Speech and Drama
VI. Sensitive Perception for Sound and Word Instead of for Meaning and Idea
10 September 1924, Dornach
My dear Friends,
We will now see how we can find the transition from practice in speech as such to dialogue, to the treatment of drama. For this is what is needed in the art of the stage—that from the right forming of speech a powerful new impulse shall make itself felt there. Many people today are deeply dissatisfied with the drama as it is, and the cause of their dissatisfaction lies to no small extent, lies indeed mainly in the fact that the stage has entirely lost the old traditions— I mean, the traditions of very long ago—and has not yet found any point of departure which could lead to the creation of something new. Truth is, the new thing needed never will be found until we approach the matter from a spiritual standpoint. Let us therefore now go on to consider what guidance a spiritual outlook can give for the treatment of dialogue, trialogue and so forth.
We will take for our starting-point a recitation that will be given by Frau Dr. Steiner; and since in the matter of giving artistic form to conversation Molière may be said to have brought drama to a high degree of excellence, we have chosen for our recitation a scene from one of his plays. We shall of course try to find also in German literature some similarly striking example, 1 See p. 130. but there is no doubt about it, in Molière we do have a particularly good demonstration of the way conversation should be treated on the stage, all the back and forth of retort and repartee. We will accordingly begin today with a scene from Molière.
(Frau Dr. Steiner): I am taking a scene out of Le Misanthrope. We are introduced to a coquettish young widow, who has many admirers and is on this account an object of envy to her not altogether faithful lady friend. She has a sharp tongue, this young widow, and has just been letting off witty remarks at the expense of some of her admirers. At this moment her false friend—in reality her enemy—is announced.
Acte III Scène IV
(ARSINOÉ, CÉLIMÈNE, CLITANDRE, ACASTE)
Ah! quel heureux sort en ce lieu vous amène? Madame, sans mentir, j'étais de vous en peine.
Je viens pour quelque avis que j'ai cru vous devoir.
Ah! mon Dieu! que je suis contente de vous voir!
(CLITANDRE et ACASTE sortent en riant.)
Leur départ ne pouvait plus à propos se faire.
Voulons-nous nous asseoir?
Il n'est pas nécessaire,
Madame. L'amitié doit surtout éclater
Aux choses qui le plus nous peuvent importer;
Et comme il n'en est point de plus grande importance
Que celles de l'honneur et de la bienséance,
Je viens, par un avis qui touche votre honneur,
Témoigner l'amitié que pour vous a mon coeur.
Hier, j'étais chez des gens de vertu singulière,
Où sur vous du discours on tourna la matière;
Et là, votre conduite, avec ses grands éclats,
Madame, eut le malheur qu'on ne la loua pas.
Cette foule de gens dont vous souffrez visite,
Votre galanterie, et les bruits qu'elle excite,
Trouvèrent des censeurs plus qu'il n'aurait fallu,
Et bien plus rigoureux que je n'eusse voulu.
Vous pouvez bien penser quel parti je sus prendre:
Je fis ce que je pus pour vous pouvoir défendre,
Je vous excusai fort sur votre intention,
Et voulus de votre âme être la caution.
Mais vous savez qu'il est des choses dans la vie
Qu'on ne peut excuser, quoiqu'on en ait envie;
Et je me vis contrainte à demeurer d'accord
Que l'air dont vous viviez vous faisait un peu tort;
Qu'il prenait dans le monde une méchante face,
Qu'il n'est conte fâcheux que partout on n'en fasse,
Et que, si vous vouliez, tous vos déportements
Pourraient moins donner prise aux mauvais jugements.
Non que j'y croie, au fond, l'honnêteté blessée;
Me presérve le Ciel d'en avoir la pensée!
Mais aux ombres du crime on prête aisément foi,
Et ce n'est pas assez de bien vivre pour soi.
Madame, je vous crois l'âme trop raisonnable
Pour ne pas prendre bien cet avis profitable,
Et pour l'attribuer qu'aux mouvements secrets
D'un zèle qui m'attache à tous vos interets.
Madame, j'ai beaucoup de grâces à vous rendre.
Un tel avis m'oblige, et, loin de le mal prendre,
J'en prétends reconnaître, à l'instant, la
faveur Par un avis aussi qui touche votre honneur;
Et comme je vous vois vous montrer mon amie
En m'apprenant les bruits que de moi 1'on public,
Je veux suivre, à mon tour, un exemple si doux
En vous avertissant de ce qu'on dit de vous.
En un lieu, l'autre jour, où je faisais visite,
Je trouvai quelques gens d'un tres rare mérite,
Qui, parlant des vrais soins d'une ame qui vit bien,
Firent tomber sur vous, Madame, l'entretien.
Là, votre pruderie et vos éclats de zèle
Ne furent pas cités comme un fort bon modèle:
Cette affectation d'un grave extérieur,
Vos discours etemels de sagesse et d'honneur,
Vos mines et vos cris aux ombres d'indécence
Que d'un mot ambigu peut avoir l'innocence,
Cette hauteur d'estime où vous etes de vous,
Et ces yeux de pitié que vous jetez sur tous,
Vos freéuentes leçons et vos aigres censures
Sur des choses qui sent innocentes et pures,
Tout cela, si je puis vous parler franchement,
Madame, fut blâmé d'un commun sentiment.
‘A quoi bon, disaient-ils, cette mine modeste,
Et ce sage dehors que dément tout le reste?
Elle est à bien prier exacte au dernier point;
Mais elle bat ses gens et ne les paye point.
Dans tous les lieux dévots elle etale un grand zèle;
Mais elle met du blanc et veut paraitre belle.
Elle fait des tableaux couvrir les nudités;
Mais elle a de l'amour pour les réalités.'
Pour moi, contre chacun je pris votre défense,
Et leur assurai fort que c'était médisance;
Mais tous les sentiments combattirent le mien,
Et leur conclusion fut que vous feriez bien
De prendre moins de soin des actions des autres,
Et de vous mettre un peu plus en peine des vôtres;
Qu'on doit se regarder soi-même un fort long temps
Avant que de songer à condamner les gens;
Qu'il faut mettre le poids d'une vie exemplaire
Dans les corrections qu'aux autres on veut faire;
Et qu'encor vaut-il mieux s'en remettre, au besoin,
A ceux à qui le Ciel en a commis le soin.
Madame, je vous crois aussi trop raisonnable
Pour ne pas prendre bien cet avis profitable,
Et pour l'attribuer qu'aux mouvements secrets
D'un zèle qui m'attache à tous vos interets.
A quoi qu'en reprenant on soit assujettie,
Je ne m'attendais pas à cette repartie,
Madame, et je vois bien, par ce qu'elle a d'aigreur,
Que mon sincère avis vous a blessée au coeur.
Au contraire, Madame; et si l'on était sage,
Ces avis mutuels seraient mis en usage;
On detruirait par là, traitant de bonne foi,
Ce grand aveuglement où chacun est pour soi.
Il ne tiendra qu'à vous qu'avec le même zèle
Nous ne continuions cet office fidele,
Et ne prenions grand soin de nous dire entre nous
Ce que nous entendrons, vous de moi, moi de vous.
Ah! Madame, de vous je ne puis rien entendre;
C'est en moi que l'on peut trouver fort à reprendre.
Madame, on peut, je crois, louer et blamer tout,
Et chacun a raison suivant Page ou le gout.
Il est une saison pour la galanterie;
Il en est une aussi propre ä la pruderie.
On peut, par politique, en prendre le parti,
Quand de nos jeunes ans l'eclat est amorti:
Cela sert ä couvrir de facheuses disgraces.
Je ne dis pas qu'un jour je ne suive vos traces:
L'äge amenera tout, et ce n'est pas le temps,
Madame, comme on sait, d'être prude ä vingt ans.
Certes, vous vous targuez d'un bien faible avantage,
Et vous faites sonner terriblement votre âge.
Ce que de plus que vous on en pourrait avoir
N'est pas un si grand cas pour s'en tant prévaloir;
Et je ne sais pourquoi votre âme ainsi s'emporte,
Madame, à me pousser de cette etrange sorte.
Et moi, je ne sais pas, Madame, aussi pourquoi
On vous voit, en tous lieux, vous déchaîner sur moi.
Faut-il de vos chagrins, sans cesse, à moi vous prendre?
Et puis-je mais des soins qu'on ne va pas vous rendre?
Si ma personne aux gens inspire de l'amour,
Et si l'on continue à m'offrir chaque jour
Des voeux que votre coeur peut souhaiter qu'on m'ôte,
Je n'y saurais que faire, et ce n'est pas ma faute:
Vous avez le champ fibre, et je n'empêche pas
Que pour les attirer, vous n'ayez des appas.
Hélas! et croyez-vous que l'on se mette en peine
De ce nombre d'amants dont vous faites la vaine,
Et qu'il ne nous soit pas fort aisé de juger
A quel prix aujourd'hui l'on peut les engager?
Pensez-vous faire croire, à voir comme tout roule,
Que votre seul merite attire cette foule?
Qu'ils ne brûlent pour vous que d'un honnete amour,
Et que pour vos vertus ils vous font tous la cour?
On ne s'aveugle point par de vaines défaites,
Le monde n'est point dupe; et j'en vois qui sont faites
A pouvoir inspirer de tendres sentiments,
Qui chez elles pourtant ne fixent point d'amants;
Et de là nous pouvons tirer des conséquences,
Qu'on n'acquiert point leurs coeurs sans de grandes avances,
Qu'aucun pour nos beaux yeux n'est notre soupirant,
Et qu'il faut acheter tous les soins qu'on nous rend.
Ne vous enflez donc point d'une si grande gloire
Pour les petits brillants d'une faible victoire,
Et corrigez un peu l'orgueil de vos appas
De traiter pour cela les gens de haut en bas.
Si nos yeux enviaient les conquetes des vôtres,
Je pense qu'on pourrait faire comme les autres,
Ne se point ménager, et vous faire bien voir
Que l'on a des amants quand on en veut avoir.
Ayez-en donc, Madame, et voyons cette affaire:
Par ce rare secret efforcez-vous de plaire,
Brisons, Madame, un pareil entretien:
Il pousserait trop loin votre esprit et le mien;
Et j'aurais pris déjà le cone qu'il faut prendre,
Si mon carosse encor ne m'obligeait d'attendre.
Autant qu'il vous plaira vous pouvez arrêter,
Madame, et là-dessus rien ne doit vous hâter;
Mais, sans vous fatiguer de ma cérémonie,
Je m'en vais vous donner meilleure compagnie,
Et Monsieur, qu'ä propos le hasard fait venir,
Remplira mieux ma place à vous entretenir.
Act III Scene IV
(ARSINOÉ, CÉLIMÈNE, CLITANDRE, ACASTE)
O Madame, what fortunate chance brings you here? In truth I had feared there was something amiss.
I come to give counsel I feel to be due.
La, Madame, to see you I'm happy indeed!
(Exeunt CLITANDRE and ACASTE, laughing.)
Could ever departure more opportune be!
Shall we be seated?
There's no need for that.
Now friendship, dear Madame, should show itself most
In affairs that have major importance in life;
And as there is none that gives greater concern
Than that of our honour and general repute,
In proof of the friendship to you in my heart
With counsel I'm here that touches your honour.
I yesterday happened to visit some friends
Whose virtue is really exceedingly great;
Your conduct the subject of discourse became
And because it is talked of it was, alas, blamed.
The crowds whom you're willing each day to receive
Your dalliance which is the talk of the town
Were censured with rancour exceeding their due
And a rigour more great than I ever could wish.
You can, Madame, picture the part that I played;
I did all I could to defend your good name;
I spoke of the goodness you always intend,
And tried to stand surety for what's in your soul.
You'll admit that there is some conduct in life
That much as we wish to we cannot condone,
And I found myself forced to make the avowal
That you may be unwise in the way that you live,
Which has an appearance less good than it is;
That there is no scandalous story that wants
For list'ners who willingly take it as truth;
And that to your conduct you could if you would
Give a complexion less open to censure.
Not that I think you have really done wrong.
Preserve me, O heaven, from having such thought!
But people are readily led to believe
In what is perhaps but the shadow of crime;
And it is not enough of ourselves to approve.
Madame, I warrant you have too much sense
Not to accept this most excellent counsel
And not to see in it a gesture discreet
Of my zeal to assist in your ev'ry concern.
O Madame, indeed I must render you thanks,
Your counsel compels it; and far from the thought
Of taking offence,I will instantly pay
Your favour by giving some counsel to you.
Now seeing the friendship you feel towards me
y repeating the rumours of me about town,
I'll take your example and tell what I've heard
When visiting people of singular merit.
They spoke of good done by a virtuous soul
And then conversation was turned upon you;
Your prudery, Madame, your outbursts of zeal
Were not considered as very good models.
Your outward behaviour affectedly grave,
Your constant harangues on wisdom and honour;
Your cries at the shadow of what is impure,
Which might have been meant in an innocent way;
The high estimation you have of yourself,
The pitying glances you throw all around,
Your lectures unending, your censures severe
On things that are really both harmless and pure;
All this, my dear Madame, I candidly say
Was judged very harshly by common consent.
What purpose, they asked, does her modesty serve,
Her outward appearance of virtue profound,
When indeed all the rest can give them the lie.
When prayers are in question her scruples are strict,
But her servants she beats and gives them no pay;
For deeds of devotion she shows a great zeal
But seeks admiration by painting her face;
She covers the nude with meticulous pains,
But yet has a love for the real that is there.
I was your defender, dear Madame, in all,
Assuring them calumny here played a part,
But the general view was in contrast with mine.
At last they concluded that you would do well
To pay less attention to actions of others
And give all your care to improving your own;
That one ought to reflect very long on oneself
Before one should dare other people to judge;
That in all the verdicts passed upon others
An exemplary life in the balance should weigh.
All this it is better to leave in the care
Of those to whom heaven has given the task.
Dear Madame, you also have reason too much
Not to accept this most excellent counsel,
And not to see in it a gesture discreet
Of my zeal to assist in your ev'ry concern.
Whatever reprisal one had to expect
This answer of yours has exceeded all bounds.
O Madame, your bitterness makes me aware
This excellent counsel has given you pain.
On the contrary, Madame, and were we but wise
Such mutual advice would be used for our good;
This blindness of ours where ourselves are concerned
Would thus in good faith be completely destroyed.
It depends upon you if with the same zeal
We continue to follow the path we've begun
And when we're together most faithfully tell
What each of us hears in respect of the other.
Ah! Madame, it is not of you that one hears,
'Tis rather in me that the faults can be found.
We can, Madame, find as I firmly believe
In ev'ry case something to praise and to blame;
And each one of us can claim to be right
According to age or according to taste.
For dalliance is there a season that's fit,
But also for prudery is there the same.
When brilliance of youth has taken its leave
We can tactfully make up our minds to be prude,
Thus cov'ring the ravages age has in store.
One day, it is true, I may walk in your path,
Age brings us all manner of things in its train;
And, Madame, we know that indeed it's too soon
When one is but twenty to act as a prude.
Verily, Madame, you make a great boast
Of having a vantage that's modest indeed;
Besides, of your age one may certainly say
That you make nothing less than a terrible song!
Though older than you other people may be
It's hardly a difference that need be remarked;
I really don't know why you feel yourself roused
To harass me, Madame, in such a strange way.
And I, my dear Madame, can really not tell
Why you should attack me whenever we meet.
Your plaints must you bring to me without ceasing?
And is it my fault if you do not receive
Attentions so readily rendered to me?
If my person is prone men's love to inspire
And if they continue to offer each day
Those vows that you certainly do not approve,
Then I cannot help it, and am not in fault.
You have a free field but I cannot prevent
Your lacking those charms we must have to attract.
O heavens! D'you fancy that one is disturbed
By the number of lovers to which you make claim?
And that it's not easy for others to judge
What payment is needed to keep them attached?
With the world as it is can you make people think
It's your merit alone that draws all this crowd?
That it is honest love that burns in their hearts,
And that for your virtues they fall at your feet?
One is not quite blinded by empty pretence,
The world's not deceived; and one sees those endowed
With power to inspire the utmost affection
Who do not however have lovers around.
So, Madame, from this we may really conclude
Encouragement's needed to gain human hearts,
That no man will sigh for our beauty alone
And that for attention we always must pay.
Thus, Madame, don't puff yourself up in this way
Over successes that can't be called shining,
In your power to charm take a little less pride,
And do not treat others with such condescension.
And if our eyes envy success due to yours
I think we can do what others have done,
Discard all precaution and make it quite plain
As soon as we will we all may have lovers.
Then have them, dear Madame, and let us all see
The secret you have to make yourself pleasing; And...
Let us stop, Madame, for this conversation
Is much too exacting for you and for me;
And I should already have taken my leave
If I had not, alas, to wait for my carriage.
O Madame, please stay just as long as you will,
For indeed there is nothing that need make you haste.
But that by my presence you may not be tired
A better companion I'll put in my stead;
The happiest chance has made Monsieur return
And he'll entertain you far better than I.
(Translation by V.E.W.)
(In the second edition of the original, a little-known scene was added, which Goethe wrote as an after-piece to Faust, Part I—a kind of playwright's joke!)
ZWEI TEUFELCHEN UND AMOR
(ZWEI TEUFELCHEN tauchen aus der rechten Versenkung.)
A. Nun, sagt' ich's nicht? da sind wir ja!
B. Das ging geschwind! wo ist denn der Papa?
Wir kriegen's ab für unsern Frevel.
(Sie sind herausgetreten.)
A. Er ist nicht weit; es riecht hier stark nach Schwefel.
Wir gehn drauf los, so sind wir bald am Ziel.
(AMOR mit übereinander geschlagenen Füssen und Händen wird durch die Versenkung links schlafend hervorgehoben.)
B. Sieh dort!
A. Was gibt's?
B. Da kommt noch ein Gespiel.'
O, der ist garstig! der ist gräulich!
A. So weiss und rot; das find' ich ganz abscheulich.
B. Und Flügel hat er wie ein Strauss.
A. Ich lobe mir die Fledermaus.
B. Es lüstet mich, ihn aufzuwecken.
A. Den Laffen müssen wir erschrecken.
A, a! E, e! I! O! U!
B. Er regt sich! still! wir horchen zu.
AMOR. (an die Zuschauer)
In welches Land ich auch gekommen,
Fremd, einsam werd' ich nirgend sein.
Erschein' ich—Herzen sind entglommen,
Gesellig finden sie sich ein;
Verschwind' ich, jeder steht allein.
A. (nachäffend) Allein.
BEIDE. Wir beide sind doch auch zu zwei'n.
AMOR. Ja, die Gesellschaft ist darnach.
A. Er muckt noch!
B. Sing ihm was zur Schmach!
A. Das ärmliche Bübchen!
O, wärmt mir das Stübchen!
Es klappert, es friert.
B. O, wie das Kaninchen,
Sich windet, sich ziert!
AMOR. Vergebens wirst du dich erbittern,
Du garstig Fratzenangesicht!
Verlust der Neigung macht mich zittern,
Allein der Hass erschreckt mich nicht.
(In den Hintergrund.)
B. Das ist mir wohl ein saubres Hähnchen!
A. Ein wahres derbes Grobiänchen!
B. Gewiss ein Schalk, wie ich und du.
A. Komm, sehn wir etwas näher zu!
Wir wollen ihn mit Schmeicheln kirren.
B. Das kleine Köpfchen leicht verwirren,
So gut, als ob's ein Grosser wär!
BEIDE. (verneigend) Wo kommt der schöne Herr denn her?
Von unsers Gleichen gibt es hundert;
Nun stehn wir über ihn verwundert.
AMOR. Aus diesen krummgebognen Rücken,
Aus den verdrehten Feuerblicken
Will immer keine Demut blicken;
Ihr mögt euch winden, mögt euch bücken,
Euch kleidet besser Trotz und Grimm.
Ja, ihr verwünschten Angesichter,
Du erzplutonisches Gelichter,
Das, was du wissen willst, vernimm'
Ich liebe, von Parnassus' Höhen
Zur Pracht des Göttermahls zu gehen;
Dann ist der Gott zum Gott entzückt.
Apoll verbirgt sich unter Hirten;
Doch alle müssen mich bewirten,
Und Hirt und König ist beglückt.
Bereit' ich Jammer einem Herzen,
Dem wird das grösste Glück zu Teil.
Wer freuet sich nicht meiner Schmerzen!
Der Schmerz ist mehr als alles Heil.
A. und B. Nun ist's heraus und offenbar;
So kannst du uns gefallen!
Erlogen ist das Flügelpaar,
Die Pfeile, die sind Krallen.
Die Hörnerchen verbirgt der Kranz:
Er ist ohn' allen Zweifel,
Wie alle Götter Griechenlands,<
Auch ein verkappter Teufel.
AMOR. Ihr zieht mich nicht in eure Schmach!
Ich freue mich am goldnen Pfeil und Bogen,
Und kommt denn auch der Teufel hintenach,
Bin ich schon weit hinweggeflogen.
TWO LITTLE DEVILS AND CUPID
(Two LITTLE DEVILS emerge through the trapdoor on the right.)
A. There now, didn't I say so? Here we are!
B. That was quick work! But where's Papa? He'll pay us out for all our pranks.
(They come forward.)
A. He isn't far away; there's a strong smell of sulphur hereabouts. If we go straight ahead, we'll soon be there.
CUPID is raised up through the trapdoor on the left. He is asleep, with hands and feet crossed.)
B. Look over there!
A. What is it?
B. Another playfellow for us! But what a loathsome, grisly object!
A. All pink and white! He makes me shrink with horror.
B. And look, he has wings like the wings of an ostrich.
A. I prefer bats any day.
B. Wouldn't I love to wake him up!
A. Come on, let's scare the silly fop! Ah, ah! Eh, eh! Ee!
B. He's moving. Keep quite still and listen.
CUPID. (to the audience)
Whatever land is this I see,
I shall not here a stranger be.
When I appear, hearts come alight
And fellowship is their delight.
And when I go, each stands alone.
A. (mimicking) Alone.
A. and B. (together)
But we are two, we're not alone.
CUPID. Is this the sort of company I'm in!
A. He keeps on muttering to himself.
B. Sing him something to make him cross!
A. Poor little fellow, he's freezing cold, shall we make him all snug and warm?
B. He's twisting and wriggling and looking coy, just like a prim little rabbit.
CUPID. Your sarcasms are all in vain
You ugly fright!
When love cools off, it makes me shiver,
But downright hatred has no fears for me.
(He moves back-stage.)
B. He seems a promising young cockerel.
A. A sturdy little churl!
B. A cunning rogue, for sure, like you and me.
A. Let's come a little closer! Let's flatter him and lure him on!
B. Easy enough to muddle that little head! We'll talk to him as if he were grown up.
A. and B. (together, bowing low) And where does this young gentleman hail from? There are many hundred like ourselves, but at sight of you we stand amazed.
CUPID. Such crooked, hunching backs,
Such warped and fiery looks
Will ne'er bespeak humility.
Bow and bend you as you may,
It suits you better to rage and spurn.
Ill-conditioned, of evil face,
Oh, you arch-Plutonic race!
Hear then what you wish to learn.
I love from fair Parnassus' height
To go to banquets of the Gods,
For then is God with God enamoured.
Apollo among shepherds goes obscure,
But I am welcome everywhere,
My presence gladdens king and shepherd too.
If to a heart I sorrow bring,
Then is that heart most richly blest.
Who is not glad my pains to feel?
Far better they than any weal.
A. and B. (together)
So now all's spoken out and clear,
And we are free t'enjoy your presence here.
This pair of wings, 'tis just a lie,
And for the arrows, they are simply claws.
Neat little horns that wreath of yours conceals.
Yes, without any doubt, he is—
As are all the Gods of the land of Greece—
Merely a devil like us, in disguise.
CUPID. You'll never drag me to your shameful depths!
In golden bow and arrow is my delight.
And should the devil himself come by,
These wings will have carried me far from sight.
(Dr. Steiner): When it is a question of giving form to a dialogue or to a wider conversation, what we have to look to most of all is that the art shall be true—true, that is, as art. Naturalism, which aims at imitating external reality, can never be true as art. For consider the very conditions within which we find ourselves on the stage. What we have to do there is obviously to represent, to act—and never to forget that we are acting. No servile imitation of real life can ever override our obligation to act. The acting will provide the material with which we have to work as artists; we shall have to find all we need in the acting itself.
The first thing to have in mind is that in art everything must be perceptible—must be immediately present to the spectator or listener. The moment he has to fill out what is given from his own resources, the moment he is obliged to add something of his own construction—for example, in the theatre, before he can understand some actor who comes on to the stage—we have come away from the realm of art. The artistic representation should comprise everything the audience needs for its comprehension. The artist of the stage has at his disposal, first of all, the word—the word in its artistic formation; and then he has also mime, gesture, posture. A genuine artist will endeavour to express by means of these everything the audience require to have before them.
One could point to many things in present-day civilisation that frustrate this ideal. An outstanding one is the fact that we have no longer today any true feeling for sound or for word, we have feeling only for ideas. We look through the word to its meaning, to the idea that is behind it. We have completely unlearned how to understand in hearing, and in ordinary life we are all too inclined merely to hear in understanding. There is an essential difference between the two,
Understanding in hearing
Hearing in understanding
and it is most important for you to be clear in your minds about the difference. It will help you to discern it if we recall at this point some things that I said in the earlier lectures, looking at them now from a rather different angle.
You will remember I pointed out that no single sound is ever formed by the human soul without its reflecting, in the case of a vowel, some inner feeling of the soul that may be experienced in connection with the world outside; or in the case of a consonant, without an endeavour to imitate, in the very way the sound is formed, some external object, some external being or process.
Whenever I intone the sound a (ah), then if I am not content with perceiving the meaning or the idea, but want to develop a feeling for the sound pure and simple, the intonation of a will, under all circumstances, imply an experience of wonder or astonishment. That this is no longer felt in the language of everyday intercourse, that the experience has completely faded out, makes no difference at all. And every time I intone i (ee), there lies behind it the joy and delight that the soul experiences with the assertion of the self. When I intone u (oo), there is always behind it some feeling of fear or anxiety. Each vowel sound expresses an experience of the soul occasioned by something in the world outside.
Every sound, on the other hand, that is consonantal in character expresses an effort on the part of the soul to imitate, in the forming of the sound, some external object or process. When I say the sound, I am of course obliged, in order to utter it, to have recourse to the help of a vowel; it is nevertheless the consonant with which I am here concerned.
When I intone b, there lies behind it an endeavour to imitate something that covers or protects. True, this original endeavour of the soul has today gone far down into the unconscious, has gone down, shall we say, into the stomach that digests food but not sounds. Nevertheless, it is still true that the intoning of b signifies that I am speaking of the shell or sheath of something. R denotes that I am endeavouring to form a sound-picture in imitation of a process of commotion and excitement, or trembling. The consonants imitate; they shape themselves in imitation of forms or processes, of things or events in the world outside.
It follows from this that wherever, for example, an a appears in a word, we shall ultimately find, hidden away within the word, the inner experience of wonder. For our present study we can naturally go no further than the German language; but the same holds good, as I shall show a little later, for all languages. The modifications that have come about are to be explained on quite other grounds.
Suppose you utter the simple word Band (a band or ribbon). There is, you see, an a in it. What lies behind this word ? The answer I am about to give is in reality more exact than all the explanations offered nowadays by learned philologists. I have no wish to call in question the learning of these scholars, but when it comes to treating of what is artistic in speech and language, they can offer us very little help. 1It is interesting to recall here Rudolf Steiner's appreciation of August Fresenius in Chapter XX of The Course of My Life. For Fresenius, he says, philology was in very truth love for the word ‘...Whoever he adds would carry out a genuine and thoroughgoing research into the secrets of words will need to have insight into all the secrets of existence.’
What then can we find in a word like Band? Without a doubt, there is contained in it the fact that when the word first came into being, men felt it to be a cause of wonder that they could bind something together with a Band that then held. And it is wonderful—that we can gather a thing together and make it fast in this way with a Band. The vowel of a word will always reveal for us the inner experience of soul that gave rise to the word.
And when I have ‘bound’ something, then the Band is around it. B always expresses a covering, a wrapping round. Whether the covering be a whole house for a family, or merely such scant covering as a piece of ribbon, the sound b will always contain the meaning of wrapping or sheltering. N expresses a lightness of touch, suggesting something that easily flows or slips off—Band. And then the d expresses a making firm and fast; d gives one the feeling of something satisfactorily finished off. We fasten the Band. And there the word ends. At first the Band is loose—n; then we fasten it—d. Thus can one feel one's way through the whole word, sound by sound.
If men had always felt towards words and sounds as they do today, feeling merely the meaning and the idea, adopting in fact an entirely intellectual attitude, it would never have been possible for words to come into existence as words of a language. A language can be born only out of experience, out of inner soul experience; and as words signify something external, they have to be born out of an experience man has with something other than himself, with something, in fact, in his environment.
In the interjections we have opportunity, even now, to see how words were originally formed. Interjections are indeed the only instances left where men still feel today, though it be but feebly, what is really there in the word.
I said that u has always to do with an experience of fear or anxiety. Now f is always an indication that something is coming forth from its place of origin, is escaping from its corner. (Hence the German expression for knowing something very thoroughly: to understand it aus dem ff, to understand it, that is, right from its very beginnings. A keenly sensitive feeling is behind expressions of this kind.) And so, if from some corner you suddenly sense the approach of something that alarms you and fills you with fear, you will say: ‘Uff!’, and you will even direct the f sound inwards instead of outwards as you utter it.
What we are still able to experience with interjections can really be experienced with every single word. Here someone will very naturally interpose: ‘But if that were so, all languages would have to be alike! There could be only one language for the whole world!’ In reply, all I can say is that in reality there is only one language. That sounds very strange! Nevertheless it is so, there is one language; only, no one speaks this language. How is that?
Take the simple German word Kopf (head). Starting with the o sound, we have, in the first place, the inner experience of roundness. O is always something that embraces or surrounds, and in a mood of sympathy. Similarly, we could show with the k, the p and the f what the word Kopf wants to say. Primarily, however, Kopf expresses the round form of the human head. Kopf is the endeavour of the soul to imitate in word picture the shape and form of the head.
Now it is peculiar to the German to remark particularly the shape of the head, its spherical form, and to want to imitate that in speech. And he does it not only for the human head; he speaks of Kohlkopf 2The o in Kohl is long, and the o in Kopf is short. when he wants to imitate in speech the round form of the Kohl (cabbage). Kohlkopfis of course also the recognised technical term in thieves' language for the human head. (For thieves have, as you know, a language of their own. A thief would never say Kopf for a man's head but always Kohlkopf. They have their own names for everything )
If the Italian or the Frenchman had the same feeling about the head, if he also wanted to express its roundness, then he too would call it Kopf. He could not use any other word for it. Naturally the word would in his country have undergone some change, due to sound-shifting; but that does not affect the issue. The Italian does not, however, want to express the form or shape of the head; he wants to signify that something has been determined by the head, has been declared. So he says ‘testa’ (you have the same meaning in the word ‘testament’), denoting with the word the attestation given by the human head.
If the German felt a desire to express this fact about the head, he too would say ‘testa’, and not Kopf. For it is really so: for any one thing, only one word is possible so long as the thing is looked at from the same point of view.
Thus, it is definitely not in the making of their words that nations differ, but in what they feel and experience in the objects. One nation will draw attention to the spherical form of the head, another to the statements that proceed from the mouth. It would be quite possible to gather up all languages into one, and then in this universal language there would be Kopf, ‘testa’, and so on, and so on, all together; and each nation might then choose out the words that accorded with its character. The sounds in these word pictures have undergone some shifting in course of time; that is how the languages have come to be apparently so very different from one another. But the essence of the word persists; it is always there. And it is just in the most grotesque dialect words that you will often be able to recognise their original and essential element.
One can indeed make very interesting studies in this matter of dialect. The Austrian dialect contains, for example, the word bagschirli. 3-ir- (and -ier-) as ‘ear’. The very sounds of the word will always give the Austrian the feeling that the thing described as being bagschirliis quaint, is rather funny, but has nevertheless to be taken seriously; he likes it for its oddness, but he knows he must not forget that it is, for all that, sober truth. Bagschirli has to carry, in fact, many nuances of meaning. And now, what is this word? It is simply the word possierlich (droll), translated into Austrian dialect. But the Austrian never feels in his word the nuance that possierlich bears. There is for him far too little heart in possierlich. To call something possierlich is as if one were looking down from a remote height of great learning. And the Austrian is not proud of what he has learned. He says he is, but in reality he is—inwardly—proud of what he has not learned! And so he can't leave the word as it is, he must adapt it to his lighter, easier way of taking life; and for his taste, in bagschirli he has a perfectly marvellous word picture. Analyse the two words from the point of view of sound, and you will find they bring you into a whole new world of experience—possierlich, bagschirli.
So, you see, the feeling for sound and the feeling for word are verily still there in man. They have only been pushed down in more recent times into the unconscious or semiconscious, into the realm of instinct. If, however, we want to qualify for speaking on the stage, we shall have to stop stressing the importance of meaning and idea, and begin to think again of the significance of sound and word. And that is what we have now to consider together: how an understanding for these things can be brought into the preparation of students for the stage.
When you are studying music, you learn many things that you would not think of playing at a concert. For it is certainly not customary to have five-finger exercises and suchlike performed in public. You learn how to do these exercises; then you go on working at them, until what you at first had to take pains to learn passes over into instinct, becomes use, becomes habit.
Where students are being prepared for the stage we do not always find things done in this way. Yet, there is such a thing as an ‘art ' of the stage; and he who would be an artist there must once more come to have a feeling for sound and for word, and out of this feeling develop the true artistic speaking that belongs to the stage.
Let us take first dialogue. Two people are standing there on the stage, engaged in more or less serious conversation. When we are facing merely the external world, then, if we enter fully into the experience, we feel in vowels and imitate in consonants; and if we have acquired a sensitiveness for sound, something very fruitful will develop out of our relationship to the things and beings of the world. But here we are facing a person; and we have moreover to reckon as well with the audience. For it is certainly my experience that the audience is quite an important factor in the art of the stage; I have never yet found that actors took much pleasure in playing to an empty house! The audience, then, the spectators, are also there as a third party.
Now a dialogue on the stage has to reveal the whole changing course of the reciprocal relationship between the two speakers. This means that each must have, as he listens to the other, the sound-feeling that the other is experiencing. Imagine you have the two actors before you. The first should be able, while listening to what the second is saying, to experience in a living manner the sound-feeling that is inherent in what is being said.
This will not necessarily correspond to the vowels and consonants that are uttered; for in our present-day language these will not always express the mood of the speaker. We do not, for example, say: Us nuhut Gufuhr, as we would have to if we were to form a word picture exactly to accord with experience; we say: Es nahet Gefahr (danger is near).
Us nuhut Gufuhr.
Es nahet Gefahr.
Owing to gradual metamorphosis, what was originally a true word picture has nearly faded away. The speech of the stage must, however, restore to the word its original truth. How is this to be done ?
Here we come to an important factor in the technique of the stage, to which we must pay careful attention. If you go back from German to Gothic—and even Gothic, you must remember, is a derived language—you will be astonished to find how often you will suddenly come upon vowels that reflect with absolute accuracy emotions of fear, wonder, etc., in words where in the newer language the vowels have no more than a neutral relation to experience. This lost relation of sound to experience has now to be supplied in another way.
We have on the stage the two actors, one speaking, the other listening. We must in some way bring it about that the second receives the content of what the first says in its true ‘sound ' significance. If someone were to say to me on the stage: Es nahet Gefahr, I ought of course to experience wonder (a). The fact is, we only do not say: Us nuhut Gufuhr, because a metamorphosis has gradually come about, which has led to the replacement of an expression of fear by an expression of wonder. Out of a kind of boldness, we have let fear and anxiety give place to wonder and astonishment. Such changes in sound can always be accounted for. The actor, however, whilst the other is saying: Es nahet Gefahr, will have to feel in himself the feeling u. This must go on, as it were, ‘behind the scenes’ of the acting. Hidden behind in the soul of the actor, the sound-feeling has to play its part. The listening actor must learn to hear this hidden sound. How is he to do so ? Naturally, not by bethinking himself while the other is speaking: Now I must feel an u. Rather must his training have induced in him such an exact and living feeling for the sound of each single consonant and vowel, that when the other speaks words suggestive of fear he will as he listens, irrespective of what vowels the words contain, experience instinctively in his soul the corresponding sound-feeling for fear. This must of course not wait for the performance; the actor must have the experience beforehand, in the rehearsals. If the other actor expresses wonder, astonishment, then he will feel a; if joy, he will feel i. If the words of the other show him to be surprised and taken aback, then the listening actor will feel au (ou in ‘loud’); and so on.
But now all this must come about in the soul of the actor as naturally as the vibration on the drum of the ear—which we certainly do not ourselves set going, but which is in very truth a gift of the Gods; otherwise, we would make as bad a job of hearing as we do of speaking! It should happen quite as a matter of course that when one actor expresses fear, the other's whole mood of soul is attuned to u; and when words are spoken that evoke sympathy, then the soul of the listener vibrates in ei (as in ' height '). This inner hearing has to become absolutely instinctive; it must simply be there of itself.
This then is what we must aim at in our training for the stage; and that is why we have to take our start from sensitiveness for word and for sound, instead of giving our first attention to ideas.
Think for a moment how it is with colours—with blue, for instance. Blue is not in reality simply blue. Take a blue surface and place it by the side of red. It is at once quite different. Place it next to violet; it is different again. By the side of red it is a much more intense blue than it is by the side of violet. 4Dr. Steiner illustrated this on the blackboard. The fact is, we never see a colour that is not modified by the colour that is beside it. And this is true of everything in life. Our impressions are determined and conditioned by neighbouring impressions, they receive their nuance from them.
Suppose one of the two who are engaged in a dialogue makes a remark that indicates danger. Instinctively the other will feel u u u. And now he begins to form his answer. His answer will sound altogether different when he utters it out of the feeling of u than it would if he were to speak it out of the feeling of a. It is the same as with the blue colour, which is different according to whether it is beside violet or beside red.
If the actors have learned to develop this sensitiveness for the sound-feeling behind each other's words, then the conversation will receive its right colouring. And the spectator down below in the stalls—yes, and even the spectator up in the gallery— will ‘hear ' this colouring. Naturally, he does not tell you so! He knows nothing about it, consciously— but for that very reason, knows it instinctively all the more surely. And if he hears the right colouring, the piece pleases him; if not, he doesn't care for it. That is the way it shows itself—the one and only way.
So here we have a definite suggestion for training. The student has but to practise himself in sensitiveness for all the several sounds — there are no more than thirty-two or thirty-three altogether—and the corresponding feelings will come, if he will only make up his mind to become conscious of them. And when once he has experienced these corresponding feelings and proved for himself how they arise in him when u, or o, or a, or i is intoned, then he will have to practise this hearing in the rehearsals, just as one practises the piano, playing at first each note consciously and gradually progressing to ease and fluency. Little by little, as the rehearsals proceed, the student will come to the point where he will have instinctively the right sound-feeling for the different parts that are being acted around him. When he has attained to this, he may be said to have completed his training in this respect.
Here again it has naturally to be a question of setting up an ideal. For in the rush of modern life a play will frequently have no more than two or three rehearsals—possibly even fewer ! It is, however, of no little importance that in a matter of this kind we should have before us an ideal. There is, you know, considerable difference of opinion on the subject of rehearsals. For Frau Wilbrandt, who had, by the way, an excellent speaking voice on the stage and divined instinctively much of what I have been describing—for her feeling, a whole series of rehearsals was never enough. She was frequently heard to say that one can only act a part really well when one is acting it in public for the fiftieth time; the first forty-nine performances are simply further rehearsals. Yes, she would repeat that again and again. And there is truth in it, for only by that time would the things of which we are speaking have become instinctive and spontaneous.
One meets also with other views. There was once a company that had played a piece fifty times. For the fifty- first performance the producer proposed to have the prompter's box removed, thinking that by now the actors must surely have their parts by heart. ‘Now, boys,’ he said, ‘today you are playing the piece for the fifty-first time; so we'll take away the prompter's box.’ One of the actors could not at first grasp the situation at all. After thinking it over he said: ‘But won't that mean that the audience can see the prompter?’ That the box was to be removed—that he could grasp; but the prompter—he couldn't possibly do without his prompter!
I can assure you, many changes will have to come about in connection with the art of the stage, and not only in practical matters of this kind; an entirely new approach is needed, we need to think of our work as actors in a new way. If, however, you once begin to put into practice the things of which we are speaking here, then as time goes on the various faults and failings will gradually all be overcome.