Изображения страниц


jećt could be well conveyed by laying a finger across the lips. A shake of the head indicates disapprobation in a very marked

The lifted eyebrows express surprise in a forcible style ; and every part of the face has its own eloquence of pleasure and of grief. What volumes can be condensed into a shrug of the shoulders, and what mournful mischief that same shrug has wrought! Since, then, gesture and posture can speak powerfully, we must take care to let them speak correctly. It will never do to imitate the famous Grecian who cried 0 heaven !' with his finger pointing to the earth ; nor to describe dying weakness by thumping upon the book-board.”

Cicero has observed that the power of action is greater than the power of words; while Demosthenes regarded action as the first, second, and third qualification for an orator. “Such, however, is the force of custom, that though we all confess the power and necessity of this branch of public speaking, we find few that are hardy enough to put it into practice. Some of our most accomplished speakers in the pulpit, senate, and bar, are very faulty in their use of action ; and it is remarkable that those who are excellent in every other part of oratory are often deficient in this." What Pope says of writing is equally true sf action :

" True ease in action comes from art, not chance ;
So those move easiest who have learned to dance."

it is only by continued and frequent practice that ease, grace, and power of action can be obtained. Take as an illustration the testimony of one of the most eloquent preachers of modern times, the late Dr. Guthrie. He was not always so successful, nor did he attain to his mighty power without great effort, for he says in his Autobiography, “I had, when a student in divinity, paid more than ordinary attention to the art of elocution, knowing how much of the effect produced upon the audience depended on the manner as well as the matter; that, in point of fact, the matter is to the manner as the powder is to the ball. I had attended elocution classes winter after winter. There I learned to find out and correct many acquired, and more or less awkward, defects in gestureto be, in fact, natural ; to acquire a command over my voice so as to suit its force and emphasis to the sense, and to modulate

Yes ;

it so as to express the feelings, whether of surprise or grief, indignation or pity. I had heard very indifferent discourses made forcible by vigorous, and able ones reduced to feebleness by a poor, pithless delivery. I had read of the extraordinary pains Demosthenes and Cicero took to cultivate their manner and become masters of the art of elocution; and I knew how, by a masterly and natural use of this art, Whitfield could sway the crowds that gathered to hear him at early morn on the commons of London, as a breeze does the standing corn, making men at his pleasure weep or laugh by the way he pronounced Mesopotamia. Many have supposed that I owe any power I have of modulating my voice and giving effect thereby to what I am delivering, to a musical ear. On the contrary, I am, as they say in Scotland, timmer tuned,' have not a vestige even of the musical faculty, never knowing when people get off the tune but (except) when they stick."

There are some cases, however, in which even the absence of gesture is no serious detriment to success, provided its absence is counterbalanced by other good qualities. Homer pictures such a case, when he says : “But when Ulysses rose, in thought profound

His modest eyes he fixed upon the ground;
As one unskilled or dumb, he seemed to stand,
Nor rais'd his head, nor stretched his sceptred hand.
But when he speaks, what elocution flows !
Soft as the fleeces of descending snows,
The copious accents fall with easy art;
Melting they fall, and sink into the heart !
Wondering we hear, and, fixed in deep surprise,

Our ears refute the censure of our eyes.It will thus be seen that no one can be too careful in deciding whether action is needful, and, if so, the kind of action which will best answer to the character of the words and subject we wish to illustrate. Quintilian, however, says, strive to become acquainted with his own abilities; and in order to form his action let him less consult precepts than his natural disposition.” This may be true to some extent, but it is also certain that, in proportion as we know what ought to be done and what ought to be left undone, we shall be better able to represent that which is natural, for it is yet true, as Cicero remarked, that action alone governs in speaking, without

“Let everyone which the best orator is of no value, and is often defeated by one in other respects much his inferior.”

This arises from the fact that every passion, emotion, or sentiment, has some corresponding movement or look, peculiar to itself. If, therefore, the words and the actions, or looks, do not agree, there must of necessity be a loss of influence, or, failing even in this, it will result in producing annoyance, and perhaps disgust.

When the celebrated David Garrick, the actor, was at the height of his fame, he was asked by the Bishop of London, “Why is it that actors in representing fiction can move a whole assembly even to tears, while ministers of the Gospel in representing the most solemn realities can scarcely obtain a hearing ?” Garrick gave the following common-sense reply: “ It is because we represent fiction as reality, and you represent reality as fiction."

The object of action should therefore be to assist the ex. pression, and to aid in emphasis. Hence the best kind will occur spontaneously, and be suggested by the sense of the words we are using. Such being the case, there can be no inflexible rules laid down for this any more than for the way in which we shall speak. All that can be done will be to give general hints of what will be most likely to be needed or to be avoided, and everyone must judge how far these may be required, according to circumstances, and the nature of the pieces selected.

By way of illustrating the vast importance of giving attention to these matters, let us now glance at those parts of the body which have much to do with either aiding or hindering the work of the orator or reader.

I. THE FEET.---To those who wish to succeed nothing is unimportant. Hence we begin with that which helps to give firmness and stability to every movement. This, however, may be obtained with every degree of awkwardness instead of grace and ease.

Firmness and grace can, however, be combined, if the weight of the body is supported on one leg, and the other so placed as to preserve the balance of the body, and keep it from tottering, while at the same time it is left free to move at will. To do this, the foot which supports the body must be firmly planted, and the body kept so erect that a perpendicular line let fall from the centre of the neck would pass through the heel of the foot. Either foot may thus support the body. The following will best give an idea of the four best positions :

The conditions of these are, first, that the feet are to be separated from each other only three or four inches ; second, that the toes of the foot which supports the body, as well as of the other, should be turned moderately outward ; and third, that the feet should be so placed that lines passing lengthwise through the two feet shall cross each other under and a little forward of the foot least advanced.

First Position.—In this position the left foot is firmly planted, and supports the weight of the body. The right is placed a little in advance, forming, with the left, nearly an angle of fortyfive degrees, and resting lightly on the ball of the great toe. The right knee is slightly bent.

Second Position.—In the second position the weight of the body is supported by the right foot, which is planted firmly The left is placed a little in advance, resting lightly on the ball of the great toe, and, with the right, forms nearly an angle of forty-five degrees. The left knee is slightly bent.

Third Position.—In this position the weight of the body is upon the right foot, which is placed in advance of the left. The toe of the left foot balances the body, which is thrown a little forward. The heel of the left foot is elevated about an inch, and swings in toward the right foot.

Fourth Position. In the fourth position the weight rests upon the left foot, which is placed a little in advance. The toe of the right foot balances the body, the heel inclining in to the left foot. The body is inclined forward.

2. THE HANDS.—It need hardly be said that keeping the lands in the pockets, or placing the arms a-kimbo-sticking them behind under the coat tails-trifling with the watch chain or any article of dress, is specially to be avoided. These are bad habits which have only to be named to be at once condemned. At the same time, as Sheridan well observes, “Everyone knows that with the hands we can demand or promise, call, dismiss, threaten, supplicate, ask, deny, show joy, sorrow, detestation, fear, confusion, penitence, admiration, respect, and many other things in common use"; or, as Sir Charles Bell, in his celebrated Bridgewater Treatise on the Hand, so well says: We must not omit to speak of the hand as an instrument of expression. Formal dissertations have been written on this. But were we constrained to seek authorities, we might take the great painters in evidence, since by the position of the hands, in conformity with the figure, they have expressed every sentiment. Who, for example, can deny the eloquence of the hands in the Magdalens of Guido; their expression in the cartoons of Raphael, or in the Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci ? We see there expressed all that Quintilian says the hand is capable of expressing. “For other parts of the body,' says he, 'assist the speaker, but these, I may say, speak themselves.' By them we ask, we promise, we invoke, we dismiss, we threaten, we entreat, we deprecate, we express fear, joy, grief, our doubts, our assent, our penitence; we show our moderation or profusion; we mark number and time.”

It may help to show the important use to which the hands may be applied if we illustrate it by the sketches on the opposite page, which are simply given as illustrations of the power of proper action. They are, of course, not exclusive in their application, and might be amplified if space permitted :

Figure 1, the hand placed upon the breast, intimates desire or appeals to conscience. Figure 2, placed over the eyes, shame or sorrow. Figure 3, over the lips, silence. Figure 4, on the forehead, anguish, pain, distress. Figure 5, on the chin, irresolution or meditation. It will thus be seen how the appropriate use of the hands may aid in giving strong expression to the words ployed.

3. THE ARMS.—Let us now point out the main principles by which action with these is governed.

First. -- In gesticulation, the arm should be free and unconstrained, the action proceeding from the shoulder rather than the elbow. The elbow should be slightly curved and flexible.

Second.—The arm should be so moved that the hand will always describe curved lines instead of those which are straight and angular. The curve is the line of beauty, and grace in the action of the arm depends very materially on the observance of this principle.

Third.—The arm should not remain stationary, as a rule, save for a moment, while extended in gesticulation, so as to

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »