expended for only single performances, we may well doubt whether, even in our day, we have surpassed what our forefathers of three centuries ago attained. So that in justifying the lavishness of modern productions we are not altogether thrown back upon the theory of Shakespeare's "prophetic vision" of what the stage would compass when he had been laid in his grave. These shows were undoubtedly witnessed by Shakespeare himself, and it is, indeed, not unreasonable to suppose that he acquired the love of gorgeous stage decorations from such performances witnessed by him in early life. Take the question of what we call properties; Shakespeare,

than any other author seems to demand these at every turn. Swords, helmets, doublets, rings and bracelets, caskets and crowns are the inevitable paraphernalia of the Shakespearean drama; while as to music, the existence of an orchestra is vouched for by the recent discovery by a German savant of a contemporary drawing of the interior of the old Swan Theatre. This drawing is reproduced in Mr. Sidney Lee's remarkable "Life of Shakespeare," and proves conclusively that instrumentalists were employed to heighten the effect of the spoken words, as indeed Shakespeare's stage instructions continually indicate they should. When we come to the question of costumes, the case is even stronger. The burning of the Globe Theatre-an event, by the way, due to the realism of Shakespeare's stage management-has robbed us of many important documents, but in the inventory still in existence of the costume wardrobe of a London theatre in Shakespeare's time ("Henslowe's Diary") there are mentioned particular costumes for cardinals, shepherds, kings, clowns, friars and fools; green coats for Robin Hood's men, and a green gown for Maid Marian; a white and gold doublet for Henry V, and a robe for Longshanks, besides surplices, copes, damask frocks, gowns of cloth of gold and of cloth of silver, taffeta gown, calico gowns, velvet coats, satin coats, frieze coats, jerkins of yellow leather and of black leather, red suits, gray suits, French pierrot suits, a robe "for to go invisibell” and four farthingales. There are also entries of Spanish, Moorish and Danish costumes, of helmets, lances, painted shields, imperial crowns and papal tiaras, as well as of costumes for Turkish janissaries, Roman senators and all the gods and goddesses of High Olympus.

more

No dramatist of the French, English or Athenian stage relies as Shakespeare does for his effects on the dress of his actors; he not only appreciated the value of costume in adding picturesqueness to poetry, but he saw how important it is as a means for produc

ing certain dramatic results. Many of his plays, such as “Measure for Measure," "Twelfth Night," the “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” "All's Well that Ends Well," "Cymbeline," "The Merchant of Venice" and many others, depend entirely on the character of the various dresses worn by the hero and heroine, and unless these dresses be accurate, the author's effect will be lost.

I have endeavored to call Shakespeare as a witness for the justification of the public taste through the means of his printed words; we have, as it were, taken his evidence on comission; and I could have cited, had time permitted, the delightful scene in the last act of “A Midsummer Night's Dream," which is itself the most humorously satirical skit on the primitive methods of the stage—and the ruthless exposition of which shows how Shakespeare himself, in his amusing lament of adequacy, stood forth as the staunch ad. vocate of a wider stage art. If we are to mount his plays in the manner of his time, we may go further and hold that, because in Shakespeare's day female parts were represented by boys, this system should be adhered to to-day. It is true that the practice is still in vogue in pantomime, but I question whether the severest sticklers for the methods of Elizabethan days would advocate that Ophelia should be represented by Mr. This and Desdemona by Mr. That. Accuracy of detail, for the sake of perfect illusion, is necessary for us. What we have to see is that the details are not allowed to overshadow the principal theme, and this they never can do while they are carefully and reasonably introduced. As Victor Hugo says, “the smallest details of history and domestic life should be minutely studied and reproduced by the manager, but only as a means to increase the reality (not the realism) of the whole work, and to drive into the obscurest corners of a play an atmos

phere of the general and pulsating life by giving a supply of his best he often in the midst of which the characters creates a demand for what is good; are truest and the catastrophes conse- and it is largely his initiative—the stimquently the most poignant."

ulus which his individual enthusiasm The art of the theatre is of compara- and imagination give to the production tively modern birth—it has become of great works--which preserves for more widely appealing, because it has those works the recognition and supembraced within its scope many arts port of the public which follows him. and

many sciences, and because, Perhaps the ideal of the artist is not althrough their aids, it epitomizes for us ways understanded of the public, but in an appealing and attractive form, unless he keeps his ideal high, be sure the thoughts, the aspirations, the hu- the public will not regard him. I do mors and the passions of humanity, as not claim that in this he is necessarily expressed by the dramatist. As Camp- guided by a self-conscious code of bell wrote in his valedictory stanzas ethics-it is oftenest his ambition that to John Philip Kemble:

impels him to the highest work of

which he is capable. He cannot, in His was the spell o'er hearts

fact, be merely adequate. And who Which only acting lends

are the trustees of the stage's good? The youngest of the sister Arts

Despite the dicta of literary coteries, I Where all their beauty blends. For ill can Poetry express

maintain that the only men who have Full many a tone or thought sublime; ever done anything for the advanceAnd Painting, mute and motionless, ment of the higher forms of the drama, Steals but a glance of time.

the only men who have made any sacBut by the mighty actor brought

rifice to preserve a love of Shakespeare Illusion's perfect triumphs come;

among the people, the only men who Verse ceases to be airy thought

have held high the banner of the playAnd Sculpture to be dumb.

house, on which the name of ShakeThere is another point of view which speare is inscribed, are the actors themI would fain touch upon before I end selves. this paper—and that is the point of view These thoughts were passing through of the artist himself. He works not my mind on a recent Saturday night, only for the public; he works, and I when the curtain had fallen for the think should work, primarily for him- last time on Fairyland-when the lights self. To satisfy his own artistic con- of Fairyland had one by one gone out science should be his first aim-and this and the fairies had gone home to bed. is what the public, unconsciously per- I was pacing the darkened stage, takhaps, appreciates and respects. Now, ing a final farewell of the scene of our whatever may be said as to pandering happy revels, when, by the magic of to the public taste, I maintain that the imagination, as it were by the touch of artist himself would not remain satis- Titania's wand, the empty stage was fied with tawdry productions. Even filled with another fairyland-the fairywere the public indifferent on this point land of the Elysian Fields-an unfamil(which happily, it is not), it should still iar scene, peopled with vaguely familbe the actor's best endeavor to aim at iar forms. There, clad in his habit as the highest that is within his reach he lived, was a spare figure, the domed and to exhaust the resources which his arch of whose brow and whose serene generation has given him. It is, I smile reminded me strangely of a bust maintain, a fallacy to say that the man- I had once seen in a Warwickshire ager merely follows the public taste; church. I noticed that round his neck

« ZurückWeiter »