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 Any one who so analyzes the Dramatic Art as to see what its basis, contents, and uses are, will be astonished to find what a deep and wide feature it is in human nature, and how extensive and important a part it plays in human life. The study of the great spectacle of human existence as a whole, from the point of view of the Stage, in the light of dramatic usages and imagery, imparts to it a keener, more diversified, more comprehensive interest and instructiveness than it can receive in any other way. The habit of thus seeing people and things group themselves in pictures, of looking on scenes and acts in their relationship as a whole, of reading character and getting at states of mind and plucking out personal secrets by an intuitive and cultivated art of interpreting the signs consciously or unconsciously given, is spontaneous in men of the highest artistic genius, like Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and Goethe. And it lends a marvellous charm and piquancy to their experience of the world, enchanting every object with active significance, color, and mystery.
Thus the Theatre, technically so called, is but one of the lesser spheres of the dramatic art. The tragedies and comedies coldly elaborated there are often tame and poor to those enacted with the flaming passions of life itself in parlors and kitchens, in palace and hut and street. Every one of us is essentially an actor, the setting of his performance furnished independently of his will wherever he goes, all his schemes included and borne on in a divine plan deeper than he dreams. Our own organism is the primary theatre, the proscenia of brain and heart teeming with dramas which link our being and destiny with those of all other actors from the beginning to the end of the world. Every spot in which man meets his fellow-men is a secondary theatre, arrayed with its scenery of circumstances, where each has his
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 rôle and all the characters and parts interplay upon one another with mixtures of truth and deceit, skill and awkwardness, aspiration and despair. One of the chief differences is that some get behind the scenes and sharply understand a little of what is going on, while most take their parts blindly, ignorant of what either themselves or others are about, alternately before the foot-lights and back of the drop. And, meanwhile, what is the blue, glittering wilderness of infinitude itself but the theatre fitted up by God, with its doors of birth and death and its curtains of day and night, for the training of the total company of living creatures with which He has stocked it, from animalcule to archangel? The Manager has assigned in the evolution of the universal plot their just rôles to all the performers, with incessant transmigrations of drudge and star, lackey and hero, sultan and beggar, while the years move on and the generations pass and return, the whole space of the stage being crowded as thickly with shifting masks and disguises as a sunbeam is with motes.
All place being thus theatrical, and all conscious existence thus having something dramatic, it is quite obvious how inadequate must be their appreciation of the art of acting who recognize its offices only in the play-house. The play-house is merely the scene of its purposed and deliberate exhibition as a professional art. In its different kinds, with its different degrees of consciousness and complexity, as a matter of instinct and culture it is practised everywhere. Freeing our minds from prejudices on the one side, and from indifference on the other, let us, then, approach the subject with an earnest effort to learn the truth and to see what its lessons are.
The history of the drama, in the usual accounts given of it, is traced back to Thespis, Susarion, and others, in Greece, about six centuries before Christ. But this has reference only to the most detached and consummate form of the art. In order really to understand its derivative basis, its ingredients, its numerous applications and the moral rank and value of its several uses, we must go much farther back, and study its gradual ascent. We must, indeed, not only go beyond the polished states of civilization, but even beyond the first appearance of man himself on the scene of this world. For the rudiments of the dramatic art, the simple germs afterwards combined and developed in human
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 nature with higher additions, are manifested in the lower animals. The naked foundations, the raw materials, of the art of acting are shown in all gregarious creatures, and portions of them even in solitary creatures. They are the crude instincts of intelligence, imagination, and sympathy. Creatures who are made alike have the same inner states of consciousness when they are under the same outer conditions. They also reveal these inner states by the same outer signs, namely, attitudes, movements, colors, cries, nervous relaxations or contractions. Seeing in another creature the signals of a certain state which has always in their own experience been the accompaniment and cause of these same signals, they interpret the signals accordingly, and enter into the same state themselves by sympathy, the signals by a reversal of impulse reacting to cause the state which they primarily denoted. Thus panics spread through a swarm of birds, an army of wild horses, or a flock of sheep. Thus the leader of a herd of buffaloes coming on the track of hunters or in sight of a grizzly bear is terrified by the danger and starts off on a run in another direction. The stiffened tail, erected ears, glaring eyes, expanded nostrils, impetuous plunge, communicate the instinctive intelligence and feeling through these signs from the nearest members of the herd to those farther off, with extreme rapidity, and soon the entire multitude is in one sympathetic state of alarm and flight. The perception of danger by the leader awakened the feeling of fear and led to the movement of escape. Those who had not these states of themselves caught their signs and assumed their substance from the one who had. Thus all are reinforced and saved by one.
There are animals and insects which on being touched, or being approached by a superior enemy, instantly assume the attitude and appearance of death. They recognize their peril, and seek to elude notice by a motionless condition which simulates death. They thus pretend to be other than they are, for the purpose of preserving the power to remain what they are. The ruby-throated humming-bird of Canada, if captured, feigns death by shutting its eyes and keeping quite still, then making a vigorous effort to escape. Some birds by false pretences of agitation lure the trapper away from the neighborhood of their nest. Cats constantly feign sleep to further their design of catching birds or
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 mice. This shows not only a dramatic gift, but also a clear purpose in the use of it.
This playing 'possum is a dramatic artifice very prevalent even in the lower regions of the animal kingdom. If it be thought that a bug cannot possibly know so much, the reply is, Perhaps the bug itself does not, but the presence of God, the creative and guardian Spirit of nature, the collective experience of the total ancestry of the bug organized in its nervous system, does know it; and it is this automatic reason that plays the cunning game. A bear has been known to frequent the bank of a stream where fishes were wont to come to the surface and feed on the falling fruit of an overhanging tree, to splash the water with his paw in imitation of the dropping fruit, and when the fish appeared, seize and devour it! This neat little drama implies on the part of the bear an imaginative conception of the different personages and scenes in the situation, in advance, and then a deliberate representation of his ideas in action. It would be the same thing as human art if the bear could of its own impulse repeat the whole serial action under other circumstances, as, for example, before a group of bears off in the woods. This he cannot do; and thus is the animal drama differenced from the human drama, instinct separated from art.
A great many animals are known to imitate the cries or motions of the creatures they prey on, in order to allure them within seizing-distance. For the sake of gaining some end they pretend to be what they are not, and to entertain feelings and designs quite different from their real ones. Certainly this is to be a hypocrite, an actor, in the deepest sense of guile. The mocking-bird has the faculty of mimicking the notes of all kinds of birds with marvellous accuracy and ease. It takes great pleasure in practising the gift, calling various kinds of timid songsters around it, and then with a malicious delight pouring on their ears the screams of their enemies and scattering them in the wildest terror. By this exercise of the dramatic art the mocking-bird refreshes, varies, magnifies, the play of its own life. In like manner, and with the same result, kittens, dogs, lions, play games with one another, represent mimic battles, pretend to be angry, to strike and bite, doing it all in a gentle manner, softened down from the deadly earnestness of reality.
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The aim and use of those crude elements or germs of the drama which appear in the lower animal world would seem, therefore, to be the enabling them to escape their pursuers, to seize their prey, to vary and enlarge their lives by that gregarious interchange and consolidation which is a mutual giving and taking of inner states through outer signs. It is transmitted instinct, fitted to its ends and acting within fixed limits, dependent for the most part on outward stimuli.
Mounting from animals to men, we discover the earliest developments of the dramatic art among the rudest tribes of savages. The prevalence and exercise of the faculty of dramatization among the principal tribes of barbarians in all parts of the world are equally striking and extensive. It is one of the most prized and powerful portions of their experience, and one of the first to impress the travellers who visit them. It has three distinct provinces. The first is their own actual lives, whose most exciting incidents, most salient features, they repeat in mimic representation. Dressed in appropriate costumes, they celebrate with counterfeit performances the Planting Festival, the Harvest Festival, and other important events connected with the phenomena of the year. They also dramatize with intense vividness and vigor the experience of war,—the following of the trail of the enemy, the ambush, the surprise, the struggle, the scalping of the slain, the burning of the village, the gathering of the booty, the return home, and the triumphant reception. This is not confined to the North American Indians. The Dyaks of Borneo, the New Zealanders, the Patagonians, the Khonds of Asia, the Negroes of Africa, and scores of other peoples, have similar rites, besides numerous additional ones less distinctively dramatic, covering the ceremonies of hunting, fishing, marriage, birth, and death.
The second department of the drama among barbarians is their impersonations of animals, their picturesque and terrible representation of the passions and habits of reptiles, birds, and beasts. Morgan, in his History of the Iroquois, gives a list of some forty dances in which they acted out to the life stories based on their own experience and on that of the creatures beneath them. But we owe to Catlin some of the most graphic descriptions of the drama among the North American savages.
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 In the Eagle Dance, the braves dress themselves as eagles, in plumes, feathers, beaks, talons; and they shriek, whistle, sail, swoop, in exact imitation of them. In the Wolf Dance, they go on all-fours, yelp, snarl, bark, and fill up the wolfish programme to the very letter. In the Buffalo Dance, they each wear a buffalo mask, consisting of the face, horns, and skin of a buffalo, and mimic, in ludicrous burlesque, the sounds and motions of that unwieldy creature. And so with bears, foxes, beavers, hawks, and the rest of the fauna most familiar to them. In these performances they reproduce with frenzied truth and force the most ferocious and deadly traits of their prototypes, and often, among the savages of Fiji and South Africa, the drama ends half drowned in blood. In Dahomey, where the Serpent is worshipped, the votary crawls on his belly as a snake and licks the dust before his idol, and sometimes becomes crazy with the permanent possession of his part. The barbaric mind finds intense excitement and enjoyment in these plays, hideous as they seem to us. They break up the weary monotony of his life, and introduce the relish of games and novelty and variety. They give him, what he so greatly craves, mental amusement with physical passion and exertion. They are his almost only antidote for the bane of stagnation.
On the other hand, great evils result from them. They never work upward to reflect higher forms of character and life for redemptive imitation, but downward, in the impersonating of creatures whose inferiority either inflames the boastful and reckless self-complacency of the actors, or else by its reflex influences takes possession of their consciousness and animalizes them, degrading them to the level of the brutes they portray. Secondly, the reception of the idea of the beast, snake or vulture which they represent, their furious mimicry of it, the spasmodic, rhythmical, long-continued movements they make in accordance with it, tend to subject the brain to the automatic spinal and ganglionic centres below, and thus furnish the conditions and initiate the stages of all sorts of insanity. Much of the persistent degradation and ferocity of the barbaric world is to be traced to this cause.
Nor is this the only evil; for, in the third place, when the savage mind, after such a training, affects to penetrate the invisible
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world and come back to report and portray the supernatural beings who exercise authority there, it naturally takes its impulsive cue, its ideal stamp, from the nervous centres under the inspiration of which it acts. Those centres being possessed by the influences of serpents, wolves, lust, hate, and murder, of course the spirits and gods reflected will be fiends, incongruous mixtures of beast and man, devilish monsters. Then the worship of these reacts to deepen the besotted superstition and terror, the nightmare carnival of the brain, out of which it originally sprang. And so the process goes on, in a doomed circle of hopelessness. The time and faculty devoted by the soothsayers and medicine-men who compose the priestly caste in savagedom to the tricking out of their devil-gods and their mummery of magic,—the time and faculty given by their followers to the enactment of their obsessed ritual,—if directed to the creation and imitative reproduction of superior types of human character and experience, would soon lift them out of the barbaric state in which they have so long grovelled. And it is a very impressive fact that every instance revealed in history of a savage people rising into civilization is accompanied by the tradition of some illustrious stranger from afar, or some divinely-inspired genius emerging among themselves, who has originated the rôle of a new style of man, thrown it out before them for dramatic assimilation, and so impressed it on them as to secure its general copying among them. This has, thus far in history, been the divine plan for lifting the multitude: the appearance of a single inspired superior whose characteristics the inferiors look up to with loving reverence and put on for the transformation of their own personalities into the likeness of his. That is the dynamic essence of Christianity itself.
The next step in this survey of the psychological history of the dramatic art whereby we are essaying to unfold its purport and its final definition, leads us from barbaric life to the private homes of the most cultivated classes of civilized society. The higher we go in the scale of social wealth and rank, the larger provisions we shall find made for gratifying the dramatic instincts of children, till we come to the nursery of the baby prince, who has his miniature parks of cannon and whole regiments of lead soldiers, and the baby princess, who has a constant succession of dolls of
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 all grades, costumes, and ages. The little warrior animates his soldiers and their officers with such ideas and passions as he has in himself or as he can get glimpses of from his elders or from books, creates rôles for them, and puts them through their paces and fortunes with such variety and succession as he can contrive. And so his nursery is a theatre, and he is at once author, manager, actors, supernumeraries, spectators, and all. Likewise the young girl dresses up her dolls, takes them to church, to balls, undresses them, puts them to sleep, weds them, celebrates their funeral, in a word, transfuses all her own life, real and imaginative, into them, and so reactingly multiplies herself and her experience, and peoples the otherwise tedious vacancy of childhood with vital and passionate processions, pathetically prefiguring all the tragedy and comedy that are actually to follow. A Bengal newspaper, giving an account of a curious marriage-procession through the streets of Dacca, says, "In Indian households dolls play a far more important part than they do in England, for all the perfection to which we have attained in the art of making, clothing, and lodging them. Indian dolls are not remarkable for beauty or close resemblance to human models; but in bedecking them no expense is spared. They have a room to themselves, and seem to enjoy as much attention as live children do elsewhere. Feasts and garden-parties are given in their honor. The death of a doll involves a great show of mourning, and the marriage of one is a public event. In the present instance two dolls belonging to the daughters of the wealthiest Hindus in Dacca were led out at the head of a solemn procession, to the delight of the bystanders. After the wedding ceremony the parents of the girls who had thus disposed of their puppets laid out a few thousand rupees in feasting their friends and caste-folk, as well as the neighboring poor."
As children grow older and become school-boys and school-girls, this faculty and impulse do not cease to act, but, developed still further, instead of imparting fancied life and action to inanimate toys, lead them to imitative performances of their own, causing them to group themselves together for the representation of games, and of the historic scenes, social events, or fictitious stories which have most impressed and pleased their imaginations.
The point of interest demanding attention at this stage of our
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 inquiry is how to discriminate clearly between the drama of the savage and the drama of the child. The dramatization of the savage is mimetic, a putting on from without of the disguise, the postures, sounds, motions, of the animal he impersonates. He imitates the outer signs of the animal; and these often in return produce in him the corresponding states of consciousness. But the dramatization of the child is creative, a projection from within of his own thoughts and emotions into the counterfeit toys he personifies, and a consequent heightening of his own sense of life by an imagination of its being imparted and sympathetically taken up and shared. With the barbarian the primary movement of action is from without inward; with the child it is from within outward. There it is the interpretative assumption by the actor of the signs of states in another; here it is the direct transference by sympathetic imagination of the states of the actor to another. That is the raw drama of the senses, this the initial drama of the soul.
We must pause here, before passing to the next head, to make a brief exposition of another department and application of the dramatic power of man, a department intermediate between the examples already given and those which are to come. Its peculiarity is that it combines in one, with certain original features of its own, the barbaric and the childish drama. The creation of Fables is the strongest delight of the dramatizing literary faculty in its first movements. Its workings are to be traced in the ingenuous oral treasures preserved among tribes who have no written language, as well as in the most beloved vernacular writings current among the populace in civilized countries. Fables are short compositions designed to teach moral truths, or to impress moral truisms, by representing beasts, birds, reptiles, insects, trees, flowers, or other objects, as endowed with the faculties of men, retaining their own forms but acting and talking as men, exemplifying the virtues and vices of men in characteristic deeds, followed by their proper consequences. In the degrading barbarian drama the actors admit into themselves the lower creatures whom they represent, putting on the skins, movements, cries, of the crocodiles, hyenas, or boa-constrictors the ideas of whom they take into their brains. In the naïve child drama the little performers project the ideas of themselves into the dolls
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 and toys they personify and move. But in the fable drama these two processes are joined, with a mere inversion of the subjects of the first; for in fables the actors, in place of being, as in the plays of savages, the assumed souls of animals and the disguised bodies of men, are the disguised souls of men in the assumed forms and costumes of animals. The one is an actual representation of animals by men for free sport; the other is an imaginary representation of men by animals for the inculcation of lessons, as, for example, in the well-known instance of the Wolf and the Lamb. The author of a fable puts his own human nature into the humbler creatures whom he dramatizes, with a deliberate conscious thought, a creative exercise of the reflective faculty at the second remove, quite unlike the instinctive and half-believing action of the child who straddles a stick pretending that it is a horse. He has a clear didactic purpose in addition to the sportive impulse of fancy. This picturing of human nature and its experiences in the living framework of the lower world yields the keenest pleasure to all who have not outgrown it; and no one ought ever to outgrow it. He outgrows it only by the gradual hardening of his heart and fancy, the immovable stolidity of his faculties in their fixed ruts and crusts. It is the favorite literature of the childhood of the world. It is filled with quaint wisdom, raciness, and droll burlesque, as is abundantly to be seen in the traditions of the Hottentots, the Esquimaux, the Africans, and other barbaric nations. And in the classic compositions of Pilpai the Persian, Lokman the Arab, Æsop the Greek, Phædrus the Roman, La Fontaine the Frenchman, and other masters, it constitutes, with its innocent gayety, its malicious mischief, its delicious wit and humor, its cutting satire and caricature, one of the most exquisite portions of cosmopolitan literature.
Hardly any other conception has given the people so much pleasure as that Beast-Epic, or picture of human life in the vizards and scenery of animal life, which, under the title of "Reynard the Fox," circulated through Europe for centuries,—a sort of secular and democratic Bible, read in palaces, quoted in universities, thumbed by toilsmen, delighted in by all, old and young, high and low, learned and illiterate. There the society and life of the Middle Age are reflected with grotesque truth and mirth, grim irony, sardonic grins, comic insight, laughter
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 and tragedy, not without many touches of poetry and prophecy. There are Noble the Lion, Isegrim the Wolf, Reynard the Fox, Chanticleer the Cock, Bruin the Bear, Lampe the Hare, Hinze the Cat, and the rest, each one representing enigmatically some class or order in the human life of the romantic but cruel Feudal World. The poet, with a sly joy, unfolds his pictures of wolves tonsured as monks, foxes travelling as pilgrims to shrines and to Rome, cocks pleading as lawyers at the judgment-bar. He asserts the moral standard of the plebeian instincts against the conventional ecclesiastic and civil codes, and rectifies his own wrongs as without rank, power, or wealth, but gifted with genius and spirit, against the kings, barons, priests, and soldiers, by portraying the uniform final success of the reckless, good-for-nothing, but inexhaustibly bright, shifty, and fascinating Reynard. The representative types of the strong, cruel, stupid men of prerogative and routine are made to serve as foils for the scholar and actor, with his spiritual flexibility, elusive swiftness of resource, inner detachment and readiness.
The attractiveness of fables is fourfold. First, the charm of all exercises of the dramatic art, namely, the incessant playing of human nature with its elementary experiences in and out of all sorts of masks and disguises of changing persons and situations. Second, the congruous mixture in them of the most extravagant impossibilities and absurdities with the plainest facts and truths; the union of sober realities of reason and nature with incredible forms, giving fresh shocks of wit and humor. Third, the constant sense of superiority and consequent elated complacency felt by the human auditor or reader over the animal impersonators of his nature, with the ludicrous contrasts and suggestions they awaken at every turn. Fourth, the interest and authority of the moral lessons, truisms though these may be, which they so vividly bring out.
One cannot refrain from adding, in this connection, that there is a further form of the dramatic inhabitation of our humbler brethren the brutes, by kind and generous men, an example newly offered to notice by the officers and friends of our Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. These gentlemen, by a divine extension of their sympathy, quite in the spirit of the blessed Master who in his parables immortalized the hen, the sparrow,
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 the raven, the ox, and the ass, transport themselves into the situation of the poor dumb creatures who are so often abused, feel and speak for them, and try to remedy their wrongs and to secure them their rights. They are spreading abroad a disposition and habit of kindness which will not stop with the first field of its application, but will extend to include in a finer and vaster embrace the whole world of childhood, and all the weak, degraded, and suffering classes of men. This development of sympathy is one of surprising beauty and promise. It tends to do for us what the doctrine of the transmigration of souls has done for the Hindoos,—affiliate us with the entire series of living beings in tender sentiment and mystery, as members of one family, under one law of destiny. It will indeed redeem the whole world of humanity if it shall be applied consistently to all as it was expressed by the famous Rarey in the practical principle he applied to the taming of unruly horses, namely: Free them from the spirit of opposition, and fill them with the spirit of obedient trust, by showing them how groundless is fear and how futile is resistance. The truth of God in the love of men will one day end crime, cruelty, terror, and misery. O blessed vision, how far away art thou?
The dramatic art, based on the science of human nature in the revelation of its inner states through outer signs, is the exercise of that power whereby man can indefinitely multiply his personality and life, by identifying himself with others, or others with himself, by divesting himself of himself and entering into the characters, situations, and experiences of those whom he beholds or reads of or creatively imagines. This definition elevates the art, in its pure practice, high above the reach of cavil; for its central principle is the essence of that disinterested sympathy and vicarious atonement whose culmination on Calvary have deified the Christ.
Let us trace a little the rise and nature of this power from a point of view somewhat different from the one in which we have already considered it.
The life of a peach-tree, a rose-bush, or a squash-vine is rigidly determined for it in advance by the seed from which it springs and the soil and climate in which it grows. Its life is simply the sum of actions and reactions between the forces in
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 itself and the forces in its environment; and this sum of dynamic relations is fixed fatally by its organic structure. To a degree the same is true of the life of a weasel, a pig, a horse, or an eagle; but this with two modifications, two elements of greatening freedom and variety. First, in connection with the consciousness and the power of locomotion which distinguish the animal from the vegetable, it can change its environment, from cliff to cave, from village to desert, from field to shore, from hill to valley, or from a temperate zone to a tropical, thus securing a large mass of changes in its surrounding conditions, resulting in a correspondent diversity or increase in that sum of actions and reactions which composes its life. Second, the gregarious nature of animals enables them likewise, to some extent, to supplement one another, to exchange states of consciousness and unite their experience. Crows hold consultations and caw with mutual intelligibility. A flock of wild geese understand the honk of their leader, and obey every signal perfectly. Bees converse, build, hunt, wage war, and carry on their little monarchical republic with amazing cunning and consent.
But this associative alteration, enhancement, and interchange of life receive an almost incredible development when we ascend to man. His nature and destiny too, the fact that he is a man, not a tree or a brute or an angel or a god, are determined for him by his parentage. This hereditary descent decides his general character and status, and also many details of special faculty and tendency. But in him all this coexists with an immense freedom and power of foreign assimilation. He can change and modify the conditions of his habitat in a thousand particulars where the lower animals can do so in one. By free education, drill, and habit, he can likewise indefinitely modify his reactions on the same outer conditions. But far above all this in rank and reach is his ability to perfect his character by the characters of others, to make the most direct and copious levying on the experiences of his fellow-men. He has not only the organic inheritance of his ancestry and the traditional treasure of his country and people to work with, but, furthermore, in history, science, and literature he has the keys to the conscious wealth of all men in all lands and times.
The outward universe in which we live is one and the same in
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 common to all men. But the inner representation of this, the sum of all that he has experienced and knows of it, is different with every man. Now, it is with the revelation, the discovery, seizure, and exhibition of this peculiar inner or ideal world of each individual that the dramatic art in its practice in actual life is concerned. The business of most persons seems to be rather to conceal and hold back, to falsify and distort their inner states, than to reveal and impart them. Their arts are disguise, imposture, and deception, rather than sincerity, sympathy, and frankness. But the practical science of the drama puts all the secrets in our power, and enables us to add to our own inner world or conscious personal kosmos the related inner worlds of others, almost without hindrance or limit.
A philosopher like Hegel, a scientist like Humboldt, a poet like Rückert, deeply read in all literatures and trained to the facile reproduction of every mode of thought and action, traverses all races and ages, deciphering their symbols, reading their passions, royally reaping their experimental conquests, thus virtually enlarging his own soul to the dimensions of collective humanity and enriching himself with its accumulated possessions. The first condition of truly profound and vital acting is to have the knowledge, the liberty, the spiritual energy and skill, to solve this inner side of the problem by reconstructing in the mind and heart the modes of character, passion, and conduct which are to be represented. They must be mastered and made one's own before they can be intelligently exhibited. It is the part of a charlatan to content himself with merely detecting and imitating the outer signs. He is potentially the richest and freest man who is most capable of assuming and subsidizing all other men. He is virtually the king and owner of the world, though without crown or sceptre, while many a titular king has nothing but these external insignia. The greatest actor is the one who is the most perfect master of all the signs of the inner states of men, and can in his own person exhibit those signs with the most vivid power. He must have, to be completely equipped for his work, a mind and a body whose parallel faculties and organs are energetic and harmonic, every muscle of the one so liberated and elastic, every power of the other so freed and connected, that they can act either singly or in varied combination with others
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 or with the whole, with easy precision and vigor. The absence of prejudices and strictures, contracting ignorance and hate, and the presence of disinterested wisdom and openness, a trained intuitive sensibility, will put all states of all souls in his possession by spontaneous interpretation of their signals. Such an actor, perfected in his own being and crowned with the trophies of human culture in every department, is fitted to pass through all the grades and ranges of society, reflecting everything, subjected to nothing, the sovereign of mankind, the top of the world.
And now we are prepared to advance to the heart of our theme and show the place of the drama in its full development in adult civilized society, where all sorts of acting are not only diffused through the daily life of the community, but also separated in a distinct profession and supplied with a brilliant home. The drama, in its finished literary and histrionic sense, is seen when a story, instead of being merely described in forms, words, or colors,—as by sculpture, narrative, and painting,—is exhibited by fit personages in living action with all the appropriate accessories of looks, attitudes, tones, articulations, gestures, and deeds. The end of this imitative, reproductive, and creative exhibition is, as has already been said, to enable the spectator to transpose himself out of himself into others, assimilating them to himself or himself to them, thus unlimitedly exchanging his personality and its conscious contents. In this sense the dramatic faculty is universal, and its exercise, in an unsystematic way, incessant. What other people do in a bungling and piecemeal manner, without clear purpose or method, the professional actor does with full consciousness and system, and exhibits for the pleasure and edification of the observers. Everybody, from infancy to old age, with such pliancy of fancy, resources of reason, wealth of sympathy, as he can command, is always observing other people, studying, judging, approving, copying, or condemning and avoiding. All that is wanting to regulate and complete the art is, as Schlegel has said, to draw the mimic elements and fragments clear off from real life, and confront real life with them collectively in one mass. This is the sphere and office of the Theatre, whose very business it is to hold up the mirror to nature and humanity, that all styles of character and conduct may be seen in their proper quality and their true rank, teaching the spectators
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 what to despise, what to admire, what to shun, what to imitate or reproduce for the perfecting of their own characters and conduct.
There are in the exhibited drama three provinces or directions, the lower, the intermediate, and the higher, or Comedy, Melodrama, and Tragedy. In the lower drama, inferior types of men and manners are exhibited for the various purposes of amusement, ridicule, satire, correction. The direction of the moral and social faculties of the spectators towards the persons and actions they contemplate is downward from their own or the social mental standards of virtue, propriety, and grace to the real exemplifications before them, the descending movement which accompanies their perception of the incongruity awakening laughter or tendencies to laughter, scorn or tendencies to scorn, with a reflex of complacency in themselves. Comedy teaches, so far as it ventures to teach at all and does not content itself with mere entertainment, by the principle of opposition and contrast, showing what not to do and how not to do it, suggesting grace by awkwardness, hinting refinement by vulgarity, setting off beauty and dignity by ugliness and triviality. This, as every one must see, is a varied, effective, and fruitful mode of direct instruction as well as of indirect and unpurposed educational moulding. No one can well be thoroughly familiar with the genteel comedy of the theatres and remain a boor. Such a familiarity is of itself a sort of social education.
In the higher drama, or Tragedy, the superior social types, lords, ladies, geniuses, kings, and the nobler styles of character, heroes, martyrs, saints, are represented, to awaken admiration and reverence, to stir emulous and aspiring desires. Pity, love, and awe, the profoundest passions and capacities of the soul, are moved and expanded. The mysteries of fate and providence are shadowed forth, and the most insoluble problems of morality and religion indirectly agitated. Transcendent degrees of power, virtue, success, and glory, or failure and suffering, are indicated; and all our upward-looking faculties are put on the stretch, with the result of assimilating more or less of the forms of being and experience on which they sympathizingly gaze aloft. Here we are taught, sometimes with a distinct aim, oftener by an unpurposed, contagious kindling of suggested thought and feeling,
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 innumerable lessons pertaining to human nature and experience, the varieties of character and conduct, the limits and retributions of virtue and vice, the extremes of hope and despair, the portentous question of death, the omnipresent laws of God. How much one shall be affected and changed, inspired and aided, by all this, depends on his docility and earnestness in front of it, his plasticity under it. But it is plain that it can scarcely be repeated and continued without important effects on all who are not dolts.
The intermediate, or Melodrama, mixed of the other two and presented on the ever-varying level between comic lowness and tragic height, brings forward a medley of characters, greater and lesser, good, bad, and indifferent, portraying life not truly as it is in fact, but exaggeratedly, in heterogeneous combination, so set off in extravagant relief and depression, emphasis of lights and shades, as to give it a more than natural attraction for the senses. Without taxing any faculties in the audience, it piques the curiosity of all by turns, and exercises and refreshes them with its rapid changes and its glaring effects, which provide strong sensations yet with small exaction on the mind. Any explicit instruction it contains is incidental, since its real business is to serve as a spiritual alterative directed to the soul through the senses, to beguile heavy thoughts and cares, to entertain and rest weary faculties with fresh objects, and fill idle hours with pleasurable amusement. All this is certainly legitimate, needed, and useful, although it may be abused by the employment of illegitimate means, and thus perverted into an injury. But every good thing is likewise capable of perversion, and ought to be judged by its true intent, not by its aberrations.
Furthermore, it is to be said—and it is an important truth which should in no wise be overlooked—that even when the play is petty and worthless in plot, full of absurdities as many of our gaudy modern pantomimes and spectacles are, and pernicious in its exhibitions of nudity, impure postures, and prurient accessories,—even then a twofold good may be derived from the show, in addition to the mere recreative diversion and pleasure yielded. First, the sight of the superb power, grace, and skill of the trained performers, disciplined and perfected to the highest point of energy, self-possession, and easy and joyous readiness for the execution of their functions, is a charming and edifying
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 sight. It is the display of models of human nature developed to an extreme degree of strength, beauty, and flexibility,—a display which tends to mould the eyes of the spectators, and through their eyes to affect their souls and to exert educational influence on future generations. Every spectator should be kindled by the sight to secure for himself, for the highest fulfilment of life under the eyes of God, the exemplary development which these performers have so laboriously won for the mere purpose of exhibition and pay. The sacrifice and toil they have devoted for the sake of applause, should we not be willing to devote for the sake of entering on our full heritage in the universe?
Second, the melodrama, by its artistic groupings, colors, and movements, its scenic processions, its magic pictures, its orderly evolution of romantic adventures, the multiform interplaying of the characters and fortunes of its actors upon one another, draws our attention from ourselves, enlists our feelings in the fates of others, and thus exercising our faculties, disciplines, purifies, and emancipates them, making them readier and more competent for whatever exigencies we may be called on to meet. This great good and use of the dramatic art, its moral essence, is afforded to the profiting beholder by almost every theatrical representation, namely, that, in showing life concentrated and intensified, it holds up for imitation the instructive spectacle, in its trained actors, of men passing from themselves into the personalities and situations of others, mutually appropriating one another's traits and experiences, supplementing themselves with one another. This varied practice of reason, imagination, and sympathy in assuming inner states and their outer signs is the most effective culture and drill there is for freeing human nature from the slavery of routine, and perfecting its entrance on that heritage of unlimited sympathetic fellowships which will at last realize the hydrostatic paradox in morals, and make one man commensurate with all humanity. A drop balances an ocean by its dynamic translation and interplay with all the drops!
Whatever dissent or qualification may be made by some to the foregoing view, there will scarcely be any hesitation or difference of opinion when we turn from the representation of bad characters or neutral characters, the vile and the insignificant, to the grandest forms of the drama, where we encounter the most
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 pathetic and brilliant impersonations of ideal excellence,—those patterns of loveliness and heroism with which the Stage abounds in its pictures of stainless and queenly women, fearless and kingly men. The natural influence of weeping over the misfortunes and wrongs or worshipping the virtues of a saintly sufferer, who resists not, complains not, resents not, but bears all with angelic patience, sweetness, and fortitude, is to soften and expand the heart and cultivate the tenderest graces of human nature. The natural influence of tracing the indomitable enterprise, valor, disinterestedness, and perseverance of a great genius, an illustrious patriot or martyr, thrilling with the deepest admiration at his virtues, is to foster in the susceptible breast burning aspirations after kindred worth and distinction. This tendency may be neutralized or prevented, but it is the natural influence, by which alone it is fair to judge the best specimens of the drama. And he who should undertake to estimate the total influence of the Stage in the model characters it has held up as ideals for honor and imitation, would have a task not less difficult than genial.
While War and Work, with the rehearsing discipline they exact, occupy and ravage the fairest fields and promises of Human Life, and create Weariness, Crime, Lust, and Death, as the horrid Reapers who tread close in their steps, the Theatre—one bright home of Freedom, Art, and Beauty, planted in a paradisal place—is prophetic of the time to come when Love and Leisure shall have room to people the redeemed world with their fair and sweet offspring, Play and Joy.
In the mean time, while the spirit of doubt, banter, and insincerity is so rife,—while we meet on every hand that arid, cynical, and contemptuous temper which thrives on mockery and badinage, fosters an insolent complacency and laughter by degrading superior persons and subjects in parodies and lampoons,—while our young men and women are infested with a boastful conceit of superiority to all sentiment and enthusiasm, and even our rising authors are so disenchanted, so knowing, that persiflage and the ridicule of illusion and devotion are their highest tests of experience and power,—under such conditions, surely we shall all agree that the ideal revelations, the impassioned music and eloquence, the free elevation above commonplace, the por
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trayals of ingenuous faith and energy, that still linger on the Stage, are to be held precious. Amidst so much formality and hypocrisy, it is a boon to have a great actor break into us through the crust of custom and startle our noblest powers into life.
The actor, in laboring to fit himself for the highest walk in his profession, studies all forms of human nature and experience, discriminates their ranks and worth, sees what is congruous and becoming, or the contrary, and reproduces their powers in himself by the practice of putting on their states and showing their signals. This done disinterestedly, with a sovereign eye to duty and the Divine Will, is the way for every one to educate himself towards that personal perfection the pursuit of which is his supreme business on earth. He thus learns to assume and absorb the ascending ideals that brighten the pathway to heaven. Herein the dramatic art becomes glorified into identity with religion.
The lowest range of the histrionic inhabitations of the soul is obsession, where the man is insanely held by some inferior or evil spirit, as when Nebuchadnezzar went out and ate grass, like an ox. The next grade is sympathetic domination, where the idea of another being is so vividly seated in the imagination of a person that for the time it makes him its involuntary agent. The intermediate or neutral level, half-way from the lowest to the highest, is the region of voluntary assumption, or acting properly so called, where the player by his own free intelligence and will reproduces or imitates foreign characters. Then there is the ascent into inspiration, where loftier influences or spirits than are native to the impersonator take possession of him, enhancing his powers, animating and guiding him beyond his own knowledge or volition. And lastly, there is the supreme height of divine incarnation, where some deity stoops into the cloud of mortality, or the infinite God in varying degrees deigns to inflesh and enshrine himself in man. Christendom owns one unapproachable and incomparable example in its august Founder. But in India, Egypt, Greece, were mystic men, who, too wise and grand to be thought lunatics, have claimed to be of a lineage divine and dateless. This is a realm for silence. But every unique, whether Gautama or Jesus, is only the transcending culmination of a rule that rises through levels below. Either great men have played the rôles of incarnate gods or descending gods have assumed the rôles of men on earth.

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