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Adjectives, sometimes laudatory, some- A superb portrait of Phelps as Wolsey, times condemnatory, are freely employed; by Johnston Forbes-Robertson, adorns a but at the best they seldom do more wall in the Garrick Club, London, and than convey general impressions. Few de- will preserve to a distant posterity the extails are furnished showing precisely what pressive lineaments of an authentic image the actor did and how he did it. Ver- of passionate grief commingled with desobruggen is commended as fine in Cassius, late submission. but is scarcely more than mentioned in The expedient employed by Shakspere Wolsey. He was a pleasing actor, appar- to precipitate the downfall of Wolsey, ently exuberant, lawless, and defective in that of causing the Cardinal, through art. Cibber is credited with a suave de haste and inadvertence, to inclose to King meanor and a clever assumption of crafty Henry a private letter, respecting the dideference in the trial scene; but he lacked vorce of Queen Katharine, which he had dignity, and he was incapable of a con- intended to send to the pope at Rome, vincing show of serious feeling. One re- together with an inventory of his wealth, corder thinks it worth while to mention —was drawn from Holinshed's "Chronithat when, in Wolsey's soliloquy about cle.” No such mistake was ever made by the king's marriage, he said, “This candle Wolsey, but such a mistake actually was burns not clear; 't is I must snuff it,” he made by Thomas Ruthall, who held the made a gesture with his fingers, as though office of Bishop of Durham from 1509 till he were using a candle-snuffer. Boheme 1522. That ecclesiastic had been ordered had been a sailor, and he walked with a to prepare a record of the estates of the straddle; but he was tall and of good kingdom, to be delivered to Wolsey. He presence, and he excelled in pathetic pas- told his servant to bring from his study a sages, so that his delivery of Wolsey's book bound in white vellum. The servant farewell must have been touching. Ryan obeyed, bringing, by mischance, a book, was a judicious actor, of respectable abil- bound in white vellum, which contained ities, and his performance of Wolsey was an account of Ruthall's private possescreditable. Digges marred by extrava- sions, and that volume was despatched to gance of gesture a performance which the cardinal. It appears to have shown otherwise would have been perfect. Mos- that some of the bishop's gains had been sop could express the pomp and severity of ill-gotten. Ruthall, dismayed by that unthe part, and he is praised for energetic lucky exposure of his secret affairs, soon delivery of the text. Bensley, who had afterward died of humiliation and shame. been an officer in the British army (he Expert use of that mishap is made in the served in America at one time), was a drama (Act III, Scene 2), providing one formal, correct,
conscientious actor,-a of the best pieces of the action, and, for good Malvolio,- but he did not make a the actor of Wolsey, one of the most tellspecial mark as Wolsey. Henderson, great ing passagesthe soliloquy which ends: as Shylock, Iago, and Falstaff, was only
“I shall fall notable in Wolsey for his correct elocution. Pope possessed a fine voice, but an
Like a bright exhalation in the evening, inexpressive face; he excelled, neverthe
And no man see me more." less, in pathos, and his Wolsey was effective in the scene of the great minister's Later representatives of Wolsey were fall. Kemble, Young, and Macready Charles Kean and Henry Irving, both of could not have been otherwise than im- whom acted it in America as well as in posing as the Cardinal, for each of them England. Herbert Beerbohm Tree also possessed innate dignity, ample scholar- acted it in England, but his performance ship, stately presence, and facile com- has not yet been seen in America. Kean mand of the resources of expressive art. produced “King Henry VIII” with much Phelps gave a highly intellectual, noble, splendor at the Princess's Theater, Lonaustere, touching performance of Wolsey, don, in 1855. Irving produced it at the invariable in its dignity, singularly expres- London Lyceum in 1892. When Kean, sive of a politic character, and in the in the spring of 1865, made his last proparting scene with Cromwell profoundly fessional visit to America, he began his affecting.
engagement at the theater which had been Wallack's (in Broadway, near Broome tual character, grim power, and an austere Street, New York), then called the Broad- refinement which, more than ecclesiastical, way, long ago demolished, with "King was spiritual. His aspect was noble, his Henry VIII," appearing as Wolsey, with demeanor majestic. His pale face, dark, Mrs. Kean (Ellen Tree) as Queen Kath- bright eyes, massive brow, and iron
arine, and presented, the same night, "The gray hair suited well the part. He Jealous Wife.” Irving presented "King wore robes of scarlet cloth adorned with Henry VIII" at Abbey's Theater, now lace. His manner at first was that of the Knickerbocker, New York, on Decem- repose, but it was lofty and predomber 4, 1893.
inant. The glance that he directed toCharles Kean's impersonation of Wol- ward the defiant Buckingham as he sey, which it was my privilege several paused, after partly crossing the scene, on times to see, was remarkable for intellec- his first entrance, seemed literally to pierce
his enemy. In King Henry's presence his actor, and his performance of Wolsey bearing was that of obsequious deference. made actual on the stage an ideal that His handling of the ruinous papers that rose to the full height of the poet's conthe king returns to Wolsey, combined ception. with changes of facial expression, a rumi- Henry Irving's impersonation of W'olnative pause, and then an utterance of sey commingled in one symmetrical idenhopeless surrender, was supremely elo- tity the stately aristocrat, the suave diploquent. In speaking the lines which in- matist, the commanding statesman, and
corporate the reference to the fall of the polished, elegant, highly intellectual Lucifer, he stretched his arms upward and prince of the church,-chimere, rochet, forward, conveying a grand image of the mantle, red hat, etc.,—and his tall figure, poet's thought, and then, upon the sad ascetic face, piercing eyes, authoritative cadence of the verse, completely collapsed, bearing, incisive speech, and incessant uttering the abject desolation of a broken earnestness of personification, combined spirit in the four simple words, "never to to make the performance impressively liferise again.” Kean's delivery was often like and deeply sympathetic. He emsomewhat marred by a certain nasality of ployed, as Kean had done, the traditional speech, and his performances were not business relative to Buckingham in the illumined by those flashes of lightning opening scene-a scene in which the Carwhich characterized the acting of his dis- dinal, sure of his ground, is perfectly comtinguished father; but he was a noble posed. In the trial scene his manner to
ward the king was profoundly respectful, Young's “Revenge.” Her embodiment of and toward the queen, bland, almost hum- Queen Katharine was admired by her ble, ingratiating, and ingenuous. Wolsey, contemporaries, and the dramatic chronuntil the moment of the catastrophe, is icles of her day commend it for royalty of almost continuously acting a part, and demeanor, depth of feeling, and grace of Irving's performance was remarkably in- sympathetic expression. Her voice is dicative of that condition-alert, vigilant, described as tremulous. She specially exfull of transitions from frankness to subtle celled in her delivery of the Queen's adartifice, revealed to the auditory by the juration to the King in the trial scene. In expedient of transparency. Touches of early life she had attended on the fascinatmordant sarcasm,
as when, replying to ing Elizabeth Barry, and it is probable Campeius, he said in a dry tone, “We live that she formed her style on the model of not to be grip'd by meaner persons," and that great actress. Mrs. Pritchard, who when, in the moody soliloquy about the succeeded her, was accounted majestic in king's marriage, he murmured, “I'll no deportment and natural in method of Anne Bullens for him," — here and there speech in this character, but less effective lit the performance with gleams of austere upon the feelings of the audience. Mrs. humor. There was, in the scene of defeat Porter and Mrs. Pritchard dressed Queen and ruin, and in the delivery of the fare- Katharine in imitation of the attire worn well, a touching simplicity of grief and by royal persons of their period. There is resignation, and a striking revelation of no specific stage account of the stage-busiprofound knowledge of human suffering. ness used in this part by those eminent
Before 1660, all characters in plays per- performers. formed in England, male and female, were It is not until Mrs. Siddons comes upon presented by males. Some one of the the scene that the investigator of the subtwenty-six persons named in the list pre- ject finds particular mention of expedients fixed to the first folio as “the principal that were employed in the acting of Queen actors in all these plays” was presumably Katharine. In 1788–89 John Philip the first performer of Queen Katharine. Kemble, at Drury Lane, revived "King The first woman who ever acted the part Henry VIII,” making a new stage version was Mary Betterton, wife of Thomas, she of it, - which was published in 1804,having coöperated with her husband in and giving special attention to scenery, the representation of "King Henry VIII” costumes, and processions. All was done which was given at Lincoln's Inn Fields that his sound scholarship could warrant in 1663. No account of her acting in it and his liberality of expenditure compass. is extant, but she was highly esteemed as Mrs. Siddons acted Queen Katharine. an actress, and it can be reasonably as- Robert Bensley appeared as Wolsey. sumed that she gave a competent perfor- Kemble "doubled" in the characters of
The vision scene, as it is usually Cromwell and Griffith (reserving his called (Act IV, Scene 2), in which the essay in Wolsey till a later time, when he death-stricken queen asks for music, and acted that part with distinguished success). presently lapses into slumber, was elabo- That was the occasion when Mrs. Siddons rately treated as a spectacle in the time of made her first appearance as the queen. The Mrs. Betterton, and that method, required peculiar, expressive business,- haughty, imby ample stage-direction in the folio, perious, and openly and grandly hostile,was followed in the time of her distin- of pointing at Wolsey and addressing him guished successors, Elizabeth Barry, 1706; without looking at him in the trial scene, Mary Porter, 1721; and Hannah Pritch- when Queen Katharine delivers the trenard, 1743
Mrs. Porter, tall, fair, not chant speech beginning, “Lord Cardinal, handsome, but impressive by reason of to you I speak," was invented by her, and great dignity, and winning by reason of her pause after the word “Cardinal,” and acute sensibility, is said to have acted to the marked emphasis, incisive and scornperfection such parts as Shakspere's Her- ful, that she placed on the word "you" mione, in “The Winter's Tale," Otway's were accounted wonderfully expressive. At Belvidera, in “Venice Preserved,” Queen a later period that point in the representaElizabeth, in John Banks's “The Un- tion was chosen by Mr. G. H. Harlow happy Favorite," and Leonora, in Dr. when he painted the spirited picture of the