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exuberance of manner, and dissipated the impression of the general character by the variety of his re
To be complete, his delineation of it should have more solidity, depth, sustained and impassioned feeling, with somewhat less brilliancy, with fewer glancing lights, pointed transitions, and pantomimick evolutions.
The Richard of Shakspeare is towering and losty ; equally impetuous and commanding; baughty, violent, and subtle ; bold and treacherous ; confident in his strength as well as his cunning; raised high by his birth, and higher by his talents and his crimes; a royal usurper, a princely hypocrite, a tyrant and a murderer of the house of Plantagenet.
“ But I was born so high :
The idea conveyed in these lines (which are indeed omitted in the miserable medley acted for RICHARD III.) is never lost sight of by Shakspeare, and should not be out of the actor's mind for a moment. The restless and sanguinary Richard is not a man striving to be great, but to be greater than he is ; conscious of his strength of will, his power of intellect, his daring courage, his elevated station ; and making use of these advantages to commit unheard of crimes, and to shield himself from remorse and ipfamy.
If Mr. Kean does not entirely succeed in con centrating all the lines of the character, as drawn by Shakspeare, he gives an animation, vigour, and relief to the part which we have not seen equalled. He is more refined than Cooke ; more bold, varied, and original than Kemble in the same character. In some parts he is deficient in dignity, and particularly in the scenes of state business, he has by no means an air of artificial authority. There is at times an aspiring elevation, an enthusiastick rapture in his expectations of attaining the crown, and at others a gloating expression of sullen delight, as if he already clenched the bauble, and held it in his grasp.
The courtship scene with Lady Anne is an admirable exhibition of smooth and smiling villany. The progress of wily adulation, of encroaching humility, is finely marked by his action, voice and eye. He seems, like the first tempter, to approach his prey, secure of the event, and as if success bad smoothed his way before him. The late Mr. Cooke's manner of representing this scene was more vehement, hurried, and full of anxious uncertainty. This, though more natural in general, was less in character in this particular instance. Richard should woo less as a lover than as an actor to shew his mental suiperiority, and power of making others the playthings of his purposes.
Mr. Kean's attitude in leaning against the side of the stage before he comes forward to address Lady Anne, is one of the most graceful and striking ever witnessed on the stage. It would do for Titian to paint. The frequent and rapid transition of his voice from the expression of the fiercest passion to the most familiar tones of conversation, was that which gave a peculiar grace of novelty to his acting on his first appearance. This has been since imitated and caricatured by others, and he himself uses the artifice more sparingly than he did. His by-play is excellent. His manner of bidding his friends “Good night,” after pausing with the point of his sword, drawn slowly backward and forward on the ground, as if considering the plan of the battle next day, is a particularly happy and natural thought. He gives to the two last acts of the play the greatest animation and effect. He fills every part of the stage ; and makes up for the deficiency of his person, by what has been sometimes objected to as an excess of action. The concluding scene in which lie is killed by Richmond is the most brilliant of the whole. He fights at last like one drunk with wounds ; and the attitude in wbich he stands with his hands stretched out, after his sword is wrested from him, has a preternatural and terrifick grandeur, as if his will could not be disarmed, and the very phantoms of his despair had power to kill.-Mr. Kean has since, in a great measure, effaced the impression of his Richard III. by the superiour efforts of his genius in Othello, (his masterpiece,) in the murder scene in Macbeth, in Richard II., in Sir Giles Overreach, and lastly in Oroonoko; but we still like to look back to his first performance of this part, both because it first assured his admirers of his future success, and because we bore our feeble but, at that time, not useless testimony, to the merits of this very original actor, on which the town was considerably divided for no other reason than because they were original.
The manner in which Shakspeare's plays have been generally altered, or rather mangled by modern mechanists, is a disgrace to the English stage.
The patchwork RICHARD III., which is acted under the sanction of his name, and which was manufactured by Cibber, is a striking example of this remark.
The play itself is undoubtedly a very powerful effusion of Shakspeare's genius. The groundwork of the character of Richard, that mixture of intellectual vigour with moral depravity, in which Shakspeare delighted to shew his strength-gave full scope as well as temptation to the exercise of his imagination. The character of his hero is almost every where predominant, and marks its lurid track throughout. The original play is however too long for representation, and there are some few scenes which might be better spared than preserved, and by omitting which it would remain a complete whole. The only rule, indeed, for altering Sbakspeare is to retrench certain passages which may be considered either as superfluous or obsolete, but not to add or transpose any thing. The arrangement and developement of the story, and the mutual contrast and combination of the dramatis persona, are in general as finely managed as the developement of the characters or the expression of the passions.
This rule has not been adhered to in the present instance. Some of the most important and striking passages in the principal character have been omitted, to make room for idle and misplaced extracts from other plays; the only intention of which seems to have been to make the character of Richard as odious and disgusting as possible. It is apparently for no other purpose than to make
Gloucester stab King Henry on the stage, that the fine abrupt introduction of the character in the opening of the play is lost in the tedious whining morality of the uxorious king (taken from another play);-we say tedious, because it interrupts the business of the scene, and loses its beauty and effect by having no intelligible connexion with the previous character of the mild, well-meaning monarch. The passages which the unfortunate Henry has to recite are beautiful and pathetick in themselves, but they have nothing to do with the world that Richard has to “ bustle in.” In the same spirit of vulgar caricature is the scene between Richard and Lady Anne (when his wife) interpolated without any authority, merely to gratify this favourite propensity to disgust and loathing. With the same perverse consistency, Richard, after his last fatal struggle, is raised up by some Galvanick process, to utter the imprecation, without any motive but pure malignity, which Shakspeare has so properly put into the mouth of Northumberland on hearing of Percy's death. To make room for these worse than needless additions, many of the most striking passages in the real play have been omitted by the foppery and ignorance of the prompt-book criticks. We do not mean to insist merely on passages which are fine as poetry and to the reader, such as ClaFence's dream, &c. but on those which are important to the understanding of the character, and peculiarly adapted for stage effect. We will give the following as mstances among several others. The first is the scene where Richard enters abrupt