Character and Society in Shakespeare

Character and Society in Shakespeare

Character and Society in Shakespeare

Character and Society in Shakespeare

Excerpt

DR. JOHNSON once asked Kemble: 'Are you, sir, one of those enthusiasts who believe yourself transformed into the very character you represent?' When Kemble answered that 'he had never felt so strong a persuasion himself', Johnson said: 'To be sure not, sir, the thing is impossible. And if Garrick really believed himself to be that monster, Richard the Third, he deserved to be hanged every time he performed it.'

So far as the actor is concerned, most people would agree with Dr. Johnson. The art of the actor is the art of make-believe, but he induces belief in others, not in himself. The actor fashions the character with a sixth sense alert for what is going on in the audience. For him the intuition of the character and the presentation cannot be separated. The length of pause, the turn of a cadence, the momentum of a paragraph--these, and the raising of the hand, the step forward, the fixing of a stare, both create the character and present it; engage the collaboration of the audience and sustain the role. What emotion there is, is emotion recollected, not in tranquillity, but in excitement, the excitement of the theatre. And this applies even to the great Shakespearian roles. The actor who plays Hamlet sits quite still on his first appearance with the king and the court. He sits . . .

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