Page images


comedy, until the climax, and if, in the speaking, it had not been marred by occasional wrong emphasis, destructive to various shades of piquant meaning.

The characters of Benedick and Beatrice are not such as immediately endear themselves to either the readers who investigate them or the actors who represent them. The comprehension of them which ensues on intimacy perceives in their depths much that is not discernible on their surface, and awakens a whole-hearted sympathy with their piquant, tantalizing, unconventional, unique personalities. Both are ardent and demonstrative with the ebullient vigor of youth. Both are prone to sar

Both are self-centred in personal conceit. Both dwell in a glowing exuberance of physical sensation. Both dispense gibes, and both exult in stinging barbs of insolent wit. Neither has had any experience of the ministry of sorrow. Beatrice, 'born under “a star that danced,” and destined to “speak all mirth and no matter,” is so radically merry that she wakes up laughing because she has been dreaming that she has been sad. Benedick is “all mirth, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, and what his heart thinks his tongue speaks.” But both Benedick and Beatrice are sound, genuine, substantial, worthy, and sincere persons. Benedick is honest, brave, and noble. Beatrice is pure, exalted, affectionate, and true. Those mirthful antagonists, striking fire upon each other whenever they meet, are only pretenders to flippant indifference. Their

levity is superficial. The better they are known, the more they are admired.

Vigorous youth, buoyant spirits, ample fire, large, broad, fine courtesy of manner, the dash that old stagers were accustomed to call “gig,” associated with personal beauty and clear, fluent, silvery elocution, are the main attributes and faculties essential to victorious acting of Benedick and Beatrice. Mr. Sothern's personality, as Benedick, was gossamer rather than substantial, but he showed himself possessed of the stage tradition of the part,—the tradition transmitted from, at least, the time of Charles Kemble,—and the gallant soldier that he aimed to embody was busy, voluble, intrepid, and exultant, completely satisfied with himself, and a continually disturbing force for others. The verbal warfare of Benedick with Beatrice was carried on in a sprightly way. The complacent soliloquy on marriage was judiciously spoken, with the unconscious humor of conceited sapience. The astute, dubious vigilance, the puzzled observance, and the droll mystification of Benedick, while he is listening to the plotters, in the Garden Scene, were made humorously characteristic and expressive. The demeanor in the scene of the challenge was appropriately resolute, and the attitude of menacing hostility was well maintained. In the Church Scene, on the contrary, the actor was dwarfed by the magnitude of the situation and the conflict of emotions aroused by it. The Church Scene of “Much Ado” will never again

be what it was, when Henry Irving and Ellen Terry illumined and glorified it, nor is it possible that Ellen Terry's impersonation of Beatrice,—which was incarnate archness, playing over delicious kindness and imparting all of charm that there is in the irresistible fascination of sensuous womanhood,—will ever be equalled: but Miss Marlowe's performance of Beatrice became, at that supreme point, exceptionally lovely, and superb in its sincerity. The great moment for Beatrice is that of the outrageous insult to Hero,—the pure, gentle, blameless girl, whom the stronger woman so entirely loves. All levity drops from Beatrice in an instant, and her soul springs, full saturated, to the defence of virtue and truth. Miss Marlowe's inherent personal nobility reinforced her decisive emotional power at that moment, and her demeanor was magnificent. Horror at the infamy of the accusation against Hero and detestation of the insensate cruelty with which it is made culminated in a piteous, furious frenzy, half despair at her helpless inability, and half the abounding passion of fierce resentment and coveted revenge.

It is in situations of this kind that the genius of Miss Marlowe has been revealed, and her fine performance of Beatrice, particularly in the Church Scene, afforded a convincing demonstration of her peculiar aptitude for the passionate, heroic, robust characters of dramatic fiction.


In the production of “Twelfth Night,” which was accomplished at the Knickerbocker Theatre, on November 13, 1905, Miss Marlowe gave a lovely impersonation of Viola; Mr. Sothern acted Malvolio in a correct mood of consequential gravity; and an earnest, thoughtful effort was successfully made, less by their associates than by themselves, to interpret this beautiful comedy in the right spirit of commingled poetry and humor. Miss Marlowe's temperament,-romantic, tender, passionate, yet self-contained, pensive and sad, seems to be more harmonious with the character of Viola than with almost any other character in Shakespeare. Viola is the obverse of Rosalind; for, while each of them is essentially woman, Viola is the more spiritual, poetic, dreamlike, ideal; typifying patient devotion and the silent self-sacrifice that is prompted by perfect love. Rosalind, born for conquest,-brilliant, dominant, superb,—makes the first advance to Orlando (not an unusual course with love-stricken women in general), while Viola makes no endeavor to win Orsino, but, on the contrary, pleads for him with another woman, the fair Olivia, with whom he is infatuated. “She never told her love.” The keynote of the character is sounded in that speech. There is not a particle of selfishness in Viola. Loving, and, as she thinks, loving in vain, she veils her grief beneath a sparkling exterior of simu

lated joy and bears herself with buoyant grace, not only exerting the charm of sentiment, but diffusing the felicity of mirth. Guileless, generous, sincere, gentle, and gay, with no attribute of morbid egotism, she is the perfection of simple loveliness.

Julia Marlowe's dark beauty, melodious and sympathetic voice, and deep feeling held in absolute control, made her sweetly actual in that part, and completely victorious. No one better knows, or more skilfully employs, transparency in acting,—the expedient of allowing a reserved emotion to reveal itself, with artistic effect, through an investiture of assumed manner. Her demeanor of apparent lightness and buoyant indifference, veiling, but not concealing, wistful sadness, in the illuminative colloquy with Orsino concerning woman's love, while not in the least lachrymose, was touchingly expressive at once of restrained passion and submissive fortitude. Her delivery of the beautiful speech about patient love's endurance was as sweetly musical in accent as it was faultless in appreciative feeling. Her note of passion, in uttering Cesario's apostrophe to Olivia,-in which Viola shows her own heart, while, under a disguise, she is speaking for another,was superbly strong and true. Her consternation, when forced into the duel,—her hesitancy between assumed assurance and overwhelming trepidation,—was the perfect tremor of comic perplexity. She acted with a fine abandonment, and yet with the assured precision of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »