Obrázky stránek
[blocks in formation]





This once popular tragedy is the production of the celet rated Irish Barrister, Richard Lalor Shiel, the author of " Adelaide," • Evadne,” and “Bellamira.” Mr. Shiel appears to have imbibed his dramatic inspiration from the transcendant powers of Miss O'Neill; for the whole series of our author's dramas were written expressly for that highly gifted actress.

• The Apostate" was produced at Covent Garden theatre, in 1816, and was the first original part Miss O'Neill appeared in on the London boards. The array of tragic talent conubined in the original cast, embracing, as it did, young Charies Kemble, Macready, the veteran Murray, and Egerton, with the exquisitely beautiful and thrilling personation of the heroine by Miss O'Neill, secured for the play a success, which its intrinsic merits could not singly have produced.

It is a dramatic incident worthy of record, that to this play Mr. Macready is indebted for the first decided appreciation of his peculiar and fine talents, by a London audience. The part of Pescara had been assigned to Booth, then a member of the Covent Garden company, and in the zenith of his fame. The eccentric and irritable tragedian resigned the part after a few rehearsals, considering it inferior to Charles Kemble's part of Hemeya, and Mr. Macready, in the exigency of the case, was entrusted with Pescara. His success in the part was little inferior to Miss O'Neill in Florinda. Our recollections of the original cast of this play, are still vivid ; it was, indeed, an exhibition of concentrated talent, then common at the two great theatres in London, on which the lover of the drama still dwells with many a lingering reminiscence of the bye-gone glories of histrionic excellence.

The author's preface to this play will show the source from which he obtained his materials for constructing his plot. It is a: fullows :

three years.


“Sismundi gives a detailed account of a tragedy by Calderon, called • Love after Death ; or the Mountains of Grenada,' and founded upon the revolt of the Mours against Philip the Second. It is an his. torical play, and embraces the principal events during a warfars of

The political condition of the Moors, as described by Calderon, appeared to the author to be highly dramatic. He has not consciously adopted a single incident in the plot, or line in the composition of the Spanish poet, but has endeavoured to catch his general tone and colouring in depicting the detestation which the cruelty of the Spaniards had naturally generated in the Moors. He mentions this to relieve himself from the imputation of having sought the illegitimate assistance of political allusion; and he hopes that, upon reflecting on the nature of the subject, the reader will consider the introduction of the Inquisition as unavoidable. It would be hard, indeed, to write a play upon any event in the reign of Philip the Second, without inveighing against the persecutor and the tyrant. It would be impossible in the present instance. If it be a fault, Schiller and Alfieri have fallen into it. It would be a very strange delicacy, indeed, were the author to spare the guilt, the ferocity, and the baseness of Philip, out of respect for such a man as the present king of Spain !"

That Shiel has skilfully availed himself of the hints which gave rise to “ The Apostate,” cannot be denied. The situation and incidents are strikingly dramatic in their character, and the leading personages in the drama are all sufficiently conspicuous, and contrasted enough to produce a well-concerted whole. As was usual with Shiel, his heroine is, perhaps, unduly prominent, but the powerfully drawn character of Pescara, as played by Macready, and subsequently with even greater effect by Booth, leaves an impression upon an audience fully equal to that produced by the woes and sufferings of Florinda.

The accumulation of intense suffering and overcharged horror with which this tragedy abounds, prevent it from sustaining its original position on the stage. From the London theatres it is entirely withdrawn; and in this country it only retains its place in the acting drama, from the superior powers of Booth, who occasionally " stars" it in Pescara.


« PředchozíPokračovat »