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left off for this digression ;-see! the procession of the opera again appears upon the scene.
The crowd increases-murmurs—a sinister cortège begins to pour forth upon the square before the church; files of black penitents, banners of misericord, torches, archers, officers of justice and of police. The soldiers divide the crowd. The Esmeralda appears in white raiment, a halter around her neck, her feet naked, and a large black crape thrown over her. Near her, a monk with a crucifix; behind her, the executioners and a band of the king's troops. Quasimodo, leaning against the props of the portal, observes every thing with attention. The instant that the criminal arrives near the façade, a grave
and distant chant is heard from within the closed doors of the cathedral.
“Omnes fluctus fluminis
Ubi plorant animæ." The sounds gradually draw near, and finally burst forth as the doors are suddenly opened and reveal the interior of the church, filled by a long procession of priests in sacerdotal garments and preceded by banners. The procession is led by Claude Frollo in pontifical robes-he advances towards the Esmeralda.
The priest draws near his unfortunate victim-the Truands are in the crowd-a word from him, and the soldiers are overpowered and she rescued. The Esmeralda is obstinateshe spurns the apostate, and is delivered by him to the soldiery. But oh, surprise! Quasimodo rushes in among the archers, levels to the ground those engaged in seizing her, and bears off triumphantly into the church the rescued maiden.
Quasimodo.- Asile! asile! asile !" The people re-echo'this cry. This exultation is doomed to disappointment. Claude Frollo proclaims the Egyptian still a prisoner-she is a pagan, and Notre-Dame can only save a Christian from the hands of human justice. The archers again advance upon the gipsy--the hunchback prepares to defend her--when suddenly a cry is heard from without-and soon Phæbus enters, on horseback, pale and exhausted. He has ridden far to save the Esmeralda, and denounces the priest as his assassin.
One would think that this libretto had already manifested a sufficiency of unnatural contrasts—that we have been alternately subjected to every opposing emotion which the skill of the dramatist and the nature of the subject could suggest—and that VOL. XXI.—NO. 41.
more especially in this last act the succession of antitheses had been rapid and overwhelming. But no; M. Hugo is as pitiless here as in most of his dramas. The handsome captain falls bleeding from his horse. The anxious and loving maiden receives him in her arms.
“Ciel tu pális! Qu'as tu!
“ Phæbus.-Je meurs
J'expire. Le sort te venge
Si le ciel vaut ton amour !
The last two lines are beautiful. The Esmeralda falls upon his body-and the piece concludes with the following singular and fantastic résumé :
“ Claude Frollo.-Fatalité !
“ The People.-Fatalité !”
(The curtain falls,)
and we must close our remarks on this opera, omitting entirely to notice the music, concerning the merits of which, the Journal des Débats and the Gazette de France—the organ of the juste milieu and the organ of legitimacy—are still waging a fierce and abusive war; the former in behalf of and the latter against the music of Mademoiselle Bertin. This lady is a daughter of the well known editor of the Débats. There is nevertheless a good calembourg in one of the smaller journals respecting it,
“Le chant-Bertin' n'enivre pas."
· Pronounced Chambertin.
The Esmeralda was definitely condemned and driven from the stage on Friday evening, December 17th, 1836.
ART. IX.-Ion : a tragedy, in five acts. By THOMAS Noon
TALFOURD. New York: 1837. Tragedy, although its old form and features have departed, has not yet wholly succumbed to the spirit of the age. The stage, it is true, is fast losing its power, but readers are a thousandfold increased; and we question very much if the theatre alone ever gave a modern poet a real, lasting popularity. It is not wide enough. What a limited fame would his be whose work should only be known through the mouthing of a dozen actors, however clever. A metropolitan journal, and a metropolitan audience, would swear to its merits, and there an end. But now men write for millions. Each reader, as he passes over the performance, makes a little imaginary playhouse, and peoples it and gives it properties for himself. If he loses a few great points, he at least saves many small ones. The Agamemnon of the piece has not it all to himself. Monimia's maid, with her impudent stare, and the identical petticoat which we have seen so often in the farce, does not destroy the vraisemblance of a whole tragedy. Your battles are decently fought, on meadow or mountain, not by four boobies of a side, between the flat and the foot-lamps. The truth is, that the schoolmaster is destroying the theatre. When men knew less of the realities of the world, and of the every-day progress of affairs, their imaginations were satisfied with exhibitions in which geography and chronology were infinitely outraged; and, perhaps, the next neighbouring nation transplanted to Africa or the New Continent. Now, managers are forced to seek other sources of excitement. The rage for melo-drama is the legitimate and necessary result of extended knowledge. Omne ignotum pro mirabile-men wonder at what they do not understand. Turkish heroes, with crooked cimeters and loose trowsers, used to be adınired by children in the holidays; now, with big words and exaggerated sentiment in their mouths, they are gazed at by the vulgar of a larger growth. The theatre is given up to the lower classes, because the higher get better dramatic entertainment from books with less pain and expense. Actors degenerate because they have not the check of good taste in their audience. Writers for the stage become writers for the closet. Comedy is banished with the abolition of caste, and the progress of material science which brings mankind closer together, and a cheap literature, universally diffused, fills all the avenues of entertaining knowledge.
We never expect to see the theatre revived. Acting, once an art, has degenerated into a trade, to which few men will put themselves apprentice. It is a galling, miserable servitude to
the ninety-nine, and little better than a mock triumph to the hundredth. All the prestige of the stage is vanished. It used to be the daily theme of wits and newspapers, and the nightly resort of critics, fashionables, and literati. Men took sides on the production of a new comedy, and the realm rung with the contest. The actors lived from year to year in the public eye and mind; had their partisans and dependents, and lorded it, if they arrived at any eminence, in a sphere often extended and seldom contemptible. The theatre, up to a recent period, occupied a place in England, in the public interest, scarcely second to the house of commons. The generation now foremost in our own community, remember it here in a most respectable and flourishing condition; and we ourselves have reminiscences of comedies cast from the standing company of Philadelphia in a manner that would astonish now. But it is the fate of every thing human, after completing its cycle, to come back to its point of departure. Tragedy was itinerant with Thespis, in early Greece; and the drama now owes the little vitality which it retains to traveling actors—men and women, who flit hither and thither, finding the stage every where barren, for the especially
sound reason that they, and such as they, have made it so. For as there are few players whose parts are so mean that on some scene or other they will not appear transcendent, so there are few that would not prefer the part of Hotspur in a village before that of Scrub in the metropolis. Hence the whole corps dramatique is peripatetic-each individual moving in a concentric orb, in which he finds attendant satellites. Occasionally, the Romeo or the Hamlet comes back from spangles and bugles, in a barn on the frontier, to his more appropriate part of Apothecary or Guildenstern at home, but it is only when he is pinched by want, or a fugitive from the constable. There is no keeping him to his business. He learns a few new attitudes, mouths with a more pompous or more pedantic diction, from imitating some freshly imported novelty, and straight is off again, to sell his new wares to distant chapmen. “A forest of feathers, and two Provencial roses on his razed shoes, will at any time get him a fellowship in a cry of players.” Thus is the whole discipline and order of the stage subverted. Actors are untaught in the commonest elements of their art. They are without elocution, without ease, without force or propriety. Having passed through no pupilage, they have acquired no instruction. The standard of excellence thus becomes imperceptibly lowered. The actor looks for an audience (and easily finds it) which will be content with him as he is; the audience, by degrees viewing him as a model, is induced, by time and circumstance, to take some one a little worse; if, by chance, he should be a little better, their wonder
and applause are unbounded, and a promising actor probably spoiled. Content with the “star” which chances to be in the ascendant, little attention is paid to the subordinate persons of the drama, disapprobation is never expressed, and consequently never feared. The principal personage, if he play well, is surrounded by a host of ineffective and insignificant, sometimes intoxicated, underlings, who mar his performance; and if he play ill, who make bad worse, until at length those audiences who alone can preserve the taste of theatrical entertainment, and check the tendencies to vice, which the theatre is apt to afford, are driven in disgust from attendance upon it, or go to it rarely, and it becomes the resort of the dissolute, the vicious, and the vulgar.
The effect of this inefficiency of the stage on dramatic authorship may casily be traced. Modern dramas, instead of presenting a variety of characters, each operating to advance the interest of the play, to relieve its heavier scenes, or to promote its catastrophe, are written up to a single part, round which every thing else revolves in a monotonous and insipid circle. They represent an individual trait rather than an action; and as to the development of a great theme, which the ancients, with wonderful ability and effect, contrived to accomplish within much narrower limits than the modern stage affords, it is not attempted, or if it be, it is done with no reference to the theatre. Men of genius write dramatic poems,” by some deemed a spurious species of composition, but in our judgment the necessary result of having no stage to write for. The consequence is, that sentiments are elaborated, where in former times incident was demanded, and authors come to paint their characters instead of presenting them in ripe and living reality. Much of the descriptive and didactic must mingle with the dramatic, when there is no controlling conviction of the necessity of a constant advancement of the action, and it is scarcely necessary to say that the descriptive and didactic have little to do with the genius of the English theatre. All attempts to perform Lord Byron's plays to the satisfaction of an audience, we believe, have failed." In four or five plain words, "they are not adapted to the stage,” which ineans neither more nor less than that they want several material elements which successful plays always possess. There is poetry enough in them, but they lack the resemblance to life—the humanity, if we may so speak, which a picture of life ought to possess. The best and most successful plays in our language, are those which have their origin in some popular narrative, or well-known legend, and which adhere closely to their originals. Such are only one remove from the first impression of life, and men recognize the picture. Perhaps one of the best tragedies which has