« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
"BETTERTON (says Colley Cibber In his Apology) was an actor, as Shakspeare was an author, both without competitors; formed for the mutual assistance and illustration of each other's genius. How Shakspeare wrote, all men who have a taste for nature may read, and know; but with higher rapture would he still be read, could they conceive how Betterton played him. Then might they know the one was born alone to speak what the other only knew to write. Could how Betterton spoke, be as easily known as what he spoke, then might you see the muse of Shakspeare in her triumph, with all her beauties in their best array, rising into real life and charming her beholders. But, alas! since all this is so far out of the reach of description, how shall I shew you Betterton? Should I, therefore, tell you, that all the Othellos, Hamlets, Hotspurs, Macbeths, and Brutus's, whom you may have seen since his time, have fallen far short of him! this still should give you no idea of his particular excellence. Let us see, then, what a particular comparison may do; whether that may yet draw him nearer to you. You have seen a Hamlet, perhaps, who, on the first appearance of his father's spirit, has thrown himself into all the straining vociferations requisite to express rage and fury, and the house has thundered with applause, though the misguided actor was all the while (as Shakspeare terms it) tearing a passion into rags. I am the more bold to offer you this particular instance, because the late Mr. Addison, while I sat by him, to see the scene acted, made the same observation; asking me, with some surprise, if I thought Hamlet should be in so violent a passion with the Ghost, which, though it might have astonished, it had not provoked him? for you may observe in this beautiful speech, the passion never rises beyond an almost breathless astonishment, or an impatience, limited by filial reverence, to inquire into the suspected wrongs that may have raised him from the peaceful tomb, and a desire to know, what a spirit so seemingly distressed,
might wish or enjoin a sorrowful son to execute towards his future quiet in the grave. This was the light into which Betterton threw this scene, which he opened with a pause of mute amazement; then rising, slowly, to a solemn trembling voice, he made the ghost equally terrible to the spectator as to himself; and, in the descriptive part of the natural emotions which the ghastly vision gave him, the boldness of his expostulation was still governed by decency,-manly, but not braving; his voice never rising into that seeming outrage, or wild defiance of what he naturally revered. But, alas! to preserve this medium between mouthing and meaning too little, to keep the attention more pleasingly awake, by a tempered spirit, than by mere vehemence of voice, is of all the master-strokes of an actor, the most difficult to reach. In this none yet have equalled Betterton.
"A farther excellence in Betterton was, that he would vary his spirit to the different characters he acted. Those wild impatient starts, that fierce, and flashing fire, which he threw into Hotspur, never came from the unruffled temper of his Brutus (for I have more than once seen a Brutus as warm as a Hotspur). When the Betterton Brutus was provoked in his dispute with Cassius, his spirit flew only to his eye, his steady look alone supplied that terror, which he disdained an intemperance in his voice should raise to. Thus, with a settled dignity of contempt, like an unheeding rock, he repelled upon himself the foam of Cassius. Not but in some part of this scene, where he reproaches Cassius, his temper is not under this suppression, but opens into that warmth which becomes a man of virtue; yet this is the hasty spark of anger which Brutus endeavours to excuse.
"Betterton had so just a sense of what was true or false applause, that I have heard him say, that he never thought any kind of it equal to an attentive silence: that there were many ways of deceiving an audience into a loud one; but to keep them hushed and quiet, was an applause which only truth and merit could arrive at, of which art there never was an