Page images
PDF
EPUB

according to the fashion of the period. The memories of Drumclog were all unavailing in the presence of this fell prelatic beast.”

some artistic feeling displayed—when the wind off the Solway swept in gusts off the dismal and dangerous Lochar Moss, making the branches of trees to groan, and the windows of the old house rattle, the Laird of Lag might be looked for. Then, the company seated, and the dining-room being left sufficiently dim and mysterious by the unsnuffed light of a couple of the miserable 'moulded' candles of those days, a moaning most melancholy is heard, and anon the door is slowly opened, and the end of Lag's long nose appears, then the glaring eyes and long ears of the creature, who proceeds, with stealthy steps and head on one side, to listen for sounds of a house-conventicle, and to smell out Covenanters under the sideboard and other likely places. The performance usually ends with an attempt to pounce on and capture a little Whig body with frills round her ankles

To this description is appended a picture of Miss Edgar in the character of Lag, and certainly the “ make-up” would not discredit even this age of theatrical ingenuity. Old Sir Robert Redgauntlet himself could not have looked more "gash and ghastly ” as he lay wrapped in his velvet gown with his gouty feet on a cradle, and Major Weir grinning opposite to him in a red-laced coat and the laird's own wig on its ill-favoured head.

NOT GLAD, NOR SAD.

You sang a little song to-day,
It was not sad, it was not gay,
The very theme was nigh out-worn :
Two lovers met, as lovers may,
They had not met-since yesterday-
They must not meet again—till morn!

And did they meet again, my dear :-
Did morning come and find them here,
To see each other's eyes again ?
Alas, on that you are not clear,
For hearts will shift as winds will veer,
And Love can veer like any vane !

Ah no, I think some sudden craze,
Some bitter spite befell their days,-
What was that plaintive minor for ļ
No more together lie their ways,
Remote, perhaps, the lover strays,
Perhaps the lady comes no more !

So strange the numbers sob and swell ;
No, there's no guessing what befell;
It is the sweetest song you sing !
Not sad, and yet I cannot tell,-
Not glad, and yet—'tis very well-
Like Love, like Life, like anything!

ARCHÆOLOGY IN THE THEATRE.

What are the principles by which the idea, it must needs affect a variety of modern manager can put Shakespeare incident, a novelty in the scenery and on the stage to the very best advan- surroundings of the action, and a tage? The question is pretty fre- proportionate care for detail, such as quently asked without receiving any ancient tragedy could well afford to definite answer; and, for the matter dispense with. Though there are of of that, it is likely to revive as often course exceptions—exceptions which as the Shakespearean drama itself, in serve, for example, to make Æschylus theatrical parlance, “revives.” The appear more modern in many ways aim of every stage-manager who has than Sophocles, and Aristophanes any tincture of ambition in him, being more modern than either, yet on the above all things to achieve distinction whole the simplicity and reserve of the by means of the Shakespearean drama; Greek genius are nowhere, probably, and a novel interpretation of the text, so conspicuous as in the Greek drama. a conception, that is to say, of its real Prometheus on his rock, the monsignificance different from that which sters that draw the car of Oceanus, the is ordinarily held, not being always dreadful locks of the Erinnyes, or obtainable, the most usual plan to again, the outlandish appearance of attract public attention is to contrive the Aristophanic chorus, the lion skin some striking innovation in the way on Dionysus's shoulders, and the basket the piece is mounted. If it be true from which Socrates discourses philothat each generation must have its sophy—these are modern touches that special Hamlet, it is at least equally bring the drama of the ancients home true that each Hamlet must have his to us, foretastes as it were of the special surroundings; and so, from Elizabethan method, which one greets time to time, the question how to with a pleasant sense of familiarity, represent Shakespeare most satisfac- but unquestionably they are exceptorily for a modern audience comes to tional. “A Greek dramatist was as a have fresh interest for all who have rule too fast bound by the conventions any love for the play.

of the stage to indulge in many such There are some people, to be sure, eccentricities. The hero of one of who will have it that the answer is of those old tragedies must have looked little or no importance, and that it is very like the hero of another; and in the acting only, and not the scenery the trailing robes, the masks modelled or the costumes or the stage carpenter- on strictly preserved types, and the ing, with which we should concern our- measured declamation of the actors, selves.. Of certain plays this may be

deviations from the normal arrangetrue; but surely to assert it generally ment were rarely allowed to distract of all plays is to overlook the real attention from the central action of distinction between the modern, or the story. Shakespearean, drama and the drama

With Shakespeare on the other of the Greeks. The Shakespearean hand (not to speak of his contempodrama is eminently picturesque ; that raries) externals were all-important; is to say, the impression it studies to and this, whether one looks at the produce being largely due to the cir- plays from the standpoint of the cumstances, the accessories, the acci- literary critic or that of the stagedents, as it were, of the plot, as well manager. In both cases the same as to the development of the main method is unmistakable ; one sees

a

determination to make all manner be less, as far as the stage effect is of details, accessories, non-essentials, concerned, if Hamlet were to be de serve a particular purpose, and to prived of that distinctive costume which handle them in such a manner that, far from the first marks him out from from diminishing, they may rather aid among the gay crowd of courtiers. and heighten the main effect. Thus Costume then may be made, and Juliet's nurse, the porter in Macbeth,' should be made, intensely dramatic. and the gardener who reads a lesson The question really is, how it can be to King Richard's Queen, are just as made most dramatic. What, in fact, much, and in a sense just as little, is the principle on which the Shakeexternals as the colour of Othello's spearean drama can be most satisfacface or the fashion of Malvolio's hose. torily put on the stage? The question The minor parts of many of Shake- will, as we have said, receive a different speare's plays may be said, it is true, answer in different

ages ;

the answer to be mere circumstances, unnecessary which is most in favour to-day, if we for the development of the dramatic may judge from recent Shakespearean idea; but, on the other hand, the revivals, is eminently characteristic of genius of the dramatist weaves them a scientific age, and is based on what into so close a connection with his may be called a theory of historical fable, as to give them a very special realism. Now it seems reasonable and peculiar importance, which cannot enough to argue that every play must be overlooked in any stage representa- needs be laid in some country and tion; and among the externals of the at some period, or at least must recall Shakespearean drama costume plays a some country or some period more by no means insignificant part. unmistakably than any other; and

Considered as means to deepen the that, having once determined these, tragic irony of young Hamlet's position, the stage-manager has next to do his or the pathos that clings round an utmost to realise them by every means outcast king, Lear's 'lendings and possible, to spare no pains to make the well-known suit of sables are quite the scenery and surroundings of the as genuinely dramatic - contribute action historically harmonious, to look quite as really to the expression of the on every detail as an occasion for dramatist's conception, as the more adding a touch to the verisimilitude of purely literary devices of introducing the whole, and to throw himself into in the one play the faithful fool, and the arms of archæology as his best in the other the gravediggers, the first and surest friend. And this is, as a player, the judicious Horatio, and matter of fact, what we frequently above all the pushing and determined see. Archæology, growing daily more Prince of Norway. Stage renderings popular, has made the Shakespearean of Hamlet's character have indeed, in stage its own; and a generation that most instances, lost enormously by does not mind paying handsomely for lacking the contrast, so strikingly historical accuracy congratulates itself emphasised at every turn in the on the invasion. play itself, with the fiery, martial Modern audiences seem content to spirit whose triumphant entry at the put up with long, wearisome intervals last supplies what is perhaps the between the acts, with a complete remost solemn and tremendous close arrangement of the scenes and even that could be imagined, to the bloody with an excision of many of them, if and bewildering scene on which, as what remains be given with sufficient matters now are, the curtain is usu- pomp and splendour of antiquarian ally allowed to drop; the gap caused display. by the omission in most acting ver- It is the theory on which this sions of the part of Fortinbras is im- practice is founded that we now promense, and yet the loss would scarcely pose to examine ; and at the outset

66

we may, perhaps, take as an axiom so in any case, we cannot but feel that that the effect which the mounting of it is by a mere chance—that Shakea drama serves to intensify must be speare, so long as be secured his the effect which the drama itself was dramatic effect, cared little for hisintended to produce; if playwright and torical consistency in the details, and stage-manager are at cross purposes that, had he really concerned himself their efforts will only be mutually about such things, he would scarcely destructive. This is no doubt a truism, have put a quotation from Aristotle in but it is a truism that is constantly the mouth of Trojan Hector. Small overlooked in practice. Every stage

Latin and less Greek” he

may

have manager as

a matter of course pro- had, but he knew better than that, fesses to do his best to attain the had he thought about the matter at effect which Shakespeare had in his all. mind; but to determine this in the case It will be said, however, that taste of any one of his plays, classical, having changed since his time, we historical or romantic, tragedy or should as far as possible accommodate comedy, it will not do to go no further his plays to the growing passion for than the names of the characters, accuracy in historical details ; and that their nationality, or the age in which the scenic splendour of which Shakethey lived. Because Shakespeare wrote speare never dreamed satisfies modern of the reign of King John, we must needs without injuring the dramatic not lightly assume that the reign of effect he aimed at. Such a contention King John was associated in his mind challenges careful inquiry: and, indeed, with the same ideas we have learnt to Shakespeare's plays are so diverse in associate with it, ideas which are the character that perhaps the difficulty growth of three centuries of history- of stage representation can only be writing, and have been crystallised, as settled for each separately. For our it were, from a vast and undefined

present purpose, then, we will divide mass of knowledge which in the six- the plays roughly and unscientifically teenth century had no existence at all. into four classes : the classical, the hisTo take a crucial instance, the Great torical, the romantic, and the pseudoCharter, which to a modern English- historical, and consider how the realman is the prominent feature of John's istic theory works when applied to reign, forms no part of Shakespeare's each in turn. conception of the period as we know With regard to the first class it it from his writings; for the truth is might seem at first sight reasonable that the notions represented in any enough. "Julius Cæsar' and Corioplay whatsoever written three hundred lanus' and 'Antony and Cleopatra' years ago must necessarily be widely are undeniably instinct with the true different from those which would classical spirit; such trivial anachroninfluence the writer of a similar play isms as the mention of clocks, sennets, to-day.

night-caps, and chimney-pots, do noThus we shall not be greatly helped thing, of course, to spoil the general towards the solution of the problem impression. The characters are Roman how Julius Caesar • Coriolanus' to the core-perhaps not quite unimcan be represented with the best pos- peachable from the historian's point sible results, by taking account of the of view, but on the stage the hissuccess achieved by such a play as torian's point of view is unimportant;

Claudian,' mounted with immense and Shakespeare's Brutus and Caius parade of archæological accuracy, and Marcius and Volumnia, true as they forming certainly a succession of very are to nature, and, what is more, true striking pictures. In a few of Shake- to the antique Roman temper with speare's plays possibly no archæological which we are most intimately actruth may be violated; but if this is quainted, impress us with a far livelier

[ocr errors]

or

6

« PreviousContinue »