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PHILADELPHIA THEATRICAL JOURNAL.
FOR NOVEMBER, 1811. Friday 1st, Pizarro. Ella Rosenberg. Saturday 2d, King John.—Matrimony. Monday 4th, School for Scandal.-Hunter of the Alps. Wednesday 6th, Every one has his fault.-Poor Soldier. Friday 8th, Richard III. -Fortune's Frolic. Saturday 9th, Man of the World Tom Thumb. Monday 11th, King Lear. ---Ways and Means. Wednesday 13th, Macbeth..Prisoner at Large. Friday 15th, Wheel of Fortune.—Hunter of the Alps. Saturday 16th, Richard III.-Matrimony. Monday 18th, Henry IV.-Irishman in London. Wednesday 20th, Merchant of Venice.Love à la Mode. Friday 22d, Man of the World.Devil to pay. Saturday 23d, New way to pay old debts-Budget of Blunders. Monday 25th, King John.-Adopted Child. Wednesday 27th, Merchant of Venice.—Love à la Mode. Friday 29th, (Mr. Cooke's benefit,] Richard III.- -Who's the Dupe. Saturday 30th, (Mr. Wood's benefit,] Man of the World. The Lady
of the Rock.
KING JOHN.—The character of John is so very unfavourable to an actor, that of the many who have undertaken it, few have ever succeeded to the satisfaction of every description of auditors. Of the whole part, though it be a long one, two scenes only are interesting-one, that in which the cruel, irresolute, and ambitious monarch works up Herbert to his murderous purposethe other, that in which he endeavours to transfer the load of his guilt from himself upon his agent. The altercations between him and the French king, accompanied by the brawling of the princely ladies, and the very indecorous, though spirited language of Faul. conbridge, form altogether a scene very unsuitable to royalty, and little calculated to awaken any interest in an audience, or impress them with a respect for the principal characters. Yet, during the course of this month, the play has been performed twice-once, we presume, to afford Mr. Cooper an opportunity of displaying his talents in Faulconbridge—and once to bring forward Mr. Cooke in John. In the first instance, the wearisome task of sustaining that dead load, fell to the share of Mr. Wood, who bore up under it better
than we could have expected, and was as tolerable as meaning well could make him. Mr. Cooke fell so far short of our expectations, and of the reports of the best critics of London, that we were at a loss how to account for it till we learned that he had been all that day indisposed, so much as to make it necessary to call in medical advice, and to induce his friends to urge the propriety of his declining to appear; notwithstanding which he persisted in his determination not to disappoint the audience, though he was exceedingly sick and languid. There were nevertheless, some of the masterly touches of the pencil which distinguish his performances from those of every other actor. It is not, however, take it on the whole, a character in which we should be very desirous to see him again: Nor indeed, unless it were possible to raise Mossop from the dead, to see any one.
In the personification of that compound of manly excellence, oddity and whimsical peculiarity, the Bastard, Mr. Cooper was very pleasing. It is somewhat singular, that this character has never met in Great Britain a representative who gave full satisfaction to the critics. Mr. Garrick's idolater, the Dramatic Censor, says, that " in that great man's performance of Faulconbridge there was a certain pettyness which shrunk the character;" and that “ Barry, for external appearance and general execution came nearest the point.”. Yet Barry to our recollection, wanted the bold military hardihood the soldierly fiertè with which Shakspeare has so largely embellished the character; and was therefore short of perfection, notwithstanding the unrivalled beauty of his face, and the size and symmetry of his person. In the late John Hodgkinson there was so little wanting, while there were so many requisites for Faulconbridge, and his performance seemed to us to go so far beyond even that which might be naturally expected from him, that we think it highly probable he was the most perfect representative of the character in our day. At the same time we must say, that Mr. Cooper, though certainly not equal, stands next to him. The noble sentiments, he delivered with great force, and, though as usual much embarrassed by formality, with considerable effect. The stiff premeditated action of Mr. Cooper, however, was not so characteristic of the mad cap, Faulconbridge (so the poet calls him through the mouth of king Jobn)
Why, what a madcap hath heaven lent us here!
as the liberal, dashing utterance and action of Hodgkinson. Yet, were it to be again performed, we should be well contented to look no farther than Mr. Cooper for a representative of him. His personal appearance is much in his favour: but his dress was not fit for Faulconbridge: it smacked more of the jessamy cut and colour of the drawing-room than comported with the hardy, careless Philip. At all events, it ought to be changed for a military dress when he attends the king to the war in France. Mr. Wood, too, though his dress had less of the " pouncet box” in it, neglected that point of costume.
Though Mr. Wood's forte is genteel comedy, he was farther from the mark in the Bastard than he was in John. The unnatural habit of giving pomp and gravity to blank verse wherever found, and the slow solemnity with which it is the mode to utter it (why, heaven knows) stuck to this madcap even in his most whimsical speeches:-a charge to which 'Mr. Cooper is as justly liable, though not in so great a degree as Mr. Wood.
The whimsical soliloquy in the first act, in which Faulconbridge takes occasion, from the change in his affairs, to describe the ridiculous effects of unexpected prosperity upon the manners of men, and the preposterous conduct of upstart greatness,—or as he calls it “ new made honour,” is of itself (not from want of truth, or wit, or justice, but from its involution and obscurity) as much as an audience can satisfactorily digest;--and if at all capable of being rendered intelligible to the many, can only be made so, by giving it, mixed up with careless pleasantry of expression, humour, and levity, and by breaking the different parts of which it is composed, by pauses sufficiently long, and by variations of the tone of voice and manner, so as to mark distinctly to every ear and conception the questions and answers he feigns in the dialogue.-But Mr. Cooper, and still more Mr. Wood, delivered it in a manner as saturnine and sententious, as if in the character of Horatio, they were moralizing to Calista, or reproving the gallant, gay Lothario.
In the first scene of the third act, the deficiencies of these two gentlemen were so exactly the same, that it was evident they took their lessons from the same school, or else from one another-all schools else unknown. Were " their royal presences to be ruled by me" they would reflect that Faulconbridge, though a humourist, is a hasty spark-a true soldier sudden and quick in quarrel” -that he is grievously and rancorously enraged with Austria, who has murdered his father, and wears the lion's skin torn from him as a trophy of his murder, and that his derision of him, is not of the cold laughing kind; but the result of inveterate malice and predetermination to avail himself of every opportunity to insult and fight him. When, therefore, Austria, in answer to the bitter sarcasm of Constance
“ Thou wear a lion's hide! doff it, for shame,
“ And hang a calf's skin on those recreant limbs says
O, that a man would speak those words to me Faulconbridge may justly be supposed with derisive, gibing coolness to repeat
“And bang a calf's skin on those recreant limbs.” But when Austria indignantly replies,
Thou darůst not say sn, villain, for thy life, Faulconbridge's repeating the words again in the self-same tone of coolness, would show more of the stoic than the soldier. He who represents the character, therefore, ought, and the passage affords him a fine opportunity for it, to discriminate. He should (a little at least) make it appear, that he kindles into anger. Not only Austria's words, but the natural swell of his own heart should make him do somhe ought therefore to advance a step or two forward, and in a more peremptory, loud, and fiery tone, repeat,
“ And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs. And this would justify, with stronger likelihood, the interference of the king, and his reproof to Faulconbridge;
“We like not this; thou dost forget thyself;" but in this, both those gentlemen failed.
There were many other things to which, without being in the least over-critical, we might object, in the performance of this play. The erect port and menacing brow, every actor knows when, and most actors how, to put on; but the great let, the impassable swamp in the way of actors in general seems to be discrimination in utterance,-in the time,-in that which our excellent leader Gilling. ham beats to his brethren of the band with such energy and just emphasis.- Now, with all due reverence for his majesty blank verse, we think he might sometimes condescend to quicken his pace with advantage--at the suggestion of anger, for instance. Nor can we conceive how he can so gravely as he sometimes does, march on in solemn adagio, when the poet beats to the heart con
6 A con
spirito-or how any man playing Faulconbridge, can, when Salisbury utters his arrogant threat,
“Stand by, or I shall gall you, Faulconbridge" without augmented impetuosity and quickness of expression reply in the sharp terms of rebuke put in his mouth by the poet
“ Thou wert better gall the devil, Salisbury:
That you shall think the devil is come from hell." On the whole, as there is no play of Shakspeare's which stands in so much need of support from the actors of it, as King John, so we most heartily wish that we may never see it performed until actors can be found perfectly qualified for that purpose. summation devoutly to be wished," but not rationally to be hoped for; since at this moment we verily believe they do not exist, within the whole compass of the various stages whether in the eastern or western world, on which English plays are performed.
SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL.-Mr. Dwyer took this comedy for his benefit, and in doing so, made a choice advantageous to himself, and pleasing to his friends. Exclusive of the excellence of the composition, the performance was such as could not fail to afford general gratification. Most of the parts were filled to perfection. Warren's Sir Peter and Wood's Joseph are sufficiently known. Jefferson's Sir Oliver, and Blisset's Sir Benjamin were in the eye of the critics little inferior to their estimation with the many. And * Mr. Dwyer's excellence in Charles was not diminished by any of
those slight faults we have heretofore had the mortification to enlarge upon.
The character of Maria was performed by a young lady who never appeared on any stage before. We should rather say it was intended to be performed than that it was, since this fair debutante was so entirely overwhelmed with fear, that her voice was scarcely heard in any part of the house, and even in the pit, near the orchestra, her words were not distinctly understood. We have witnessed many first attempts, and cannot call to mind a single instance of such extreme trepidation.
We are far from drawing from this sort of failure any prognostic unfavourable to the young lady's talents. Her figure is good,