Friday, July 21, 2006

Macready's Coriolanus

April 20th.—I went last night to see Macready in Coriolanus, feeling that I should not like him: that in this one part, and in no other, the greatness of Kemble was unapproachable. I am quite sure I was extremely interested to feel that I had gained a new view of the character, but cannot quite decide whether I like it better than the old one. I should say that Kemble was more Roman, more dignified, and Macready more true to universal nature.

The first seemed to be impelled by a feeling of withering contempt, bordering on misanthropy, to scorn the tribunes and the people as creatures of an inferior nature; Macready seemed a man of quick, irritable feelings, whose pride was rather galled than wounded, and I suspect this is the Coriolanus of Shakespeare and of nature.

It hardly seemed in nature that Kemble's Coriolanus, so proud, so unbending, should have been led astray, should yield to the solicitations of his mother, though that mother was Mrs. Siddons.* In Macready it seemed impossible he should resist, though Volumuia was odiously vulgar, and gave me more the idea of a poissarde than of a Roman matron. Nothing could be finer than his acting in this scene; never did I feel so strongly the tenderness and beauty of his affection for Virgilia. She has so little to say or do, that, being rather handsome and very well dressed, the actress (whose name I forgot) could not offend.

I never saw a play so beautifully, so correctly got up. It was not only the costume, the scenery, the numberless accessories that were carefully attended to, but the far more difficult task of regulating the byplay of the inferior actors was also accomplished. The effect given by the number of the mob, by the variety of action which seemed to give Shakespearian individuality to every member of it, is indescribable.

The cowed, degraded appearance of the Volscians in the Triumph was very striking; Coriolanus sitting at the hearth of Aufidius as fine a picture as can be imagined.

Still I was too near the stage to judge of the full effect, or even to see the whole of the fine scenes.

Editor's note
* The late Sir Q. C. Lewis (in his Credibility of the Early Roman History) treats the alleged compliance of Coriolanus with his mother's intercession as an incredible absurdity. How could he with Tullus Aufidius by his side, have led back the Volscians?


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home