« AnkstesnisTęsti »
first appeared there prominently in 1814, when he was twenty-seven. The comedian George Fawcett Rowe (1835-1889), many years ago told me that his father, resident in Exeter, had been acquainted with Kean, and that Kean had said to him, "I have the style of Cooke; but nobody will notice it, because I am so much smaller." The almost fanatical admiration that Kean felt for Cooke is recorded in the memoirs of both of them, and remembrance of it seems to justify credence that to some extent Kean truly was a disciple of that singular genius. In youth every actor has a model.
Cooke died in New York in 1812, and Kean, on the occasion of his first visit to this city, in 1820, caused his remains to be removed from a vault beneath St. Paul's Church and buried in the churchyard, and likewise placed a monument there, which still stands at Cooke's grave. The story that Kean took the forefinger bones of Cooke's right hand, carried them to England, had them wired together and hung upon his parlor wall, and made such an ado about the relic that Mrs. Kean finally became disgusted and threw it away, has long been in circulation and is known to be true. To what extent Kean modeled his performance of Richard on that of Cooke it would be impossible to judge. Each of those actors was, obviously, of a turbulent nature, much given to the making of tremendous outbursts of passion, but no two men could be more dissimilar than they were in physical constitution and appearance. Cooke's face could exceptionally well express the evil passions. Kean's features were regular and handsome, and while his face and person comported perfectly, as he guided and used them, with the terrible characters of Richard the Third and Sir Giles Overreach, they were made to suit equally well with those of the loving Octavian and the melancholy, pathetic Stranger. Cooke was robust, while Kean was slender, and his height was only five feet, six and three quarter inches.
Kean's portrayal of Richard is extolled by the competent authorities of William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt to such an extent of enthusiasm that inquiring judgment becomes perplexed in the presence of a multiplicity of adulation. "Just returned from seeing Kean in Richard,"—so wrote
Byron to Moore, February 19, 1814,"By Jove! he is a soul! Life-NatureTruth-without exaggeration or diminution. Kemble's Hamlet is perfect, but Hamlet is not Nature. Richard is a man, and Kean is Richard!" The opinion thus expressed, if viewed as criticism, is worthless, Hamlet being quite as much Nature as Richard is, and as much a man; but viewed as indicative of the effect produced upon a poet of marvelous genius by an actor of kindred poetic sensibility it is instructive.
Kean's principal dress, as Richard, consisted of much the same kind of garments as were worn by Cooke-trunk-hose, doublet, ornamental cloak, and ribbon with an Order on it; but he wore top-boots, his hat was of a toadstool shape, and his wig was made of curly, black hair, somewhat thick. In his right hand he carried, during a part of the play, a military truncheon. The deformity of the figure was indicated by disproportion of the left shoulder. Several changes of costume are required in any performance of Richard; the particular specification of all of them, as employed by the chief distinguished actors, would occupy much space. Kean's costume, as noted, is that which he wore after the Duke of Glo'ster had become King of England. Kean's "stage business" as Richard was extraordinary for diversification and expressive intelligence. His thoughtful, absorbed demeanor when, preliminary to the terrific dream scene, he traced on the ground, with the point of his sword, the plan of battle, the night before the furious encounter on Bosworth Field, is remembered and recorded as having had a wonderfully impressive effect. The personation throughout was animated by a dominant, buoyant, electrical, thrilling spirit. The dying king's frantic thrusts with his naked arm, as though he still held his sword, after he had been struck down, mortally wounded in the combat with Richmond, were noted as very terrible, and that business has reappeared in the performances of many later
Macready played Richard for the first time in London in 1819, at Covent Garden, appearing in the Cibber version of the tragedy. His success with the public was decisive. (He had played the part five years before at Bath.) Critical opin
ion on the subject was various, but in effect it was favorable. The actor's method in the wooing of Lady Anne was commended for winning sincerity, the dissimulation, obviously, not having been variegated by any gleams of sarcasm. His fever ish, executive promptitude in directing the disposal of the bodies of the murdered princes was essentially tragic. Leigh Hunt specified the exact spirit of the performance, intimating that it was marked by ardent, sanguine gaiety. That, in Cibber's arrangement of the play, is a pervasive attribute of the character, for Cibber's Richard is not at any moment till the dream scene shown as a man capable of sensibility, and his anguish in that scene is as unwarranted as it is unexpected. When Macready presented "King Richard III," in a partly restored form, March 12, 1821, at Covent Garden, and repeated his performance of Richard, he caused a startling effect, in the council scene, by an electrical outburst of fury upon Hastings, and he made a brilliant point at the moment when Richard, in that scene, bares his withered arm. Kean had done this before him, so that Kean must also have garnished Cibber with a little more of Shakspere than the laureate had provided. The version of the play then used by Macready was one made by "Mr. Swift of the Crown Jewel Office," and improved by the actor himself; but it did not in fact very widely differ from that of Cibber. The advertisement of it referred to Cibber's alteration as "ingenious." If it really were so there would have been no reason for reverting to the original, which is impracticable, as a whole, chiefly because of its great length.
The renown of the elder Booth as Richard was great in his lifetime, and the tradition of his astounding performance of the part still survives.
Booth was a
quiet, reserved, modest, unpretentious man, whose aspect and customary demeanor in private gave no intimation, however slight, of the tremendous power and fire that were in him. I have never forgotten the thrill of dread that was imparted by his baleful aspect, his incisive, sonorous voice, and his malign aspect, as Pescara, in "The Apostate." Persons who acted with him when he played Richard have favored me with descriptive recollection of his performance of that part,
and in several instances they have declared that at first sight of him they thought him insignificant, but, on seeing for the first time his impersonation of Richard, they were not merely astonished, but completely overwhelmed with amazement, by his revelation of a prodigious force and an impetuous, fiery, terrible passion, of the capability of which nothing in his appearance and deportment had given them the slightest hint. them the slightest hint. In the opening scenes of the tragedy he was comparatively calm, no doubt intending that the character, under the stress of continually changing circumstances, should evince itself gradually, and preparing the way for an overwhelming effect of contrast when he became completely aroused. In the succeeding passages of storm and fury he was stupendous. That accomplished actor and expert judge of acting John Sleeper Clarke,
who married the tragedian's daughter Asia,-told me that nothing could exceed in the effect of terror Booth's aspect, action, and delivery when he said:
Among the recorded peculiarities of Booth's performance, mention is made of his slow first entrance, long stride, and self-communing delivery of the opening speech, in which his elocution was exceptionally elaborate. His tones were varied to suit each figure of speech. He pronounced the word "ocean" as one of three syllables, and he gave a rising inflection to the phrase "glorious summer," as if to suggest a flood of radiance by means of sound. He maintained a watchful, crafty, specious, beguiling demeanor until the crown had been gained, and then he assumed the imperial manner of royalty. He restored to the text the questions "Is the chair empty? is the sword unsway'd? Is the King dead?" and he delivered them in a rising torrent of mingled scorn and passion, and with intense energy. From the moment of the King's outset to meet rebellion till the moment of his death on the field of battle he was like a whirlwind, and he carried all before him.
Edwin Forrest acted Richard in a conventional manner. He was burly, loud, and violent, presenting a transparent vil