Page images
PDF
EPUB

that may prove disadvantageous. He must, therefore, even in his posture as he stands, prefer manly dignity and grace to awkward rusticity and rude strength. Rude strength may suit him who wishes to terrify or to insult; but this is rarely the purpose of a public speaker. Grace and decorum win favour, and this is the general object. Rude strength stands indeed with stability, but without grace.

The gracefulness of motion in the human form, or perhaps in any other, consists in the facility and security with which it is executed. And the

grace

of

any postures (except such as are manifestly designed for repose), consists in the apparent facility with which they can be varied. Hence, in the standing figure, the posture is graceful when the weight of the body is principally supported by one limb, whilst the other is so placed as to be ready to relieve it promptly, and without effort. And as the limbs are formed for a mutual share of labour and of honour, so their alternation in posture, and in motion, is agreeable and graceful.

The body must then be supported, if grace be consulted, on either limb, like Apollo, Antinous, and other beautiful and well-executed statues.

The positions of the feet are expressed by the notation annexed, which is to be written under the word where the speaker is to assume such position. They are the following:

First Position of the Right Foot, noted Rl.-In this position the right foot (advanced before the left about the breadth of the foot), forms, with the left, an angle of about seventy-five degrees. The principal weight of the body is sustained by the left foot ; the right rests lightly, but in its whole length, upon the floor.

Second Position of the Right Foot, noted R2.- In this position, the right foot, sliding forward about half its length, receives the principal weight of the body, the left being raised, and turning as far inwards towards the right; the ball of the left great toe only lightly touching the floor, to keep the body from tottering. The right foot principally sustains the weight of the body. In this position, when the feet are near together, the entire sole of the left foot may lightly touch the floor; but when the feet are separated about their own length, or more, the left should touch only near the great toe; the knee should be bent, and the heel turned inward.

First Position of the Left Foot, noted Ll.-This position of the left foot is, in all respects, analogous to the first position of the right. The left foot is advanced, and the body is principally supported by the right.

The first position of the right foot is the proper reading position, when no gesture is employed; but it should be occasionally alternated with the first position of the left, for the relief of the supporting muscles.

Second Position of the Left Foot, noted L2.- This position of the left foot is, in all respects, analogous to the second position of the right.

The first position of either foot, but particularly that of the right (because the more graceful), is the proper reading position, It is also the proper rising position of the orator. But should he stretch forth his arms towards the audience, when he begins to speak, he should take the second position.

Besides the four positions above mentioned, there are two others, which may be called positions in front. The heels are placed nearly together, and the body is supported, alternately, on the right and left foot, whilst the toes of the other lightly touch the floor. The angle formed by the feet, in these positions, is somewhat greater than a right angle. In other respects they are similar to the ordinary positions.

The Right Position in Front, noted RF, is when the body is supported on the left foot.

The Left Position in Front, noted LF, is when the body is supported on the right foot. The position in front is used when persons are addressed alternately, on either side, whilst the audience are in front, as on the stage. It is not graceful, and should not be too often used; it is too stiff and formal, like the military figure, and presents the body with too much uniformity and flatness.

Connected with these positions which express the moderate state of the feet, are marked the same positions in the extended state. These differ from the moderate, principally, in the greater separation of the feet. The second position extended, enlarges the angle a few degrees by drawing up the heel of the retired foot. The first extended position is made when a person retires in any degree of alarm; and the second, when he advances with boldness. An x is added to the notation to express the extended position, thus : Rlx.; R2x., etc.

The contracted position may be easily understood by supposing the heels to be brought close together, A c is added to the notation, to express the contracted position, thus: Rlc.

The several acts resulting from the changes in the positions of the feet, are, advancing (noted a); retiring (r); traversing (tr); starting (8 or st.); stamping (sp), etc. K expresses kneeling; and S aside.

The attitude of the orator should not be like that of the affected dancing-master, which is adapted to springing agility and conceited display. The orator should adopt such attitudes and positions only as consist with manly simplicity and grace. The toes should be turned, not inwards, like those of the awkward rustic, but moderately outwards; and the limbs should be so disposed as to support the body with ease, and to change with facility. The sustaining foot should be planted firmly; the leg braced, but not contracted; and the knee straightened . (contraction suits the spring necessary for the dancer, and bent knees belong to feebleness or timidity); the other foot and limb should press lightly, and be held relaxed, so as to be ready for immediate change and action, except in very energetic delivery, where both limbs should be braced.

The trunk of the body should be well balanced, and sustained erect upon the supporting limb, except in such instances as particularly require its inclination, as veneration, supplication, etc. The orator should face his audience. Whatever his position may be, he should present himself, as Quintilian expresses, æquo pectore and never in the fencer's attitude.

In changing the positions of the feet, the motions should be made with the utmost simplicity, and free from the parade and sweep of dancing. All changes, except where particular energy requires the speaker to stamp, start back, or advance with marked decision, should be made almost imperceptibly. The changes should not be too frequent : frequent change gives the idea of anxiety and instability, which are unfavourable to an orator. *

*I have frequently seen college students take three steps to the right, then three to the left, then three again to the right, and so on, till they had changed their position fifteen times during the delivery of a discourse which did not occupy them more than ten minutes. And I have known a clergyman to traverse the whole length of his pulpit twenty-three times during the delivery of a sermon. Such erratic movements in a public speaker are undignified : they betray a want of judg

THE MOTIONS OF THE ARMS AND HANDS.

In ascertaining the import of any posture of either arm, or hand, it is important to consider the posture in connection with the action by which it is produced ; for any posture of the arm, or hand, may sustain different significant characters, because different actions give the same posture an entirely different import. This must be obvious to all who reflect that the effect of the posture greatly depends upon the exact character of the motion, which is produced partly by the direction which the motion takes, partly by the force with which it is commenced, and partly by the distance through which it passes.

The motions of the hands and arms together, are, therefore, considered : first, as to their direction, and secondly, as to their manner of moving. The energy is not here taken into account. These motions are noted by the fourth and fifth small letters, should so many be necessary.

In the direction of the motion, gestures are considered as ascending, noted a; descending, d; to the right, r; to the left, l; forwards, f; backwards, b; revolving v. The stars, connected with the hand by dots, show the various points from which the motion of the gestures has commenced.

As to the manner of motion, gesture may be considered as

Noting, noted n. When the hand is first drawn back and raised, and then advanced, and, with a gentle stroke, depressed.

Projecting or pushing, p. When the arm is first retracted, and then thrust forward in the direction in which the hand points.

Waving, w. When the fingers are first pointed downwards, and then, by a smart motion of the elbow and wrist, the hand is flung upward in a vertical direction.

The flourish, A. A circular movement above the head. ment, and are exceedingly annoying to an audience. An orator should keep in his place:” he should perform all the movements of his feet within the limits of thirty-six inches square, and not be continually running about the room as if labouring under the effects of nitrous oxide.

The sweep, sw.

A curved movement, descending from the opposite shoulder, and rising with velocity to the utmost extent of the arm, or the reverse; changing the position of the hand from supine to vertical, in the first case, and from vertical to supine, in the latter. The sweep is sometimes doubled, by returning the arm through the same arch. *

Beckoning, bl. When with the forefinger, or the whole hand, the palm being turned inwards, a motion is made in the direction of the breast.

Repressing, rp. The reverse of the preceding gesture, when the forefinger, or the whole hand, the palm turned outwards, makes a motion in opposition to the person addressed. The motions, in these last two gestures, are often repeated.

Striking, st. When the whole forearm, and the hand along with it, descend from a higher elevation rapidly, and with a degree of force like a stroke which is arrested, when it has struck what it was aimed against.

Recoiling, rc. When after a stroke, as in the former gesture, the arm and hand return to the position whence they proceeded.

Advancing, ad. When the hand being first moved downwards and backwards, in order to obtain greater space for action, is then moved regularly forwards, and raised as high as the horizontal position, a step being, at the same time, made in advance, to aid the action.

Springing, sp. When the hand, having nearly arrived at the intended limit of gesture, flies suddenly up to it by a quick motion of the wrist, like the blade of a pocket knife, when it suddenly and decidedly snaps into its proper situation by the recoil of the spring.

Throwing, th. When the arm, by the force of the gesture, is thrown as it were, in the direction of the person addressed.

* The late John Kemble, says Mr. Austin, used the double swee,, with fine effect, on these words :

The play's the thing Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.-Hamleta

« PreviousContinue »