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A nation beginning its career as a colony is naturally dependent on the parent country for its earliest examples in culture. Some time must elapse; wealth, leisure, and other conditions favorable to spiritual enrichment and free aspiration must be developed, before it can create ideals of its own and achieve æsthetic triumphs in accordance with them. Such was the case with America. Its mental dependence on England continued long after its civil allegiance had ceased. Little by little, however, the colonial temper and servile habit were repudiated in one province after another of the national activity. Jefferson was our first audacious and fruitful original thinker in politics. In painting, Stuart arose as a bold and profound master, with no teacher but nature. In fiction, Cooper opened a rich field, and reaped a harvest of imperishable renown. In religion, the inspired genius of Channing appeared with a leavening impulse which still works. And in poetry, Bryant was the earliest who treated indigenous themes with a distinction which has made his name ineffaceable.
In no other region of the national life was the colonial dependence so complete and so prolonged as in the drama. The chief plays and actors alike were imported. Scarcely did anything else dare to lift its head on the theatrical boards. All was servile imitation or lifeless reproduction, until Forrest fought his way to the front, burst into fame, and by the conspicuous brilliance of his success heralded a new day for his profession in this country. Forrest, as an eloquent writer said a quarter of a century ago, was the first great native actor who brought to the illustration of Shakspeare and other poets a genius essentially American and at the same time individual,—a genius distinguished by its freedom from all trammels and subservience to schools, by its force
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 in a self-reliance which seemed loyalty to nature, and by its freshness in an ideal which gave to all his efforts a certain moral elevation,—a genius which, after every deduction, still remained as a something peculiarly noble and enkindling, highly original in itself, and distinctively American. This is certainly his historic place; and it was perhaps more fortunate than calamitous that he was left in his early years so largely without teachers and without models, to develop his own resources in his early wanderings as a strolling player in the West by direct experience of the soul within him and direct observation of the impassioned unconventional life about him. He was thus forced to shape out of the mint of his own nature the form and stamp and coloring of his conceptions. There was fitness and significance in such a genius as his maturing and pouring itself out under the shade of the Western woods, rising up amid their grandeur clear and simple as a spring, till, fed and strengthened, it leaped forth fresh and thundering as a torrent.
In characterizing Forrest as a tragedian by the epithet American, it is necessary that we should understand what is meant by the word in such a connection. We mean that he was an intense ingrained democrat. Democracy asserts the superiority of man to his accidents. Its genius is contemptuous of titular claims or extrinsic conditions in comparison with intrinsic truth and merit. Its glance pierces through all pompous circumstances and pretences, to the personal reality of the man. If that be royal and divine, it is ready to worship; if not, it pays no false or hollow tribute, no matter what outward prestige of attraction there may be or what clamor of threats. That is the proper temper and historic ideal of our republic; and that was Forrest in the very centre of his soul, both as a man and as an actor.
But his individuality was in the general sense as deeply and positively human as it was American or democratic. That is to say, he was an affirmative, believing, sympathetic character, not a skeptical, negative, or sneering one. He so vividly loved in their plain and concrete reality his own parents, brothers and sisters, friends, native land, that he could give vivid expression to such sentiments in abstract generality without galvanizing his nerves with any artificial volition. His affections preponderated over his antipathies. He was not fond of badinage, but full of
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 downright earnestness. He loved the sense of being, enjoyed it, was grateful for its privileges, and delighted to contemplate the phenomena of society. He had the keenest love for little children, and the deepest reverence for old age. He valued the goods of life highly, and labored to accumulate them. He had a vivid sensibility for the beauties of nature. He had an enthusiastic admiration of great men, and a ruling desire for the prizes of honor and fame. His soul thrilled at the recital of glorious deeds, and his tears started at a great thought or a sublime image or a tender sentiment. Friendship for man, love for woman, a kindling patriotism, a profound feeling of the domestic ties, a burning passion for liberty, and an unaffected reverence for God, were dominant chords in his nature. He had no patience with those vapid weaklings, those disappointed aspirants or negative dreamers, who think everything on earth a delusion or a temptation, nature a cheat, man a phantom or a fool, history a toy, life a wretched chaos, death an unknown horror, and nothing between worth an effort. He was, on the contrary, a wholesome realist, full of throbbing vitality and eagerness, embracing the natural goods of existence with a sharp relish, and putting a worshipful estimate on the ideal glories of humanity. Intellect, instinct, and affection in him were all alive,—free and teeming springs of personal power. This rich fulness of positive life and passion in himself both opened to him the elemental secrets of experience and enabled him to play effectively on the sympathies of other men.
Let such a man, trained under such circumstances, endowed with a magnificent physique, overflowing with energy and fire, become an actor, and it is easy to see what will be the leading ideal exemplified in his personations. Exactly what this dominant ideal was will be illustrated in the descriptions which are to follow. But a clear statement of it in advance will aid us the better to appreciate those descriptions.
The rank of any work of art is determined by the ideal expressed in it, and the accuracy of its expression. As has been well said, no art better illustrates this fact than the art of acting. Take, for instance, the genius of Kemble. His ideal was authority. He was never so impressive as in the illustration of a king or ruler. In Coriolanus, in Macbeth, in Wolsey, in every character that gave opportunity for it, he was ever expressing the sense of
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 mental or official power as the noblest of human attributes. So the ideal of Cooke was skepticism. He was always best as a social infidel, uttering the bitterest sarcasms. It was this faculty that rendered his Man of the World so great a triumph. The ideal of Kean, again, was retribution. He was grandest as the sufferer and avenger of great wrongs. And the ideal of Macready was that of Kemble modified by its more fretful and impatient expression, making him ever most effective in the display of some form of pride or wounded honor, as in Werner, Richelieu, Melantius.
In distinction from the special ideals of these and the other most celebrated tragedians of the past, the ideal of Forrest was unquestionably the democratic ideal of universal manhood, a deep sense of natural and moral heroism, sincerity, friendship, and faith. This imperial self-reliance and instinctive honesty, this unperverted and unterrified personality poised in the grandest natural virtues of humanity, is the key-note or common chord to the whole range of his conceptions, on which all their varieties are modulated, from Rolla and Tell to Metamora and Spartacus, from Damon and Brutus to Othello and Lear. Fearless, faithful manhood penetrates them all, is the great elevating principle which makes them harmonics of one essential ideal. To have exemplified so sublime an ideal, in so many grand forms, each as clearly defined as a sculptured statue, during a half-century, before applauding millions of his countrymen, is what stamps Forrest and makes him worthy of his fame, singling him out in the rising epoch of his country's greatness as one of the most imposing and not unworthiest of her types of nationality.
There are two contrasted styles of the dramatic art which have long been recognized and discriminated in the two schools of acting, the Romantic and the Classic. Before proceeding to the best rôles of Forrest in his earlier period, it is indispensable that we clearly seize the essence of the distinction between these two schools. Otherwise we shall fail to see the originality and importance of the relation in which he stood to them.
The one school, in its separate purity, is sensational or natural, exhibiting characters of physical and mental realism; the other is reflective or artistic, representing characters of imaginative portraiture. The former springs from strong and sincere im
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pulses, the latter from clear and mastered perceptions. That is based on the instincts and passions, and is predominantly imitative or reproductive; this rests on the intellect and imagination, and is predominantly creative. The one projects the thing in reflex life, as it exists in reality; the other reveals it, as in a glass. That is nature brought alive on the stage; this is art repeating nature refined at one mental remove. They resemble and contrast each other as the hurtless image of the bird mirrored in the lake would correspond with its concrete cause above, could it, while yet remaining a mere reflection, address our other senses as it now does the eye alone. The sensational acting of crude nature is characteristically sympathetic and mimetic in its origin, enslaved, expensive of force, and mainly seated in the nervous centres of the body. The artistic acting of the accomplished master is characteristically spiritual and self-creative in its origin, free, economical of exertion, and mainly seated in the nervous centres of the brain. The one actor lives his part, and is the character he represents; the other plays his part, and truly portrays the character he imagines.
The Classic style is self-controlled, stately, deliberately does what it consciously predetermines to do, trusts as much to the expressive power of attitudes and poses as to facial changes and voice. It elaborates its rôle by systematic critical study, leaving nothing to chance, to caprice, or to instinct. The Romantic style permeates itself with the situations and feeling of its rôle, and then is full of impetuosity and abandon, giving free vent to the passions of the part and open swing to the energies of the performer. The one is marked by careful consistency and studious finish, the other by impulsive truth, abrupt force, electric bursts. That abounds in the refinements of polished art, this abounds in the sensational effects of aroused and uncovered nature. The former is adapted to delight the cultivated Few, the latter thrills the unsophisticated Many.
Now, it was the originality of Forrest that he combined in a most fresh and impressive manner the fundamental characteristics of both these schools,—in his first period with an undoubted preponderance of the characters of physical realism, but in his second period with an unquestionable preponderance of the characters of imaginative portraiture. He was from the first both an artistic and
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 a sensational actor. None of his great predecessors ever came upon the stage with conceptions more patiently studied, wrought up with a more complete consistency in every part, or with the perspective, the foreshortening, the lights and shades, arranged with more conscientious fidelity. His idea of a character might sometimes, perhaps, be questioned, but the clearness with which he grasped his idea, and the thorough harmony with which he put it forth and sustained it, could not be questioned. In this respect he was one of the most consummate of dramatic artists. And as for the other side of the picture, the spontaneous sincerity and irresistible force of his demonstrations of the great passions of the human heart were almost unprecedented in the effects they wrought.
In an accurate use of the words, sensational acting would be acting that took its origin in the senses and passed thence through the muscles without the intervention of the mind. This is the acting learned by the parrot, the dog, or the monkey, and by the mere mimic. Artistic acting, on the other hand, is acting which originates in the creative mind and is freely sent thence through the proper channels of expression. The true definition of art is feeling passed through thought and fixed in form. When the intellectualized feeling is fixed in its just form, it should be made over to the automatic nerves, and the brain be relieved from the care of its oversight and direction. Then playing becomes beautiful, because it is at ease in unconscious spontaneity. Otherwise, it often becomes repulsive to the delicate observer, because it is laborious. This was the one defect of Forrest which lamed him in the supreme height of his great art. His brain continued to do the work. There was often too much volition in his play, causing a muscular friction and an organic expense which made the sensitive shrink, and which only the robust could afford. But no one was more completely an artist in always passing his emotions through his thought, knowing exactly what he meant to do and how he would do it.
The word melodramatic properly describes an action in which the movement is physical rather than mental, and in which more is made of the interest of the situations than of the revelation of the characters. For example, the pantomimic expression of great passions is melodramatic. In this sense Forrest often produced
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 the highest effects where the subject and the scene, the logic of the situation, required it. But in the popular sense of the term, which makes it synonymous with crudity and falsity, hollow extravagance, a vulgar aiming at a sensation by exaggeration or artifices which disregard the harmonious fitness of things, no actor could be more free from the vice. He was always sincere, always earnest, always careful of the sustained congruity of his representation. And within these limits, surely the more intense the sensation he could produce, the better. Sensation is the very thing desired in attending a play. The spectators know enough for their present purpose; they want to be made to feel more keenly, more purely, more nobly. Power and perfection on the lowest level are superior to weakness and failure on that level, and are not incompatible with power and perfection on all the higher levels, but rather tributary to them. Did we not desire to be strong rather than weak, to be handsome rather than ugly, to be admired rather than scorned, all aspiration would cease, and the human race stagnate and end. To be capable of such astounding outbursts of power and passion as to electrify all who behold, curdle their very marrow, and cause them ever after to remember you with wondering interest and fruitful imitation, is a glorious endowment, worthy of our envy. To sneer at it as sensationalism gives proof of a mean disposition or a morbid soul.
In the same sense in which Forrest was melodramatic, God and Nature themselves are so. What can be more genuinely sensational than Niagara, Mont Blanc, the earthquake, the tempest, the forked flash of the lightning, the crashing roll of the thunder, the crouch of the tiger, the dart of the anaconda, the shriek of the swooping eagle, the prance of the war-horse in his proud pomp? And the attributes of all these belong to man, with additions of nameless grandeur, terror, and beauty beside, making him an incarnate representative of God on the earth. To see Forrest in Lear, or Salvini in Saul, is to feel this. True sensationalism, banished in our tame times from the selfish and servile walks of common life, is the very desideratum and glory of the Stage.
One of the first characters in which Forrest enjoyed great popularity was that of Rolla, the Peruvian hero. The play of
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 "The Spaniards in Peru," by Kotzebue, as rewritten by Sheridan from a paraphrase in English, was for a long time a favorite with the public. It brought the adventurers and wonderful achievements of the most romantic kingdom in Christendom into picturesque combination with the strange scenes, simplicity, and superstition of the newly-discovered transatlantic world, and was full of music, pomp, pictures, poetic situations, and processions. In literary style, the knowing critics call it tawdry and bombastic; in ethical tone, sentimental and inflated. But the average audiences, especially of a former generation, were not fastidious censors. They went to the theatre less to judge and sneer than to be moved with sympathy, enjoyment, and admiration. And they found this play rich in strong appeals to the better instincts of their moral nature. What the blasé found turgid, affected, or ludicrous, the unsophisticated felt to be eloquent, poetic, and noble. For the fair appreciation of a piece of acting, assuredly this latter point of view is preferable to the former; for tragedy is a form of poetry, and has as one of its purest functions the revelation of the moral ingredients of man, lifted, enlarged, and glorified in its mirror of art.
Rolla is depicted as simple, grand, a nobleman of nature, frank, ardent, impulsive, magnanimous,—his own truth and heroism investing him with an invisible robe and crown of royalty. It was a rôle precisely adapted to the young tragedian whose own soul it so well reflected. Endowed with all the chivalrous sentiments, expansive and kindling, uncurbed by the nil admirari standards of fashionable breeding, he could fill up every extravagant phrase of the part without any feeling of extravagance.
Pizarro and his followers are pictured throughout the play in an odious light, as tyrants assailing the Peruvians without provocation and slaughtering them without mercy. The sympathies of Las Casas and of the noble Alonzo have been alienated from their own countrymen and transferred to the barbarians, who are represented in the most favorable colors as honest, affectionate, brave, standing in defence of their liberty and their altars. Alonzo, disgusted and shocked by the atrocities of Pizarro, has joined the Peruvians, and has been placed in conjunction with Rolla at the head of their forces. The aged Orozembo, seized by the Spaniards and brought before their leader, is questioned, "Who is this
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 Rolla joined with Alonzo in command?" He replies, "I will answer that; for I love to repeat the hero's name. Rolla, the kinsman of the king, is the idol of our army; in war, a tiger; in peace, more gentle than the lamb. Cora was once betrothed to him; but, finding she preferred Alonzo, he resigned his claim, to friendship and her happiness." Pizarro exclaims, "Romantic savage! I shall meet this Rolla soon." "Thou hadst better not," replies Orozembo; "the terrors of his eye would strike thee dead."
In the next scene the way is still further prepared for the impression of his appearance. His beloved Alonzo and Cora are discerned playing with their child in front of a wood. They talk of Rolla, of his sacrifice for them, and of his noble qualities. Shouts arise, when Alonzo says, "It is Rolla setting the guard. He comes." At that instant the sonorous tones of his voice are heard from outside the stage, like the martial clang of a trumpet, uttering the words, "Place them on the hill fronting the Spanish camp." Every eye is fixed, the whole audience lean forward as he enters, and in a flash the magnetic spell is on them, and they breathe and feel as one man. The stately ease of his athletic port, his deep square chest, broad shoulders, and columnar neck, his frank brow, with the mild, glowing, open eyes, the warm blood mantling the brave and wooing face, seize the collective sympathy of the assembly, and they break into wild cheering. He seems to stand there, in his barbaric costume and majestic attitude, as a romantic picture stereoscoped by nature herself. And when, in reply to the exclamation of Alonzo, "Rolla, my friend, my benefactor, how can our lives repay the obligations which we owe thee?" he says, "Pass them in peace and bliss; let Rolla witness it, and he is overpaid,"—the very soul of friendship and nobility seems to flow in the sweet music of his liquid gutturals, and the charm is complete.
From this point onward to the close all was moulded and wrought up in perfect keeping. He had fashioned to himself a complete image of what Rolla should be in accordance with the conception in the play, his carriage, walk, and attitudes, his style of gesture, his physiognomy, his tone and habit of voice. He had imprinted this idea so deeply in his brain, and had trained himself so carefully to its consistent manifestation, that his portrayal on the stage had all the unity of design and precision of
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 detail which characterize the work of a masterly painter. Instead of using canvas, pigment, and brush, he painted his part in the air in living pantomime. In all his rôles this was his manner more and more up to the crowning period of his career.
He gave extraordinary effectiveness to the famous address which Rolla pronounces to the Peruvian warriors on the eve of battle, by the manly truth and simplicity of his delivery,—"My brave associates, partners of my toil, my feelings, and my fame." Instead of launching forth in a swollen and mechanical declamation, he spoke with the straightforward truth and the varied and hearty inflection of nature; and his honest earnestness woke responsive echoes in every breast. Like Macklin and Garrick on the English stage, Talma on the French, and Devrient on the German, Forrest on the American was a bold and original innovator on the inveterate elocutionary mannerism of actors embodied in what is universally known as theatrical delivery. For the mouthing formality, the torpid noisiness, the strained monotony and forced cadences of the routine players, these men of genius substituted—only enlarging the scale of power—the abruptness, the changes, the conversational vivacity of tone, emphasis, and inflection, which are natural to a free man with a free voice played upon by the genuine passions of life. This was one of the chief excellences and attractions of Forrest throughout his professional course. He was ever a man uttering thoughts and sentiments,—not an elocutionist displaying his trade.
Alonzo, filled with a presentiment of death, charged his friend, in such an event, to take Cora for his wife and adopt their child. Rolla, finding after the battle that Alonzo was a prisoner, repeated his parting message to his wife. Cora's suspicion was aroused, and she accused him of deserting his friend for the sake of securing her. Then was shown a fine picture of contending emotions in Rolla. Disinterested and heroic to the last degree, to be charged with such baseness, and that, too, by the woman whom he loved and revered,—it stung him to the quick. Injured honor, proud indignation, mortified affection, and magnanimous resolution were seen flying from his soul through his form and face. He determines to rescue Alonzo by piercing to his prison and assuming his place. Disguised as a monk, he asks the sentinel to admit him to the prisoner. Being refused, he tries to bribe the sentinel.
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 This fails, and he appeals to him by nobler motives, revealing himself as the friend of Alonzo, who has come to bear his last words to his wife and child. The sentinel relents. Rolla lifts his eyes to heaven, and says, "O holy Nature, thou dost never plead in vain!" and rushes into the arms of his friend. After an earnest controversy, Alonzo changes dress with him, and escapes, Rolla exclaiming, with a sigh of satisfaction, "Now, Cora, didst thou not wrong me? This is the first time I ever deceived man. If I am wrong, forgive me, God of Truth!"
All this was done with a sincerity and energy irresistibly contagious. And when Elvira has armed him with a dagger and led him to the couch of the sleeping Pizarro, when, instead of slaying his foe, he wakens him and drops the weapon, showing how superior a heathen can be to a Christian, and when the tyrant calls in his guards and orders them to seize the hapless Elvira, the contrast of the confronting Rolla and Pizarro, the example of godlike magnanimity and its foil of unnatural depravity, stands in an illumination of moral splendor that thrills every heart.
Two more scenes remained to carry the triumph of Forrest in the part to its culmination. The child of Alonzo and Cora, in ignorance of who he is, has been captured by the Spanish soldiers, and is brought in. Pizarro bids them toss the Peruvian imp into the sea. With a start and look of alternating horror and love, Rolla cries, "Gracious Heaven, it is Alonzo's child!" "Ha!" exclaims Pizarro: "welcome, thou pretty hostage. Now is Alonzo again in my power." After vain expostulation, Rolla prostrates himself before the cruel captain, saying, "Behold me at thy feet, thy willing slave, if thou wilt release the child." Other actors, including the cold and stately Kemble, as they spoke these words, sank directly on their knees. But Forrest introduced a by-play of startling power, full of the passionate warmth of nature. Regarding Pizarro with an amazement made of surprise and scorn waxing into noble anger, he is seen making the strongest exertion to refrain from rushing on the tyrant and striking him down. He begins to kneel. Half-way in the slow descent, repugnance to stoop his manhood before such baseness checks him, and he partly rises, when a glance at the child overcomes his hesitation, and he sinks swiftly on his knees. The Spaniard replies, "Rolla,
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 thou art free to go; the boy remains." With the rapidity of lightning, Rolla snatches the child and lifts him over his left shoulder, and, waving his sword, cries, in clarion accents, "Who moves one step to follow me dies on the spot!" He strikes down three of the guards who oppose him, and rushes across a bridge at the back of the stage. The soldiers fire, and a shot strikes him as he vanishes with the child held proudly aloft. The view changes to the Peruvian court. The king is seen with his nobles, and with Alonzo and Cora distracted at the loss of their child. Shouts are heard. "Rolla! Rolla!" The hero staggers in, bleeding, ghastly, and faint, and places the child in its mother's arms, with an exquisite touch of nature first drawing the little face down to his own and planting a kiss on it, staining it from his bleeding wounds in the act. She exclaims, "Oh, God, there is blood upon him!" He replies, "'Tis mine, Cora." Alonzo says, "Thou art dying, Rolla." He answers, faintly, "For thee and Cora." One long gasp, a wavering on his feet, a convulsion of his chest, and he sinks in an inanimate heap.
The truth and power with which all this was done were attested by the crowds that thronged to see it, their intense emotion, and the universal praise for many years awarded to it.
Another chosen part of Forrest, in which he was received with extraordinary favor, was that of William Tell. This play, like the former, had a basis of untutored love and magnanimity; but the romantic heroism of the character was less remote to the American mind, less strained in ideality, than that of Rolla. The plot was simpler, the language more eloquent, domestic love more prominent, and patriotic enthusiasm more emphatic. In fact, the three constant keys of the action are parental affection, ardent attachment to native land, and the burning passion for liberty, corresponding with three central elements of strength in the personality of the actor now drawn to the part with a hungry instinct.
In preparation for this rôle, Forrest had first the native congruity of his own soul with it. Then he studied the character in the text of Knowles with the utmost care, analyzing every speech and situation. Furthermore, he saturated his imagination with the spirit of the life and legends of Switzerland, by means of
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 histories, books of travel, and engravings, till its people and their customs, its torrents, ravines, pastures, chalets, cloud-capped peaks, and storms, were distinct and real to him. In the next place, he paid great attention to his make-up, arraying himself in a garb scrupulously accurate to the fashion of a Switzer peasant and huntsman.
No actor placed greater stress on a fitting costume than Forrest. He knew its subtle influences as well as its more obvious effects. The more vital unity and sensitiveness we have, the more important each adjunct to our personality becomes. A man who is a sloppy mess of fragments is not influenced much by anything, and in return does not much influence anything; but to a man whose body and soul form, as it were, one vascular piece, the action and reaction between him and everything with which he is in close relation is of great consequence. The dress of such a person is another self, corresponding in some sort with the outer man as his skin does with the inner man.
When Forrest came upon the stage with his bow and quiver, belted tunic and tight buskins, with free, elastic bearing, and high tread, deep-breathing breast, resounding voice, his whole shape and moving moulded to the robust and sinewy manners of the archer living in the free, open airs between the grass and the snow, he was an embodied picture of the legendary Swiss mountaineer. At the first sight a keen sensation was produced in the audience, for it kindled all the enthusiastic associations fondly bound up with this image in the American imagination.
It is morning, the sunrise creeping down the flanks of the mountains and spreading over the lake and valley, in the background Albert shooting at a mark, as Tell appears in the distance returning from an early chase. Approaching, he sees the boy, and pauses to watch him shoot. Poised on a crag, leaping with eager gaze of fondness fixed on the little marksman, he looks like the statue of a chamois-hunter on the cliffs of Mont Blanc, carved and set there by some superhuman hand. Then the magic voice, breathing love blent in freedom, is heard:
"Well aimed, young archer!
There plays the skill will thin the chamois herd,
And bring the lammergeyer from the cloud
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To earth; perhaps do greater feats,—perhaps
Make man its quarry, when he dares to tread
Upon his fellow-man. That little arm
May pull a sinewy tyrant from his seat,
And from their chains a prostrate people lift
To liberty. I'd be content to die,
Living to see that day. What, Albert!"
The lad, with a glad cry of "Ah, my father!" flies into his embrace, while in unison, from pit to gallery, a thousand hearts throb warmly.
One point of very great beauty and power in this tragedy is the remarkable manner in which the author has combined the impassioned love of national liberty with the impassioned love of the natural scenery associated with that liberty. To these numerous descriptions, marked by the highest declamatory merit, Forrest did ample justice with his magnificent voice.
Indeed, elocutionary force and felicity were ever a central charm in his acting. He did not thrust the gift ostentatiously forward for its own sake, but kept it subordinated to its uses. His first aim in vocal delivery was always to articulate the thought clearly,—make it stand out in unmistakable distinctness; his second, to breathe the true feeling of the words in his tones; his third, by rate, pitch, inflection, accent, and pause, to give some imaginative suggestion of the scenery, of the thought, and thus set it in its proper environment. In the first aim he rarely failed; in the second he generally succeeded; and he often triumphed in the third. One example, which no man of sensibility who heard him pronounce it could ever forget, was this:
"I have sat
In my boat at night, when, midway o'er the lake,
The stars went out, and down the mountain gorge
The wind came roaring,—I have sat and eyed
The thunder breaking from his cloud, and smiled
To see him shake his lightnings o'er my head,
And think I had no master save his own.
You know the jutting cliff, round which a track
Up hither winds, whose base is but the brow
To such another one, with scanty room
For two abreast to pass? O'ertaken there
By the mountain blast, I've laid me flat along,
And while gust followed gust more furiously,
As if to sweep me o'er the horrid brink,
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And I have thought of other lands, whose storms
Are summer flaws to those of mine, and just
Have wished me there,—the thought that mine was free
Has checked that wish, and I have raised my head
And cried in thraldom to that furious wind,
Blow on! This is the land of liberty!"
And the following is another example, still happier in the climax of its eloquence:
"Scaling yonder peak,
I saw an eagle wheeling near its brow:
O'er the abyss his broad expanded wings
Lay calm and motionless upon the air,
As if he floated there without their aid,
By the sole act of his unlorded will,
That buoyed him proudly up. Instinctively
I bent my bow; yet kept he rounding still
His airy circle, as in the delight
Of measuring the ample range beneath
And round about: absorbed, he heeded not
The death that threatened him. I could not shoot—
'Twas liberty! I turned my bow aside,
And let him soar away."
Old Melctal, the father of Tell's wife, is led in by Albert, blind and trembling, his eyes having been plucked from their sockets by order of Gesler. As Tell, horror-struck, listened to the frightful story from the lips of the old man, the revelation of the feelings it stirred in him was one of the most genuine and moving pieces of emotional portraiture ever shown to an audience. It was an unveiled storm of contending pity, amazement, wrath, tenderness, tears, loathing, and revenge. Every muscle worked, his soul seemed wrapt and shaken with thunders and lightnings of passion, which alternately darkened and illumined his features, and he seemed going mad, until at last he seized his weapons and darted away in search of the monster whose presence profaned the earth, crying, as he went, "Father, thou shalt be revenged, thou shalt be revenged!" The power of this effort is shown in the fact that more than one critic compared his struggle with his own feelings under the narrative of Melctal to his subsequent struggle with the guards of Gesler, when, like a lion amidst a pack of curs, he hurled them in every direction, and held them at bay till overpowered by sheer numbers. The mental struggle was quite as visibly defined and terrible as the physical one.
In this play Forrest presented four successive examples of that
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 proud assertion of an independent, high-minded man which has been said to be the real type of his character as a tragedian. These specimens were differenced from one another with such clean strokes and bold colors that it was an æsthetic as well as a moral luxury to behold him enact them. The first was a trenchant, sarcastic scorn of baseness, spoken when he sees the servile peasants bow to Gesler's cap, and the hireling soldiery driving them to it:
"They do it, Verner;
They do it! Look! Ne'er call me man again!
Look, look! Have I the outline of that caitiff
Who to the outraged earth doth bend the head
His God did rear for him to heaven? Base pack!
Lay not your loathsome touch upon the thing
God made in his own image. Crouch yourselves;
'Tis your vocation, which you should not call
On free-born men to share with you, who stand
Erect except in presence of their God
The second example is the stern stateliness of unshaken heroism with which he confronts insult and threats of torture and death, when, chained and baited by the soldiers, Sarnem bids him down on his knees and beg for mercy. They try to force him to the ground, inciting one another with cowardly ferocity to strike him, put out his eyes, or lop off a limb. His bearing and the soul it revealed were such as corresponded with the descriptive comment wrung from the onlooking Gesler:
"Can I believe my eyes? He smiles. He grasps
His chains as he would make a weapon of them
To lay his smiter dead. What kind of man
Is this, that looks in thraldom more at large
Than they who lay it on him!
A heart accessible as his to trembling
The rock or marble hath. They more do fear
To inflict than he to suffer. Each one calls
Upon the other to accomplish that
Himself hath not the manhood to begin.
He has brought them to a pause, and there they stand
Like things entranced by some magician's spell,
Wondering that they are masters of their organs
And not their faculties."
The third example is fearless defiance of tyrannical power, when, bound and helpless, he confronts the cowering Gesler with
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 majestic superiority. The Austrian governor says, "Ha, beware! think on thy chains!" Tell replies, with swelling bosom and flashing eyes,—
"Though they were doubled, and did weigh me down
Prostrate to earth, methinks I could rise up
Erect, with nothing but the honest pride
Of telling thee, usurper, to the teeth,
Thou art a monster! Think upon my chains!
Show me the link of them which, could it speak,
Would give its evidence against my word.
Think on my chains! 'They are my vouchers, which
I show to heaven, as my acquittance from
The impious swerving of abetting thee
In mockery of its Lord!' Think on my chains!
How came they on me?"
The fourth example is that of a grand, positive exultation in the moral beauty and glory of human nature in its undesecrated experiences. In response to the contemptible threat of the despot that his vengeance can kill, and that that is enough, Tell raises his face proudly, stretches out his arm, and says, in rich, strong accents,—
"No: not enough:
It cannot take away the grace of life,—
Its comeliness of look that virtue gives,—
Its port erect with consciousness of truth,—
Its rich attire of honorable deeds,—
Its fair report that's rife on good men's tongues:
It cannot lay its hands on these, no more
Than it can pluck his brightness from the sun,
Or with polluted finger tarnish it."
The capacities of parental and filial affection in tragic pathos are wrought up by Knowles in the last two acts with consummate and unrelenting skill. The varied interest and suspense of the dialogue and action between Tell and Albert are harrowing, as, neither knowing that the other is in the power of Gesler, they are suddenly brought together. Instinct teaches them to appear as strangers. The struggle to suppress their feelings and play their part under the imminent danger is followed with painful excitement as the plot thickens and the dread catastrophe seems hurrying. Tell, ordered to instant execution, seeks to speak a few last words to his son, under the pretext of sending a farewell message to his Albert by the stranger boy. In a voice
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 whose condensed and tremulous murmuring betrays all the crucified tenderness it refuses to express, he says,—
"Thou dost not know me, boy; and well for thee
Thou dost not. I'm the father of a son
About thy age; I dare not tell thee where
To find him, lest he should be found of those
'Twere not so safe for him to meet with. Thou,
I see, wast born, like him, upon the hills:
If thou shouldst 'scape thy present thraldom, he
May chance to cross thee; if he should, I pray thee,
Relate to him what has been passing here,
And say I laid my hand upon thy head,
And said to thee—if he were here, as thou art,
Thus would I bless him: Mayst thou live, my boy,
To see thy country free, or die for her
As I do!"
Here he turns away with a slight convulsive movement mightily held down, and Sarnem exclaims, "Mark, he weeps!" The whole audience weep with him, too; as well they may, for the concentration of affecting circumstances in the scene forms one of the masterpieces of dramatic art. And Forrest played it in every minute particular with an intensity of nature and a closeness of truth effective to all, but agonizing to the sympathetic. His last special stroke of art was the natural yet cunningly-prepared contrast between the extreme nervous anxiety and agitation that marked his demeanor through all the preliminary stages of the fearful trial-shot for life and liberty, and his final calmness. Until the apple was on the head of his kneeling boy, and he had taken his position, he was all perturbation and misgiving. Then this spirit seemed to pass out of him with an irresolute shudder, and instantly he confirmed himself into an amazing steadiness. Every limb braced as marble, and as motionless, he stood, like a sculptured archer that looked life yet neither breathed nor stirred. The arrow flies, the boy bounds forward unhurt, with the transfixed apple in his hand. Tell then slays Gesler, and, dilating above the prostrated Austrian banner, amidst universal exultation both on and off the stage, closes the play with the shouted words,—
"To arms! and let no sword be sheathed
Until our land, from cliff to lake, is free!
Free as our torrents are that leap our rocks,
Or as our peaks that wear their caps of snow
In very presence of the regal sun!"
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The Damon of Forrest perhaps surpassed, in popular effect, all his other early performances. The romantic story of the devotion of the ancient Greek pair of friends, as narrated by Valerius Maximus, has had a diffusion in literature and produced an impression on the imaginations of men almost without a parallel. This is because it appeals so penetratingly to a sentiment so deep and universal. Above the mere materialized instincts of life there is hardly a feeling of the human heart so profound and vivid as the craving for a genuine, tender, and inviolable friendship. After all the disappointments of experience, after all the hardening results of custom, strife, and fraud, this desire still remains alive, however thrust back and hidden. Remove the disguises and pretences, even of the aged and worldly-minded, and it is surprising in the souls of how many of them the spring of this baffled yet importunate desire will be found running and murmuring in careful concealment. In the hurry and worry of our practical age, so crowded with toil, rivalry, and distraction, the sentiment is less gratified in real life than ever, a fact which in many cases only makes the ideal still more attractive. Accordingly, when the sacred old tale of the Pythagorean friends was wrought into a play by Banim and Shiel, it struck the taste of the public at once. The play, too, had exceptional rhetorical merit, and was constructed with a simple plot, marked by a constant movement full of moral force and pathos.
Forrest had seen the rôle of Damon filled by Cooper with transcendent dignity and energy, and the remembrance had been burned into his brain. It was one of the most finished and famous impersonations of that celebrated actor, who charged it with honest passion and clothed it with rugged grandeur. The representation by Cooper, though unequal and careless, was so just in its general outlines to the idea of the author, that when Forrest first hesitatingly essayed the character, he had as a disciple of truth, perforce, largely to repeat the example. But he came to the part with a fresher youth, a more concentrated nature, a keener ambition, and a more elaborate study; and, original in many details as well as in the more conscientious working up of the harmony of the different scenes, it was soon conceded that
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 in the portrayal as a whole and in the unprecedented excitement it produced he had eclipsed his distinguished English forerunner on the American stage. He entered into the spirit and scenery of the subject with so intelligent and vehement an earnestness that he seemed not to act, but to be, Damon, speaking the words spontaneously created in his soul on the spot, not uttering any memorized lesson. It was like a resurrection of Syracuse, with the despot and his tools plotting the overthrow of its republican government, and the faithful friends seeking to prevent the success of the scheme. The spectators forgot that the Sicilian city had vanished ages since, and Dionysius and Pythias and Procles and Calanthe all gone to dust. The reality was before them, and its living shapes moved and spoke to the spell-bound sense.
The Damon of Forrest was in every respect grandly conceived and grandly embodied. His noble form carried proudly aloft in weighty ease, clad in Grecian garb, with long robe and sandals, corresponded with the justice and dignity of his soul. He was in no sense a sentimentalist or fanatic, but a man with intellect and heart balanced in conscience,—equally a patriot, a philosopher, and a friend,—his sentiments set in the great virtues of human nature loyal to the gods, his convictions and love not mere instincts but embedded in his reason and his honor. Yet, trained as he had been in the lofty ethics of Pythagoras, the austere discipline deadened not, but only curbed, the tremendous elemental passions of his being. Beneath his cultivated stateliness and playfulness the impetuous volume and energy of his natural feelings made them, reposing, grand as mountains clad with verdure, aroused, terrible as volcanoes spouting fire. An inferior actor would be tempted to weaken or slur everything else in order to give the higher relief to the great central topic of friendship. It was the rare excellence of Forrest that he gave as patient an attention and as sustained a treatment to the gravity and zealous devotion of the senator, the thoughtful habit of the scholar, the fondness of the husband and father, as he did to the touching affection of the friend, in his portraiture of Damon.
He makes his appearance in the street, on his way to the Senate, when he encounters a crowd of venal officers and soldiers thronging to the citadel, brandishing their swords and cheering
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 for the despot. He says, with a musing air first, then quickly passing through indignant scorn to mournful expostulation,—
"Then Dionysius has o'erswayed it? Well,
It is what I expected: there is now
No public virtue left in Syracuse.
What should be hoped from a degenerate,
Corrupted, and voluptuous populace,
When highly-born and meanly-minded nobles
Would barter freedom for a great man's feast,
And sell their country for a smile? The stream
With a more sure eternal tendency
Seeks not the ocean, than a sensual race
Their own devouring slavery. I am sick
At my inmost heart of everything I see
And hear! O Syracuse, I am at last
Forced to despair of thee! And yet thou art
My land of birth,—thou art my country still;
And, like an unkind mother, thou hast left
The claims of holiest nature in my heart,
And I must sorrow for, not hate thee!"
The soldiery shout,—
"For Dionysius! Ho, for Dionysius!
Damon. Silence, obstreperous traitors!
Your throats offend the quiet of the city;
And thou, who standest foremost of these knaves,
Stand back and answer me, a Senator,
What have you done?"
And then he slowly leans towards them with dilating front, and sways the whole crowd away from him as if by the invisible momentum of some surcharging magnetism.
"Procles. But that I know 'twill gall thee,
Thou poor and talking pedant of the school
Of dull Pythagoras, I'd let thee make
Conjecture from thy senses: But, in hope
'Twill stir your solemn anger, learn from me,
We have ta'en possession of the citadel.
Damon. Patience, ye good gods! a moment's patience,
That these too ready hands may not enforce
The desperate precept of my rising heart,—
Thou most contemptible and meanest tool
That ever tyrant used!"
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Procles in a rage calls on his soldiers to advance and hew their upbraider in pieces. At this moment Pythias enters, sees how affairs stand, and, hastening to the side of his friend, calls out,—
"Back! back! I say. He hath his armor on,—
I am his sword, shield, helm; I but enclose
Myself, and my own heart, and heart's blood, when
I stand before him thus.
Damon. False-hearted cravens!
We are but two,—my Pythias, my halved heart!—
My Pythias, and myself! but dare come on,
Ye hirelings of a tyrant! dare advance
A foot, or raise an arm, or bend a brow,
And ye shall learn what two such arms can do
Amongst a thousand of you."
A brief altercation follows, and the mob are appeased and depart, leaving the two friends alone together. They proceed to unbosom themselves, fondly communing with each other, alike concerning the interests of the State and their private relations, especially the approaching marriage of Pythias with the beautiful Calanthe. The unstudied ease and loving confidence of the dialogue, in voice and manner, plainly revealing the history of love that joined their souls, their cherished luxury of interior trust and surrender to each other, formed an artistic and most pleasing contrast to the hot and rough passages which had preceded. And when the fair Calanthe herself breaks in upon them, and Damon, unbending still more from his senatorial absorption and philosophic solemnity, changes his affectionate familiarity with Pythias into a sporting playfulness with her, the colloquial lightness and tender banter were a delightful bit of skill and nature, carrying the previous contrast to a still higher pitch. It was a lifting and lighting of the scene as gracious and sweet as sunshine smiling on flowers where the tempest had been frowning on rocks.
Learning that the recreant servants of the State are about to confer the dictatorship of Syracuse on Dionysius, Damon speeds to the capitol, to resist, and, if possible, defeat, the purpose. Undaunted by the studious insolence of his reception, almost single-handed he maintains a long combat with the conspirators, battling their design step by step. It was a most exciting scene on all accounts, and was steadily marked by delicate gradations to a climax of overwhelming power. He wielded by turns all the
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 weapons of argument, invective, persuasion, command, and defiance, exhibiting magnificent specimens of impassioned declamation, towering among the meaner men around him, an illuminated mould of heroic manhood whereon every god did seem to have set his seal.
Finally, they pass the fatal vote, and cry,—
"All hail, then, Dionysius the king.
Damon. Oh, all ye gods, my country! my country!
Dionysius. And that we may have leisure to put on
With fitting dignity our garb of power,
We do now, first assuming our own right,
Command from this, that was the senate-house,
Those rash, tumultuous men, who still would tempt
The city's peace with wild vociferation
And vain contentious rivalry. Away!
Damon. I stand,
A senator, within the senate-house!
Dion. Traitor! and dost thou dare me to my face?
Damon. Traitor! to whom? to thee?—O Syracuse,
Is this thy registered doom? To have no meaning
For the proud names of liberty and virtue,
But as some regal braggart sets it down
In his vocabulary? And the sense,
The broad, bright sense that Nature hath assigned them
In her infallible volume, interdicted
Forever from thy knowledge; or if seen,
And known, and put in use, denounced as treasonable,
And treated thus?—No, Dionysius, no!
I am no traitor! But, in mine allegiance
To my lost country, I proclaim thee one!
Dion. My guards, there! Ho!
Damon. What! hast thou, then, invoked
Thy satellites already?
Dion. Seize him!
Damon. Death's the best gift to one that never yet
Wished to survive his country. Here are men
Fit for the life a tyrant can bestow!
Let such as these live on."
Forrest was so absolutely possessed by the sentiment of these passages, that if, instead of standing in the Senate of Syracuse and representing her little forlorn-hope of patriots, he had been standing in the capitol of the whole republican world as a representative of collective humanity, his delivery could not have been more proudly befitting and competent. Such was the immense
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 contagious flood of inspiration with which he was loaded, that repeatedly his audiences rose to their feet as one man and cheered him till the dust rose to the roof and the very walls seemed to quiver.
Damon is cast into prison and doomed to die. The curtain rises on him seated at a table, writing a last testament to be given to Pythias. The solitude, the stillness, the heavy hour, the retrospect of his life, the separation from all he loves, the nearness of death, combine to make his meditations profound and sad. The picture of man and fate which he then drew—so calm and grave and chaste, so relieved against the other scenes—was an exquisite masterpiece. He lays down his stylus. In an attitude of deep reflection—the left leg easily extended and the hand pendent by its side, the right leg drawn up even with the chair, his right elbow resting on the table, the hand supporting his slightly-bowed head, the opened eyes level and fixed, with a voice of manly and mournful music, every tone and accent faultless in its mellow and pellucid solemnity—he pronounces this soliloquy:
"Existence! what is that? a name for nothing!
It is a cloudy sky chased by the winds,—
Its fickle form no sooner chosen than changed!
It is the whirling of the mountain-flood,
Which, as we look upon it, keeps its shape,
Though what composed that shape, and what composes,
Hath passed—will pass—nay, and is passing on
Even while we think to hold it in our eyes,
And deem it there. Fie! fie! a feverish vision,
A crude and crowded dream, unwilled, unbidden,
By the weak wretch that dreams it."
The effect was comparable to that of suddenly changing the scene from the clamorous multitude, bustle, and struggle of a noonday square to the midnight sky, with its eternal stars and moon shining on a lonely lake, whose serenity not a ripple or a rustling leaf disturbs.
Pythias visits him in his dungeon. The interview is conducted in a manner so unaffected, so true to the finest feelings of the human heart, that few and hard indeed were the beholders who could remain unmoved. On the lamentation of Damon that he is denied the satisfaction of pressing his wife and child to his
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 bosom before he dies, Pythias proposes to gain that privilege for him by being his hostage, if the tyrant will consent. He makes the request.
"Dionysius. What wonder is this?
Is he thy brother?
Damon. Not in the fashion that the world puts on,
But brother in the heart.
Dion. Oh, by the wide world, Damocles,
I did not think the heart of man was moulded
To such a purpose."
Six hours are granted Damon in which to reach his villa on the mountain-side, four leagues distant, take his farewell, and return, assured that if he is not at the place of execution at the moment appointed the axe falls on his substitute.
The meeting with his Hermion and their boy in the garden of his villa, his resolute adaptation of his manner to the untimely innocent prattle of the child, the various transitions of tone and topic, the pathos of the intermittent upbreaking of his concealed struggle, the gradual unveiling of the awful announcement of his impending destiny, the determined efforts at firmness in himself and consolation for her, the clinging and agonized farewell,—all these were managed with a truthfulness and a distinct setting to be attained by no player without the utmost patience of study added to the deepest sincerity of nature.
He has lingered to the latest allowable moment. Hurrying out, he calls to his freedman, Lucullus, "Where is my horse?" and receives the following reply:
"When I beheld the means of saving you,
I could not hold my hand,—my heart was in it,
And in my heart the hope of giving life
And liberty to Damon—and—
Damon. Go on!
I am listening to thee.
Lucullus. And in hope to save you
I slew your steed.
Damon. Almighty heavens!"
An ordinary actor would have said "Almighty heavens," at once; but Forrest, seeming taken utterly by surprise, did not speak the words till he had for some time prepared the way for them by a display of bewildered astonishment, which revealed the
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 workings of his brain so clearly that the spectators could scarcely believe that the actor was acquainted with the plot in advance. The facts of the situation seemed presenting themselves to his inner gaze in so many pictures,—the calamity, his broken promise, the disappointment and death of his friend, the dread dishonor,—and their expressions—wonder, rage, horror, despair, frenzy—visibly came out first in slow succession, then in chaotic mixture. At last the gathered tornado explodes in one burst of headlong wrath. Every rigid muscle swollen, his convulsed face livid, his dilated eyes emitting sparks, with the crouch and spring of an infuriated tiger he plunges on the hapless Lucullus and hoists him sheer in air. Vain are the cries of the unfortunate wretch, idle his struggles. Articulating with a terrible scream the words,—
"To the eternal river of the dead!
The way is shorter than to Syracuse,—
'Tis only far as yonder yawning gulf,—
I'll throw thee with one swing to Tartarus,
And follow after thee!"—
his enraged master disappears with him in his grasp. The feelings of the audience, wound to an intolerable pitch, audibly give way in a long, loosened breath, as they sink into their seats with a huge rustle all over the house.
Meanwhile, the fatal crisis nears, and Damon, delayed by the loss of his steed, comes not. The stroke of time on the dial-plate against the temple dedicated to the Goddess of Fidelity moves unrelentingly forward. All is ready. The tyrant, his skepticism confirmed, is there, indignant at the soul that in its fling of proud philosophy had made him feel so outsoared and humbled. Pythias, agitated between a dreadful suspicion of his friend and the fear of some unforeseen obstacle, parts with Calanthe, and prepares for the beheading steel. A vast multitude on the hills stretch their long, blackening outline in the round of the blue heavens, and await the event.
"Mute expectation spreads its anxious hush
O'er the wide city, that as silent stands
As its reflection in the quiet sea.
Behold, upon the roof what thousands gaze
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Toward the distant road that leads to Syracuse.
An hour ago a noise was heard afar,
Like to the pulses of the restless surge;
But as the time approaches, all grows still
As the wide dead of midnight!
A horse and rider in the distance,
By the gods! They wave their hats, and he returns it!
It is—no—that were too unlike—but there!"
Damon rushes in, looks around, exclaims, exultingly,—
"Ha! he is alive! untouched!"
and falls, with a hysterical laugh, exhausted by the superhuman exertions he has made to arrive in time. He soon rallies, and, when his name is pronounced, leaps upon the scaffold beside his friend; and all the god comes into him as, proudly erecting his form, he answers,—
"I am here upon the scaffold! look at me:
I am standing on my throne; as proud a one
As yon illumined mountain where the sun
Makes his last stand; let him look on me too;
He never did behold a spectacle
More full of natural glory. Death is— Ha!
All Syracuse starts up upon her hills,
And lifts her hundred thousand hands. She shouts,
Hark, how she shouts! O Dionysius!
When wert thou in thy life hailed with a peal
Of hearts and hands like that one? Shout again!
Again! until the mountains echo you,
And the great sea joins in that mighty voice,
And old Enceladus, the Son of Earth,
Stirs in his mighty caverns. Tell me, slaves,
Where is your tyrant? Let me see him now;
Why stands he hence aloof? Where is your master?
What is become of Dionysius?
I would behold and laugh at him!
Dionysius. Behold me!
Go, Damocles, and bid a herald cry
Wide through the city, from the eastern gate
Unto the most remote extremity,
That Dionysius, tyrant as he is,
Gives back to Damon life and freedom."
Like one struggling out of a fearful dream, the phantom mists receding, horror expiring and brightening into joy, the great actor lifts himself, relaxes, staggers into the arms of his Pythias, and the curtain sinks. The people, slowly scattering to their homes, do not easily or soon forget the mighty agitation they have undergone.
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The two celebrated characters of early Roman history, Brutus and Virginius, each the hero of a startling social revolution, as well as of an appalling domestic tragedy, in which personal affection is nobly sacrificed to public principle,—these imposing forms, each enveloped in his grand and solemn legend, stalking vivid and colossal in the shadows of antique time,—these sublime democratic idols of old Rome, men of tempestuous passion and iron solidity, whose civic heroism was mated with private tenderness and crowned with judicial severity,—like statues of rock clustered with ivy and their heads wreathed in retributive lightnings,—both these personages in all their accompaniments were singularly well fitted for the ethical, passionate, single-minded, and ponderous individuality of Forrest to impersonate with the highest sincerity and power. He achieved extraordinary success in them. There was in himself so much of the old Roman pride, independence, concentrated and tenacious feeling, majestic and imperious weight, that it was not hard for him to steal the keys of history, enter the chambers of the past, and reanimate the heroic and revengeful masks. He did so, to the astonishment and delight of those who beheld the spectacle.
The play of "Brutus, or the Fall of Tarquin," the best of the dramatic productions of John Howard Payne, has been greatly admired. Its title rôle was a favorite one with Kean, Cooper, Macready, Booth, and Forrest; and they all won laurels in it. The interest of the plot begins at once, and scarcely flags to the end. The murderous tyrant, Tarquin, has forced his way to the throne through treason, poison, and gore, and holds remorseless rule, to the deep though muffled indignation and horror of the better citizens. His fears of the discontented patriots have led him to murder their master-spirit, Marcus Junius, and his eldest son. The younger son, Lucius, escaped, and affected to have lost his reason, playing the part of a fool, and meanwhile abiding his time to avenge his family and his country. He kept his disguise so shrewdly that he was allowed to be much at court, a harmless butt for the mirth of the tyrant and his fellows.
Forrest kept up the semblance of imbecility, the shambling gait, the dull eyes and vacant face, the sloppy, irresolute gestures, the apparent forgetfulness, with the closest truth. He had for
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 years studied the traits and phases of these poor beings in visits to lunatic-asylums. But in the depicting of the fool there was some obvious unfitness of his heavy bearing, noble voice, and native majesty to the shallow and broken qualities of such a character. It did not appear quite spontaneous or natural. He clearly had to act it by will and effort. Yet there was a sort of propriety even in this, as the part was professedly an assumed and pretended one. But when he cast off the vile cloud of idiocy and broke forth in his own patrician person, the effect of the foregone foil was manifest, and the new and perfect picture stood in luminous relief. When Claudius and Aruns had been badgering him, and had received some such pointed repartees as a fool will seem now and then to hit on by chance, as they went out he followed them with a look of superb contempt, and said, in an intonation of intense scorn wonderfully effective,—
"Yet, 'tis not that which ruffles me,—the gibes
And scornful mockeries of ill-governed youth,—
Or flouts of dastard sycophants and jesters,—
Reptiles, who lay their bellies on the dust
Before the frown of majesty!"
And the house was always electrified by the sudden transformation with which then, passing from the words,
"All this
I but expect, nor grudge to bear; the face
I carry, courts it!"
he towered into prouder dimensions, and, as one inspired, delivered himself in an outbreak of declamatory grandeur:
"Son of Marcus Junius!
When will the tedious gods permit thy soul
To walk abroad in her own majesty,
And throw this visor of thy madness from thee,
To avenge my father's and my brother's murder?
Had this been all, a thousand opportunities
I've had to strike the blow—and my own life
I had not valued at a rush.—But still—
There's something nobler to be done!—My soul,
Enjoy the strong conception! Oh! 'tis glorious
To free a groaning country,—
To see Revenge
Spring like a lion from the den, and tear
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These hunters of mankind! Grant but the time,
Grant but the moment, gods! If I am wanting,
May I drag out this idiot-feignéd life
To late old age, and may posterity
Ne'er hear of Junius but as Tarquin's fool!"
The manner in which, in his fictitious rôle, in his interview with Tullia, the parricidal queen, whose prophetic soul is ominously alive to every alarming hint, he veered along the perilous edges of his feigned and his real character, the sinister alternation of jest and portent, was a passage of exciting interest, sweeping the chords of the breast from sport to awe with facile and forceful hand. The same effect was produced in a still higher degree in the interview with his son Titus, whose patriotism and temper he tested by lifting a little his false garb of folly and letting some tentative gleams of his true nature and purposes appear.
"Brutus. I'll tell a secret to thee
Worth a whole city's ransom. This it is:
Nay, ponder it and lock it in thy heart:—
There are more fools, my son, in this wise world,
Than the gods ever made.
Titus. Sayest thou? Expound this riddle.
Would the kind gods restore thee to thy reason—
Brutus. Then, Titus, then I should be mad with reason.
Had I the sense to know myself a Roman,
This hand should tear this heart from out my ribs,
Ere it should own allegiance to a tyrant.
If, therefore, thou dost love me, pray the gods
To keep me what I am. Where all are slaves,
None but the fool is happy.
Titus. We are Romans—
Not slaves—
Brutus. Not slaves? Why, what art thou?
Titus. Thy son.
Dost thou not know me?
Brutus. You abuse my folly.
I know thee not.—Wert thou my son, ye gods,
Thou wouldst tear off this sycophantic robe,
Tuck up thy tunic, trim these curléd locks
To the short warrior-cut, vault on thy steed,
Then, scouring through the city, call to arms,
And shout for liberty!
Titus. [Starts.] Defend me, gods!
Brutus. Ha! does it stagger thee?"
The simulation had been dropped so gradually, the unconsciously waxing earnestness of purpose and self-betrayal were
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 carried up over such invisible and exquisite steps, that, when the electric climax was touched, he who confronted Brutus on the stage did not affect to be more startled than those who gazed on him from before it really were.
Finding his son is in love with the sister of Sextus, and in no ripe mood for dangerous enterprise, he turns sorrowfully from him, murmuring,—
"Said I for liberty? I said it not.
My brain is weak, and wanders. You abuse it."
When left alone, he soliloquizes, beginning with sorrow, and passing in the succeeding parts from sadness to repulsion, then to anxiety, afterwards to hope, and ending with an air of proud joy.
"I was too sudden. I should have delayed
And watched a surer moment for my purpose.
He must be frighted from his dream of love.
What! shall the son of Junius wed a Tarquin?
As yet I've been no father to my son,—
I could be none; but, through the cloud that wraps me,
I've watched his mind with all a parent's fondness,
And hailed with joy the Junian glory there.
Could I once burst the chains which now enthrall him,
My son would prove the pillar of his country,—
Dear to her freedom as he is to me."
Few things in the history of the stage have been superior in its way to what Forrest made the opening of the third act in Brutus. It is deep night in Rome, thunder and lightning, the Capitol in the background, in front an equestrian statue of Tarquinius Superbus. Brutus enters, revolving in his breast the now nearly complete scheme for overthrowing the despot. Appearance, thoughts, words, voice, manner, all in strict keeping with the time and place, he speaks:
"Slumber forsakes me, and I court the horrors
Which night and tempest swell on every side.
Launch forth thy thunders, Capitolian Jove!
Put fire into the languid souls of men;
Let loose thy ministers of wrath amongst them,
And crush the vile oppressor! Strike him down,
Ye lightnings! Lay his trophies in the dust!
[Storm increases.
Ha! this is well! flash, ye blue-forkéd fires!
Loud-bursting thunders, roar! and tremble, earth!
[A violent crash of thunder, and the statue of Tarquin, struck
by a flash, is shattered to pieces.
[Pg 224]
What! fallen at last, proud idol! struck to earth!
I thank you, gods! I thank you! When you point
Your shafts at human pride, it is not chance,
'Tis wisdom levels the commissioned blow.
But I,—a thing of no account—a slave,—
I to your forkéd lightnings bare my bosom
In vain,—for what's a slave—a dastard slave?
A fool, a Brutus? [Storm increases.] Hark! the storm rides on!
Strange hopes possess my soul. My thoughts grow wild.
I'll sit awhile and ruminate."
Seating himself on a fragment of the fallen statue, in contemplative attitude, his great solitary presence, blending with the entire scene, presented a tableau of the most sombre and romantic beauty.
Valerius enters. Brutus cautiously probes his soul, and is rejoiced to find him worthy of confidence. As they commune on the degradation of their country, the crimes of the royal family, and the hopes of speedy redemption, we seem to feel the sultry smother and to hear the muffled rumble of the rising storm of an outraged people. As Valerius departs, Tarquin himself advances, and gives a new momentum to the movement for his own destruction. Still supposing Brutus to be an imbecile, with shameless garrulity he boasts of the fiendish violence he has done to Lucretia, the wife of Collatinus, and the near kinswoman of Brutus himself. This woman was of such transcendent loveliness and nobility of person and soul as to have become a poetic ideal of her sex throughout the civilized world in all the ages since. While Tarquin boastfully described his deed, the effect on his auditor was terrific to see. The inward struggle was fully pictured without, in the hands convulsively clutched, the eyes starting from their sockets, the blood threatening to burst through the swollen veins of the neck and temples. Finally, the quivering earthquake of passion broke in an explosion of maniacal abandonment.
"The fiends curse you, then! Lash you with snakes!
When forth you walk, may the red flaming sun
Strike you with livid plagues!
Vipers, that die not, slowly gnaw your heart!
May earth be to you but one wilderness!
May you hate yourself,—
For death pray hourly, yet be in tortures,
Millions of years expiring!"
[Pg 225]
He shrieked this fearful curse upon the shrinking criminal with a frenzied energy which so amazed and stirred the audience that sometimes they gave vent to their excitement in a simultaneous shout of applause, sometimes by looking at one another in silence or whispering, "Wonderful!"
Lucretia, unwilling to survive the purity of her name, has stabbed herself. Collatinus rushes wildly in with the bloody steel in his hand, and tells the tale of horror:
"She's dead!   Lucretia's dead!   This is her blood!
Howl, howl, ye men of Rome.
Ye mighty gods, where are your thunders now?"
Brutus, the full gale of oratoric fire and splendor swelling his frame and lighting his features, seizes the dagger, lifts it aloft, and exclaims:
"Heroic matron!
Now, now, the hour is come! By this one blow
Her name's immortal, and her country saved!
Hail, dawn of glory! Hail, thou sacred weapon!
Virtue's deliverer, hail! This fatal steel,
Empurpled with the purest blood on earth,
Shall cut your chains of slavery asunder.
Hear, Romans, hear! did not the Sibyl tell you
A fool should set Rome free? I am that fool:
Brutus bids Rome be free!
Valerius. What can this mean?
Brutus. It means that Lucius Junius has thrown off
The mask of madness, and his soul rides forth
On the destroying whirlwind, to avenge
The wrongs of that bright excellence and Rome.
[Sinks on his knees.]
Hear me, great Jove! and thou, paternal Mars,
And spotless Vesta! To the death, I swear,
My burning vengeance shall pursue these Tarquins!
Ne'er shall my limbs know rest till they are swept
From off the earth which groans beneath their infamy!
Valerius, Collatine, Lucretius, all,
Be partners in my oath."
The above apostrophe to the dagger was marvellously delivered. As he held it up with utmost stretch of arm and addressed it, it seemed to become a living thing, an avenging divinity.
The next scene was given with a contrast that came like enchantment. A multitude of relatives and friends are celebrating
[Pg 226]
 the obsequies of Lucretia. Brutus, with solemn and gentle mien, and a delivery of funereal gloom in which admiring love and pride gild the sorrow, pronounces her eulogy. He paints her with a bright and sweet fondness, and bewails her fate with a closing cadence indescribably plaintive.
"Such perfections
Might have called back the torpid breast of age
To long-forgotten rapture: such a mind
Might have abashed the boldest libertine,
And turned desire to reverential love
And holiest affection. Oh, my countrymen!
You all can witness when that she went forth
It was a holiday in Rome; old age
Forgot its crutch, labor its task,—all ran;
And mothers, turning to their daughters, cried,
'There, there's Lucretia!' Now, look ye, where she lies,
That beauteous flower by ruthless violence torn!
Gone! gone! gone!
All. Sextus shall die! But what for the king, his father?
Brutus. Seek you instruction? Ask yon conscious walls,
Which saw his poisoned brother, saw the incest
Committed there, and they will cry. Revenge!
Ask yon deserted street, where Tullia drove
O'er her dead father's corse, 'twill cry, Revenge!
Ask yonder senate-house, whose stones are purple
With human blood, and it will cry, Revenge!
Go to the tomb where lies his murdered wife,
And the poor queen, who loved him as her son,
Their unappeaséd ghosts will shriek, Revenge!
The temples of the gods, the all-viewing heavens,
The gods themselves, shall justify the cry,
And swell the general sound, Revenge! Revenge!"
The instant change, in that presence of death, from the subdued, mournful manner to this tremendous burst of blazing eloquence was a consummate marvel of oratoric effect, in which art and nature were at odds which was the greater element. It might be said of Forrest in this scene,—as Corunna in the play itself described to Horatius the action of Brutus,—
"He waved aloft the bloody dagger,
And spoke as if he held the souls of men
In his own hand and moulded them at pleasure.
They looked on him as they would view a god.
[Pg 227]
Who, from a darkness which invested him,
Sprang forth, and, knitting his stern brow in frowns,
Proclaimed the vengeful will of angry Jove."
The throng are so possessed with him that they propose to make him king in place of Tarquin; but the patriot, his unselfish soul breathing from his countenance and audible in his accent, convinces them of his personal purity:
"No, fellow-citizens!
If mad ambition in this guilty frame
Had strung one kingly fibre,—yea, but one,—
By all the gods, this dagger which I hold
Should rip it out, though it entwined my heart.
Now take the body up. Bear it before us
To Tarquin's palace; there we'll light our torches,
And, in the blazing conflagration, rear
A pile for these chaste relics, that shall send
Her soul amongst the stars. On!"
They sweep away to their victims, deliver the State, and seal an ample vengeance.
The primary climax of the play has thus been reached. Brutus has emerged from his idiot concealment and vindicated himself as the successful champion of liberty and his country. He is next to appear in a second climax, of still greater intensity and height, by the personal sacrifice of himself as the martyr of duty. The first action has the superior national significance, but the second action has the superior human significance, and therefore properly succeeds. Titus, the only son of the liberator, corrupted by his love of power and pleasure, has, in a measure, joined the party of the Tarquins. He is therefore regarded by the victor patriots a............
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