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the art by which adroitly humorous treatment can be made to palliate vulgarity of subject. Two sprightly women undertake and accomplish the discomfiture of a vicious, presumptuous, ridiculous suitor.
Such a frolic might be possible at any time and in any place. The two wives, Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, are virtuous women, but they are not fastidious, indeed, they are coarse. Mrs. Ford is a ripe, buxom, captivating woman, overflowing with animal spirits and fond of innocent mischief,—in the expedients of which she is fertile and dexterous. She looks upon the amorous Falstaff with amused tolerance which scarcely amounts to contempt. She will thoroughly fool and rebuke him, and will throw him aside with precisely the sort of punishment that will plunge him into absurdity and humiliation. But she is not malicious, neither does she harbor resentment. The right personification of Mrs. Ford involves innate purity and spontaneous, unequivocal moral worth, combined with a buoyant spirit of frolicsome mischief and an arch, demure, piquant manner. Miss Rehan entered fully into the spirit of the part and flashed through the piece like a sunbeam. The reality of that embodiment was especially vital. In Mrs. Ford, as in Sylvia, Miss Rehan presented a woman in whom an exuberant and sportive animal life transcends all other attributes. And, indeed, one way or another, subject to various modifications, that element entered into all her comedy assumptions,
particularly the blooming damsels and spirited widows of the comedy of to-day. Doris, in “An International Match,” and Nisbe, in “A Night Off,” are good types of the eager, sprightly, happy girl whom she portrayed with infectious buoyancy and in the spontaneous, flexible, limpid drift of nature. Cousin Val,-Valentine Osprey,--in “The Railroad of Love,” embodies that personality in even a more substantial form, and interfuses it with passionate emotion. In Nisbe there is latent mischief commingled with an artful assumption of girlish coyness. In Cousin Val a deep heart is veiled beneath an almost reckless gayety of manner, and much tenderness of feeling becomes visible through an outward guise of raillery and gleeful indifference. Miss Rehan's expression of the resentment of offended pride and wounded love, in the scene of the misunderstanding in that piece, is remembered for its splendid sincerity, its fine fervor, and its absolute simplicity of art. The play treats of an impending breach between two sincere lovers and of the happy chance by which that catastrophe is averted. An impulsive woman, momentarily persuaded that her suitor is a mercenary adventurer, has sent a harsh letter of dismissal to him, and then has ascertained that her doubt was unfounded and unworthy; whereupon she perceives the imperative necessity that her letter, which by chance has not reached him, should be recovered. Her plan is to detain him during her quest for that dreaded epistle, which she
will obtain and destroy, so that he may never know how unjust and how cruel her thoughts have been. The structure of the situation rests on unwarranted panic, since Valentine might take for granted her lover's pardon,—but the situation itself is fraught with formidable significance and suffused with passionate excitement. Miss Rehan made it important and impressive. Her denotement of the conflict of passion when writing the letter lifted Valentine almost to the high level of Julia in a kindred passage in “The Hunchback," while her subsequent contrition and dismay, her effort to subdue a feverish apprehension, and to conceal her anxiety under a playful manner, together with her grieved yet gay trepidation while imposing upon her lover the frivolous task of doing a bit of embroidery, were all made confluent in a current of singular sweetness and were swathed in the tremulous April atmosphere of smiles and tears. That assumption of character, not inaptly representative of contemporary young women, in the sentimental aspect of their lives, was remarkable equally for the variety and sparkle of its constituent parts and for the mingled force and piquancy of its art, for it was an image of airy banter, satirical raillery, piquant archness, demure mischief, pungent sarcasm, irrational, tantalizing, delicious feminine caprice, nobility of mind, and passionate ardor of heart.
In the centuries that have passed since the Drama began to bear witness to human nature and social life woman has
been the same creature of infinite variety and often inexplicable complexity, herself creative and therefore unconsciously participant in the insoluble mystery of creation; but in each succeeding period woman has existed as a social type with distinguishing traits and characteristics. In Miss Rehan's period she conspicuously showed the attributes that were crystallized in Miss Rehan's embodiment of maids like Doris and dames like Valentine. The heroines of modern comedy are seen to act from the same motives and to pursue the same objects that impel and attract the heroines of Cibber, Farquhar, Mrs. Centlivre, Mrs. Inchbald, and Sheridan; yet they are essentially of a different order of thought and man
The modern heroine does not pique her roving swain by getting into male attire and facing him down as an impostor; neither does she pretend to be a piteous lunatic in order to lure him out of his intrenchments; but she loves as dearly; she is just as expert, whether in hiding her love or in showing it; she is just as wishful to captivate, and she is just as fitful and capricious, as any Hippolyta, or Oriana, or Sylvia, or Mrs. Sullen, or Violante, or Lydia Languish, that ever sparkled on the remote British Stage.
The successful stage representative of woman proves true to the specific character of her time as well as to the elemental and permanent character of her sex. She does not live in the study but in the world. Her works are personifications and not historical antiquities. Miss
Rehan might not have succeeded in reproducing such fantastic women as often were drawn by Jonson and Dryden, but any woman of the Old Comedy who is really a woman would have become as vital and sympathetic in her embodiment as if she were living in the actual world of to-day. It is for the lecturer to expound; it is for the actor to interpret. Miss Rehan, like her great and renowned sister in dramatic art, Ellen Terry, -the most distinctively poetic actress of her period, possessed the power to personify and could give the touch of reality. The young women of her day saw themselves in Ada Rehan's portrayals of them. The young men of her day recognized in those portrayals the fulfilment of that ideal of sensuous sentiment, piquant freedom, and impetuous ardor, combined with rich beauty of person and negligent elegance of manner, which they accounted the perfection of womanhood, and upon which their fancy dwelt with supreme content. That this lovely actress could move easily in the realm of the imagination was proved by her fluent and sparkling performances of Rosalind and Viola; but it was more significant, for the great body of contemporary playgoers, that she could speak in the voice, and look through the eyes, and interpret the spirit, of the passing hour.
Among the incidental yet notable performances given by Miss Rehan there were two which strongly suggested her exceptional versatility. One of them was Xantippe,