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the extending of the index-finger towards persons, or things, points them out; the laying of the hand on the breast refers to the feelings of the speaker; the placing of the finger on the lips signifies an injunction of silence, &c.
But gestures, in general, are too vague to be comprehended under this description: they denote a sort of general relation in the expressions
their power to do this is derived from the time and manner of their application, from the place in which they are used, and from their various combinations. Some are used at the beginning of a sentence, merely to indicate a commencement in action, as well as speech; some are used for description ; some, for explaining, extending, or limiting; and some, for enforcing the predominant idea; some, for keeping the audience in suspense, till the more decisive gestures; and some, for marking the ter. mination of the sense, and the final result of the reasoning. These various gestures may be divided into five classes : 1. Commencing gestures.
4. Suspending gestures. 2. Discriminating gestures. 5. Emphatic gestures. 3. Auxiliary gestures.
1. Commencing gestures are made simply by raising the hand from rest; and that, in general, not higher than the horizontal position. They are used at the beginning, and at the divisions of a discourse.
2. Discriminating gestures comprehend all those gestures which serve to indicate persons and objects, as well as those which are used for explaining, extending, limiting, or modifying the predominant idea, and those which are employed in question and answer, when made without vehemence. They are performed in the intermediate degrees of the range of the gesture, with
fall into the class of which this is the distinctive name, are insignificant, or unmeaning; a conclusion by no means correct.
moderate force, and at small intervals. In colloquial intercourse they are frequently confined to the motions of the head.
3. Auxiliary, or alternate gestures, serve to aid, or enforce the gesture of the advanced hand. They are performed as follows: after the advanced hand has made its gesture on the emphatic word, instead of passing to another gesture, on the next emphatic word, it remains in the attitude of the last stroke till the retired hand is brought up in aid of it, either by a similar gesture, or by a more decisive one. In this way, variety and extraordinary energy are given, at once, to passages which admit of such gestures. Of course, these gestures are used with great advantage in high passion; they are also frequently employed in description, where they are executed more tamely.
4. Suspending, or preparatory gestures, are so called because they hold the audience in suspense, by the elevation or contraction of the arm, preparatory to the stroke which is to fall on the emphatic word.
5. Emphatic gestures mark, with force, words opposed to, or compared with, each other; and, more particularly, the word which expresses the predominant idea. Their stroke is generally arrested on the horizontal elevation. Sometimes, however, emphatic gestures are directed to the highest point in their range; at other times, to the lowest. When they are directed to a high point, they often serve as suspending, or preparatory gestures, to the next emphatic gesture; and, when made at the close of a sentence, they serve as terminating gestures; because, when the last important idea is marked, no other gesture should be added, to weaken its effect ; the arm should then fall to rest.
As a sentence is an epitome of a complete composition, having a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion, among single sentences illustrations of these different gestures may be found. In the following sentence the gestures for the right hand, only, are noted.
nef- - shf st - R* No man is wise at all times.
susp. emph. f. ter. The first is a commencing gesture; the second, a suspending gesture; the third, an emphatic gesture; and, as it is the last, it is a terminating gesture also; and the arm falls to rest. Should a deaf person observe the gestures, as noted above, made by a speaker in a public assembly, he would conclude that the orator had performed what may be termed a regular period of gesture, by the commencement, the suspension, and the emphatic close of the action. Should the sentence be rendered more complex by the introduction of other members, discriminating gestures will be introduced.
ihf n It is an old observation, but not, therefore, the less true, that
nef shf st R no man is wise at all times.t dis.
susp. emph. & ter. The beautiful reply of St. Paul to Agrippa, entering as such, at once, into the subject abruptly, without exordium, has no commencing gesture. Bsef sp
Bshf p I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear етрі. .
me this day, were both almost and altogether, such as I am,
Bshf sh R except these bonds.[
emph. f. ter. * The notation letters, shf, signify, the hand supine, the arm horizontal forwards ; nef, the hand natural, the arm elevated forwards ; shf st, the hand supine, the arm horizontal forwards striking ; R, rest, the arm in its natural position, by the side.
† The letters, shf, signify, supine horizontal forwards; ief, index elevated forwards; ihf n, index horizontal forwards noting ; shq, supine horizontal oblique; nef, natural elevated forwards; shf st, supine horizontal forwards striking; R, rest.
| Bsef sp, both hands supine, the arms elevated forwards springing; Bshf p, both hands supine horizontal forwards pushing ; 9, ob
The five classes of gestures, above described, may be used in any part of an oration. They are, as it were, the elements of gesture, which, by their combinations, produce its whole power of language and expression. These elements are the component parts of every style of delivery, whether tame or vehement, argumentative or diffuse, ardent or indifferent, cold or pathetic.
It has been observed that the principal gesture is performed by the advanced hand, and the subordinate gesture by the retired hand. The best modern speakers use either the right, or the left hand, indiscriminately, for the principal gesture, as occasion may require. As this practice is altogether at variance with the opinions and rules of the ancient critics and rhetoricians, it may be proper to inquire how far we are justifiable in our departure from their great authority.
“ The left hand,” says Quintilian, “can never, with propriety, perform gesture alone; but it frequently acts in support of the right
hand.” The consideration of the dress of the ancients, which differed so essentially from that of the moderns, may be sufficient to account for the difference between their customs and ours. The form of the ancient dress obliged the speaker, if not totally to disuse his left hand, at least to restrain its action very considerably. (See Fig. 94.) The occasions on which the left hand may perform the principal gesture, are the following: 1. When the persons addressed are on the left side, the left hand naturally performs the principal gesture, in order to avoid the awkwardness of gesticulating across the body. 2. The necessary discrimination of objects opposed to each other, requires the left hand alternately to perform the principal gesture. 3. The advan
tage of variety. 4. The power of giving, not only variety, but force, by occasionally elevating the retired hand, and bestowing upon it all the spirit and authority of the gesture.
But it is not only in the use of the left hand that modern speakers differ from the ancients: they constantly violate another precept enjoined by Quintilian and his followers, viz., that of speaking with lique position; x, extended position ; veq, hands vertical, arms elevated oblique; a, ascending; br, breast- the right hand is laid on the breast; Bref, both hands natural, the arms elevated forwards; Bshf sh, both hands supine, arms horizontal forwards shaking; R, rest, the hands fall to rest.
the corresponding hand and foot advanced.* And yet, if the natural emotions afford any just foundation for the manner of gesture, we shall be inclined to give the preference to modern custom. Those passions which incline us to advance towards their object, as love, desire, anger, and revenge, naturally cause the corresponding hand and foot to advance together with the head and body; for, in this way, the nearest approach is made to the object. And when passions of a contrary nature, as aversion and terror, affect us, still the corresponding hand and foot are advanced; as if the better to guard the body and head, which are thrown back. In such cases, it would produce unnatural distortion to advance the contrary hand and foot. Under tranquil circumstances, as when the speaker delivers narrative, or reasons calmly, the contrary hand and foott may advance together with grace and propriety. Indeed, perhaps such posture is preferable, as it presents the body more exactly in front towards the persons addressed. It was, probably, such circumstances alone, which Quintilian had in view when he pronounced his opinion, that it is unbecoming to stand with the corresponding hand and foot advanced. This explanation will serve to reconcile the apparent deviation of the moderns from the ancient practice.
THE PREPARATION, TRANSITION, AND ACCOMPANIMENT OF
In the transitions of gesture, the hand and arm should not, in general, be precipitated to the intended position by the shortest course; but, in the calmer parts of the oration, they should move in a sort of waving line, or in one returning upon itself, somewhat in the manner represented by the following diagram:
Let f represent the position of the arm and hand forwards, and let the place of the next gesture be a (ob
* Right hand and right foot; or left hand and left foot. † The right hand and left foot; or the left hand and right foot.