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pressed by the posture and motions of a deferential servant before his master, or a polished courtier before his king.
Most high, most mighty, and most puissant Cæsar,
No better general direction can be given for the delivery of these and similar lines than that, during the utterance of them, one should imagine himself actually in the position of the original speaker, and imitate his manner as far as dignity will permit. (Fig. 48.)
Is there any limit to the extent to which imitative gestures should be used ? Yes.
First, there may be an imitation which is false, because too literal. Thus, in one of Percival's hymns, we have the following lines in honor of those who fought at Bunker's Hill :
Hail to the morn when first they stood
On Bunker's height !
In desperate fight!
Here a too close imitation would go through the exact motions of writing in the fourth line; or, worse still, would, as it were, accurately swing a scythe in the fifth !
Secondly, there may be excessive or undignified imitation; as if one describing a gymnast's feats should turn a summersault, or stand on his head in presence of the audience; or should take some steps of a Highland fling, to illustrate a description of such a dance.
Decorum, therefore, and dignity are not to be sacrificed. “ Suit the action to the word,” says Shakespeare, “with this special observance, that you overstep not the modesty of nature.”
We give the following analysis in further illustration of the principles already laid down. The selection is from the speech of Daniel Webster as prosecuting officer in the famous trial of the murderers of Joseph White. Here, too, some latitude must be allowed in regard to the number, the manner, and the extent of the gestures.
The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which it was planned. The circumstances, now clearly in evidence, spread out the whole scene before us. On the words, spread out the whole scene,
well be an imitative gesture made by bringing the hands together in front, about the height of the elbow, or a little higher, turning the palms upward, and then, with the hands in this position, making an outward sweep, the open hands describing about a quarter of a circle, the radius being the length, or a little more, from the elbow to the tips of the fingers. ance of stiffness must be avoided.
Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim and on all beneath his roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep was sweet, — the first sound slumbers
of the night held him in their soft but strong embrace. The assassin enters, through the window already prepared, into an unoccupied apartment.
On the words through the window, the hand is raised, and the finger points to the window which the orator sees in his imagination. At the words unoccupied apartment, the index finger ceases to point at the window; and the opening hand, by a slight motion, directs attention to the unoccupied apartment. These, of course, are gestures of place.
With noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half lighted by the moon.
The slow motion of the murderer pacing the hall is indicated and slightly imitated by a slow movement of the hand; and at the words half lighted, the eye glances up towards the moon. These are mainly gestures of place.
He winds up the ascent of the stairs
On the word winds, the hand may be elevated a little higher than the forehead, and the index finger, pointing, may execute a spiral, a circle, or a curve, to show the spiral motion. The elevation of the hand indicates place, and the winding motion is, of course, imitative.
and reaches the door of the chamber.
The index finger points to the door as the voice pronounces the word.
Of this he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure,
The hand moves, the hand and forearm rotating so that the hand comes nearly palm upward, imitating the motion of unlocking by turning a key ; the ends of the thumb and first two fingers in contact, as if pressing on a key.
till it turns on its hinges without noise ; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him.
The hand may move slowly as the words are uttered, to
imitate the swinging of the door. On the words beholds his victim, the hand is lowered, as if to point to the victim sleeping before him.
The room was uncommonly open to the admission of light.
On the words uncommonly open, the eye turns as if the speaker were inside the room and glancing up at the windows. The hand, somewhat elevated, may, at the same time, be waved in the arc of a circle, as if to call attention to a large part of the inside of the room.
The face of the innocent sleeper was turned away from the murderer,
On the word face, the hand is again extended towards the face of the victim supposed to be present within touching distance. On the words turned away, the position of the hand may be reversed. It had, perhaps, been supine ; it may now be turned palm outwards, and nearly vertical, with a slight motion, as if turning the face away from the murderer.
and the beams of the moon, resting on the gray locks of his aged temple,
On the words beams of the moon, the eye glances up towards the window through which the moonlight streams. words resting on the gray locks, the eye is fixed on the temples of the victim.
showed him where to strike.
These words, pronounced with great slowness, and accompanied by a stroke, strictly in imitation of the murderer's blow,
may be made exceedingly impressive and thrilling. Rufus Choate would have reproduced the scene by a two-handed blow!
The fatal blow is given ! and the victim passes, without a struggle or a motion, from the repose of sleep to the repose of death !
Repose of sleep. These words call attention to the place of the sleeping victim. On the utterance of the words to the repose of death the hand, which had been resting almost on the sleeping form, may be carried a little distance to the right, as if death were somewhat removed from sleep. The gesture is one of place.