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II. IMITATIVE GESTURES.
The second kind of gestures are those which are imitative. They answer the question, How? It will surprise one who has never given the subject consideration, to learn how numerous is this class. An orator who has much imagination conceives himself in the midst of the things he describes, and as actually performing the deeds of which he speaks. His action unconsciously imitates that which he imagines, as Goldsmith's crippled soldier “shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won.”
This principle lies at the bottom of all pantomime. Roscius, it said, contended with Cicero to see which could express ideas the more forcibly; he, by gestures ; Cicero, by words. Imitation must have been a principal means with the former.
By torch and trumpet fast arrayed,
The imaginative speaker, if he be very much in earnest, in uttering this second line will be likely to go through the motion of drawing his sword from the scabbard. (Fig. 44.)
Here I fling
The action of hurling, or the feeling of defiance, requires a significant gesture.
Measureless liar ! thou hast made my heart
Boy! False hound !
Alone I did it. — Boy! Shakespeare here represents lofty disdain wrestling with intense anger in the breast of Coriolanus. Before the Vol
scian Senate, Aufidius, a leader of the Volsci, has sneeringly called him a “boy of tears,” because Coriolanus has wept at his mother's entreaties and has spared Rome. On the words I fluttered your Volscians in Corioli, one or both hands, with arm extended, should violently shake and shiver, to imitate frightened doves. A defiant face and attitude are very important here.
Take her up tenderly;
The action of a person gently assisting to lift with both hands is here natural and almost unavoidable.
Swift as an eagle cuts the air. The motion of the eagle cutting the air may be expressed by a quick high gesture of the hand moved edgewise.
Approach thy grave
The orator may go through the movement of wrapping the drapery about him.
Now set the teeth, and stretch the nostrils wide.
Whoever enters into the spirit of this passage, in which Henry V. stimulates his soldiers to make a desperate charge on the enemy, will find his teeth firmly set through sympathetic imitation.
Quick as it fell from the broken staff,
The elocutionist, representing old Barbara flaunting the Union flag over the heads of the Rebel host, will find himself tending to take the same attitude, and, in imagination, vigorously shaking the flag in his extended hand.
In passing from this general principle to some other applications, we may remark :
First. In speaking of anything utterly worthless, there is a natural tendency to throw it down and aside.
Who steals my purse, steals trash. On the word trash there may be the gesture of scornfully throwing away the “filthy lucre."
On the word handful the hand rejects them, throws them away and aside as being comparatively insignificant.
All nations before him are as nothing,
On the gesture of place, indicating all nations, there may be a wide sweep of one or both arms to express universality. (P. 83, fig. 46.) On the word nothing, the imitative gesture descends, the action being that of one throwing away or dropping as utterly worthless.
and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
On the word less there is the same imitative gesture of contemptuous throwing away.
Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance !
On the words drop and dust there is a similar movement of the arm and hand, as of one discarding what is of no value. This gesture should not be made at the front; for when we throw away or reject as valueless, we do not cast the thing where it will be an obstacle, or even visible, in our path. Neither do we throw it far to the rear; for that would require too much bodily exertion, and such action would seem to give it temporary importance : but we toss it down at the right or at the left; commonly the right, because the right hand is mainly employed.
It is utterly useless to prolong the strife.
Here, on the word useless, the action is again that of a person flinging away a trifle; or, if one prefer, he may drop the hand as if it were paralyzed, and for the moment assume the attitude of helplessness. (Fig. 1.) The finest declamations of Burke sink into insignificance. The same gesture of throwing away on the word insignificance. I will not call him fool, because he happens to be Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The same gesture on the word fool, with a little quicker stroke to indicate anger. (See Emphatic Gestures.)
Secondly. The action in concession is that of a person conveying in his hand something which he surrenders. The hand should then be extended forward and open, the palm up and turned a little to the front, just as much so as if it contained something actually to be placed in the hand or at the feet of the person to whom the concession is made.
The hand moves forward on a line nearly horizontal, palm upwards, the hand, at the word grant, slightly turning on the wrist as on a pivot; and when it has been extended as far as convenient, it remains for a time in that position of offering, as if it were to give the recipient time to take that which is yielded.
I grant him, bloody, luxurious, avaricious, false.
On the word grant the same gesture.
Brutus is an honorable man.
This is concession, and may be expressed in the same manner.
Politeness may require the speaker to bow ceremoniously at the same time that he moves forward the hand; the principle being that the speaker should imitate the action and attitude of one yielding or conceding a visible and tangible object, which usually may, for the moment, be conceived of as being in the hand.
Extreme humility, submission, and obsequiousness are ex