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by the unfilial behaviour of Goneril and Regan. It has none of the characteristics of extreme dotage. Lear's faculties are not paralysed, they are only distraught. The precise moment when his reason gives way it might be difficult to determine, for up to a certain point the action of the disturbing influences is subtle and gradual. Mr. Irving appears to indicate the end of the second act as the turningpoint. Immediately after the passage,
O, let not women's weapons, water drops,
Stain my man's cheeks ! he bursts into a violent fit of convulsive sobbing, and flinging himself on the Fool's neck, exclaims, in an agony of suffering, “O, fool, I shall go mad !” The opening part of the third act, however, seems to negative this as the crucial moment. The earlier speeches at all events suggest only a mind beginning to wander-to show its weakness in wild apostrophe and a bitter vein of exaggerated irony. He realises what is hanging over him. The tempest in his mind renders him indifferent to the pouring rain without.
In such a night
No more of that indicates the dread that fills his thoughts, the consciousness that his reason is tottering in the balance.
Then that touching speech beginning “ Poor naked wretches,” is full of thoughtfulness, humanity, self-reproach, and is instinct with sanity. Yet only a few moments later the mischief is done. The sudden appearance of Edgar, disguised as a Tom o' Bedlam, is the last straw to Lear's overburdened mind. “Didst thou give all to thy two daughters ?” he says to him, and this is the first clear note of disaster. From this point onwards Mr. Irving rises to the highest attainable level. If his Lear be not a shattered Titan, it is still a very noble and most moving wreck. Both in the farmhouse scenewhere the mad king, the pretended madman, and the fool take shelter from the pitiless storm---the sufferings of an oppressed nature, wounded to death, are depicted with unerring skill.
The little dogs and all ; Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at meexclaims Lear, and the disconsolate note of sadness never had a truer utterance. Then, again, in the fourth act, where Lear comes in with his crown of straw and poppies, the wandering speech, largely incoherent, and the interview with Gloster, are on the highest plane
of mimetic art. There is an unutterable pathos in these wonderful touches of mental pathology. Yet, though the witless talk of the old man becomes grotesque in its garrulous irrelevance—there Shakespeare's marvellous knowledge of disease comes in-he never ceases, in Mr. Irving's hands, to have the majestic bearing of a king. There is dignity even in this broken, vacuous, drivelling old ruin.
The gems of the whole performance, however, are Lear's later scenes with Cordelia, and in these Miss Terry is entitled to divide the laurels of a superb artistic triumph. There is not much dialogue to be spoken—it amounts to only a few lines all told—but for truthfulness to nature and heart-probing pathos, those few lines burn themselves into the memory. Mr. Irving is here at his greatest. His slow recognition of Cordelia (in the fourth act), as his reason begins to come back, his humble admission that she at least may have had some cause for doing him wrong, and his soft, heart-broken plea, “Pray you now, forget and forgive : I'm old and foolish,” are as beautiful in their wholesome tenderness as acting can make them. The final scene of all, too, the vacant toying with the rope with which Cordelia has been strangled, the pitiful wail, “Cordelia ! Cordelia ! stay a little," the senile eagerness to catch the sound of the voice that is gone, the inexpressible anguish of almost the last words he speaks,
Thou'lt come no more,
Never ! never ! never ! never ! never ! and the gradual fading out of the vital spark in the act of kissing the beloved corpse--all this is in the region of an art far too high for words.
On the whole, I should be inclined to say of Mr. Irving's “Lear," that it is a somewhat unequal performance. It succeeds just where he might be expected to succeed ; and it falls short just where he might be expected to fall short. It is not one's ideal " Lear”-it lacks the fibre and the fierceness, the raging, tempestuous nature which had never brooked resistance. Yet, both as a pictorial conception, and as an acted embodiment of heart-stirring mental distress and suffering of infinite pathos, it will take its place proudly in the Pantheon of dramatic triumphs. How much the play owes to the slight part of Cordelia, as represented by Miss Ellen Terry, I have already said. Her acting pulsates with filial tenderness and solicitude; every look, every gesture in the fourth act are charged with a wistful and exquisite regard.
H. J. JENNINGS.
TNDOUBTEDLY the most interesting event of the past four
weeks has been the production of “ The Duchess of Ma!fi,” under the auspices of the Independent Theatre. Even “Lear,” at the Lyceum, yields place to it. There was a greater charm about the presentation of the masterpiece of Webster than the masterpiece of Shakespeare. Most people have seen “Lear" played in some form or other ; no one in this generation has seen “ The Duchess of Malfi" played. And while the plays of Shakespeare, with “Lear” high amongst them, are supposed to be as familiar and as dear to every Englishman as the epics of Homer were to the Athenians of old, no such assumption is made concerning the plays of Webster. Probably for every hundred persons who know, or profess to know, the plays of Shakespeare, not one knows, or even professes to know, the plays of Webster.
It has been contended, ably but I think unreasonably, that « The Duchess of Malli" is not the kind of play which we expect to see upon the stage of an Independent Theatre. It is not the business, we are told, of the Independent Theatre to revive antique tragedy. but to create modern tragedy. It is within its right when it produces “ Thérèse Raquin ;” it passes beyond its province when it produces " The Duchess of Malfi.” With this criticism I cannot agree. The business of the Independent Theatre is to do what other theatres have not the courage, the enterprise, or the artistic feeling to do. There is no other theatre in London which could, or would, give students of the Elizabethan drama the opportunity of seeing how “The Duchess of Malfi ” would show upon the stage. In doing this the Independent Theatre has earned much gratitude-although the text was badly arranged, although the parts were for the most part badly played. In spite of disadvantages that were almost inevitable in the present position of the Independent Theatre, struggiing as it is
gallantly to hold its own and do the drama service, the performance left behind some very pleasing memories.
The most agreeable of these was the Bosola of Mr. Murray Carson. Bosola is a most difficult part to play. It is not easy to follow his shifting mood, his alternations of villainy and pity ; the good and the bad are blent in him after a fashion that it seems hard to interpret logicaliy upon the stage. He is no persistent fiend like Iago. It is possible and even probable that Mr. Carson would make a fine Iago. He certainly made a very fine Bosola. He spoke the splendid, stately words of Webster as they should be spoken ; he carried himself with the dignity due to the ruined scoundrel who might under happier stars have been a gentleman, and who at his basest was never wholly bad. So long as Mr. Carson was on the stage so long was “The Duchess of Malfi ”worthily interpreted. Miss Mary Rorke as the Duchess was, it must be admitted, a little overparted. An actress who combined in her proper person all the varied gifts of an Ada Rehan, a Sarah Bernhardt, and an Ellen Terry might hope, not without misgivings, to render something of the exquisite charm, humour, and womanhood of that most delightful creation of Elizabethan drama outside the gallery of Shakespeare's women. But we have no such woman on the stage, and it would be difficult to say under the circumstances who could have done it much better than Miss Rorke. She was gracious, tender, courageous, a very charming woman.
“ LEAR." THE first question that came to my mind as the curtain fell upon
1 the last scene of “Lear," and the first night audience raved applause was, “What did the Man in the Gallery make of it all ?" There must have been, I assume, some one in the gallery who had never seen “Lear" played before, who had never read “ Lear.” Doubtless there were plenty of people in other parts of the house, in pit or dress circle, in stalls or boxes, who were in like case—who had never seen “ Lear" played before, who had never read “ Lear.” But I prefer to take the case of the Man in the Gallery, whose knowledge was thus limited, because to his limitation of knowledge he added the disadvantage of greatest distance from the stage. And I asked myself, in amazement, while the House reeled with rapture, what the state of that man's mind was, as to the performance which he had just been witnessing. For, in the first place, the play was so curtailed, so abridged, in obedience to the necessities of our modern stage, and especially of a stage with such traditions as the traditions
of the Lyceum Theatre, that the story of the piece became after a certain point wholly inexplicable and incomprehensible except to the initiated. “Lear” as represented at the Lyceum is really a series of beautiful stage episodes from a play that Mr. Irving, with exceptional felicity of epithet, termed Titanic in his final speech before the fallen curtain. Those who were in the secret knew why Cordelia reappeared in England, and restored her father from the rags and anguish of his madness to splendour and repose, and something like sanity; knew too, why, a little later, she and her father were led in captives after a battle of which there were no tokens. But to the uninitiated it must have been as bewildering, if perchance as pleasing, as the transformation scene in a pantomime. And there were other causes to add to the perplexity of the Man in the Gallery. It pleased what may be called the “New Humour” of scenic effect to play the terrible scenes on and about the heath in almost total darkness. Those who were close to the stage could distinguish little ; fancy staggers at the thought of how much or how little the more remote spectator could have seen. There was yet another cause of perplexity, and with regard to this cause at least one representative of the Man in the Gallery spoke his mind not impertinently, not unaptly. Mr. Irving unhappily allowed himself to accentuate certain mannerisms of voice, certain eccentricities of utterance which have always harassed his acting, with the result that it was often very hard for those who were near to the stage to follow what the actor was saying. That it was hard for those placed more aloof was shown by the frank and honest expression of opinion which came from the gallery as Mr. Irving made his habitual speech of thanks. That speech Mr. Irving made with perfect clearness and distinctness; it was unmannered, simply spoken, perfectly intelligible. The critic in the gallery assured Mr. Irving, with rough good-humoured pertinence, that if he had spoken so clearly during the progress of the piece he would have been more agreeable to follow. Mr. Irving ought to welcome that friendly utterance, for it should recall to him sharply, but sincerely, one of the dangers which beset his fine conceptions and fine interpretations of great parts. His conception of Lear is careful, his interpretation consistent. It is not a conception or a presentation with which I can agree. Miss Terry made a very beautiful, very sympathetic Cordelia. The scenery was simpler than we have been accustomed to for some time on the Lyceum stage, but it was only the more effective for its simplicity, its unex. travagant beauty. The designs of Mr. Ford Madox Brown have done much to make this revival memorable on our stage.