Speech and Drama
XIII. Study of the Text from Two Aspects: Delineation of Character and the form of the Play
17 September 1924, Dornach
My dear Friends,
For the dramatist the play is finished when he has composed it, when he has put it into words. If he intends it for the stage, then while composing it he must all the time hear and see it taking place. A play that may truthfully be called a work of art has been seen by the author; he has had it before his mind's eye just as it should unfold when performed on the stage. If this is not so, if the dramatist has not the power continually to ‘behold’ the stage, to feel beating within him, as he writes, the life-blood of the stage— then the actor can do very little with that play. And now when the dramatist has finished his work, the written play is for the actor what the score is for the musician. The poem, the work of art, has in a sense disappeared; the written text is like a musical score. From the text the actor has to re-create the poem in his performance on the stage, even as the musician re-creates the music from the score. For the score is a kind of zero-point between composer and performer; there they meet. It should be the same with the text of the drama. But in order to attain his goal, the actor will have to prepare himself in two directions.
The first thing needed is that the characters in the play are thoroughly understood. That the individual actor must have a thorough grasp of his own part goes without saying; but no part can be rehearsed except in conjunction with the other parts, and the producer has to see that all the parts play into one another in the right way. Thus, besides being studied individually, the characters will have to be brought into right relation with one another, so that the play, as it takes its course on the stage, shall in this respect present a rightly coloured, a well-integrated whole. And this it will do if we have first of all practised the art of delineation of character. It is an art that can be studied from what we have already seen to be the essential elements of drama. Let me show you how this can be done. Again I will proceed by taking an example.
In an earlier lecture we had a play under consideration that can once more be helpful to us here; for it is excellent material for the study of delineation of character, and also for the other necessary study which I will explain later. Particularly striking, however, is the skill in the delineation of character that is evinced in this play. I refer to Hamerling's Danton and Robespierre.
If it is our aim to achieve a complete and true delineation of character, in other words so to place each separate character on the stage that in the working out of their mutual relationships a whole is attained, an inwardly integrated whole, then we must before all else set out to study the play just from this point of view. In the play we are considering we shall find four characters whom we can well single out for particular study. There are of course many others we could choose, but for our present purpose we cannot do better than concentrate on these four: Robespierre, Hébert, Chaumette, Danton.
A full study of the drama as a whole would naturally have to include also the rest of the cast. As far as our immediate study is concerned, we shall require to come to the point where we can take a survey of the complete drama with its various characters; and then, having done this, we shall be in a position to give to some particular character its right performance, allowing it to be neither isolated from the others nor eclipsed by them.
Assuming therefore that you have worked through Hamerling's Danton and Robespierre in this way and have also made yourselves thoroughly familiar with all that we have been considering in these last days, you will be able to go forward with clarity and confidence, and place these four characters on the stage, showing up the varying shades of their several qualities and dispositions, in their relation to one another.
Take first Danton. We shall find, if we have understood the play aright, that Danton will express his own inner soul best if we connect with him the sound-feelings: ä (ay in ‘say’), i (ee); ä, i.
Danton: ä i
To act the part with this sound-feeling will bring the jovial side of his nature to expression; there will then be something large and generous about his manner as he comes on to the stage. And when Danton has to move about on the stage, then, if you have come to a really deep understanding of him, you will instinctively be tempted to let him walk like this: knees held rather stiff, and feet firmly planted on the ground. You will even feel that his arms too should be a little stiff at the elbow; he will move them as though he could not bend them right up, but only at a rather obtuse angle. Yes, you could very well have the impression that Danton is a man who would never be able to sing either a major or a minor third! 1See Eurhythmy as Visible Song.
If this is the feeling you have about his character, then you may be sure the true Danton will be there on the stage, taking his right place among the other characters. And you will be impelled to let him be constantly making gestures with the mouth that help to produce the right tone of voice— pressing the lips forcefully into the corners of the mouth. Danton should, in fact, be spoken with lips nearly closed and stretched to their utmost, but as if there at the corners of the mouth they met with some powerful resistance.
All this is a direct and perfectly natural outcome of a serious study of the part. And that is how it should be. Then, when Danton has to speak, we shall have a Danton there ready. I will now illustrate this for you, taking for the purpose the second scene of the play, where he steps out in front of the people and speaks to them in true Danton manner
(DANTON und ROBESPIERRE treten auf. Robespierre in einfacher, aber pedantisch sorgfältiger Frisur und Tracht, Danton in mehr prunkhafter, doch burschikoser Gewandung, eine gewaltige Halsschleife hängt über seine Brust herab.)
VOLK. Es lebe Danton! Es lebe Robespierre!
DANTON. (den Hut lüftend und dem Volke zunickend, jovial)
Guten Morgen, Sansculotten!
Was soll denn das Gedräng'? Was gibt's? Ein Fest?
Mit weissgeputzten Jungfern, schönen Reden
Und Blechmusik? Verdammt! Gibt's wirklich keine
Bastille mehr zu stürmen? Keinen Ausflug
Mehr nach Versailles zu machen? Alle Wetter,
Das waren andre Zeiten! Denkt ihr's noch
Wie's war, als rings um uns zum ersten
Mal Losbrach die Kriegsfurie, und die Ohren
Ihr an den Boden legtet, um zu horchen,
Ob man nicht schon Kanonendonner höre,
Vorboten jener Haufen, die sich wälzten
Her auf Paris—und wie dann wirklich mancher
Zu hören meint‘ein fernes dumpfes Rollen,
Und auffuhr, bis ein Nachbar zu ihm sagte:
Lass gut sein—Danton ist's, der eben donnert
Im Club der Cordeliers!
VOLK. (in Enthusiasmus geratend) Es lebe Danton! ca ira! ca ira!
(Enter DANTON and ROBESPIERRE—Robespierre plainly dressed but
both his hair and clothes showing meticulous care; Danton in more showy,
unconventional garments, and with a flowing cravat.)
PEOPLE. Long live Danton! Long live Robespierre!
DANTON. (raising his hat and nodding in a jovial way to the people)
Good Morrow, Sansculottes!
What means this crowd? What is there, then, a fete?
With maidens all in white, with splendid speeches,
And with brass bands? Deuce take it! is there not
A Bastille still to storm? No further trip
To Versailles still to take? By Jupiter
Those times were different! Do you ever think
Of how it was when first around us all
War fury did break loose, and down you laid
Your ears upon the ground to try and hear
Whether already cannon-thunder roared—
Forbidden now those swarms who danced around
Our Paris streets—and how then many thought
To hear a deadened rolling from afar
And started up, until a neighbour said:
Don't be disturbed—it's Danton thundering
At the Cordelier's Club!
PEOPLE. (beside themselves with enthusiasm)
Long live Danton! ça ira, ça ira!
Do you see? There you have Danton's large—and yet at the same time revolutionary—manner. I want you to understand that I am accentuating what is characteristic of Danton, but that this accentuation has its particular value; I do it on purpose to show you how you can find your own way to a true delineation of character. And you will furthermore discover, if you are prepared to carry your expression of the character so far, that Danton will have to speak every j 2As y in’ yacht', but pronounced so as to emphasise its consonantal character. and every l, (and whatever sounds resemble them) in a manner that is all his own. So we have for
Danton: ä i j l
And now let us look at Hebert. When the character of Hebert begins to come alive for us, we shall find he is not a man of action like Danton. Nor has Hebert been endowed with Danton's jovial disposition. Danton with his big, broad mouth gives us the impression that he will be large and liberal in his actions too, and we shall even feel inclined to choose a broad-shouldered person to play him, should it happen that one is available. We could of course also adapt the clothes to give more breadth. Danton's outward appearance would then be in accord with his speaking.
Hebert on the other hand will have to be of medium size; he must not look big and stout. With Hebert we get the impression that he is continually on the point of stepping forward, but suddenly hangs back and goes no farther. Whenever he has to move on the stage, the actor will have to show this hesitation. He will begin to step out, but then always stand still again. For Hebert is a man who only denounces and scolds, he is not a man to get things done. And this trait the actor will have to reveal by continually starting to walk and then stopping short.
You will find that Hebert is particularly at home in g and k; the utterance of these sounds gives him a feeling of satisfaction. The actor will take care to note where these sounds occur and will attune his whole speaking accordingly. He will see that Hebert gröhlt and jühlt (bawls and howls) when he is cross—ö ü (French eu in `feu', French u in ‘du’)—and that with g (hard) and k he is as pleased and happy as Danton is with j and l.
Hebert: ö ü g k
As the audience leaves the theatre, you ought to catch them saying to one another: ‘By Jove, how that fellow who plays Danton says ‘Ja’! No one else in the world could say Ja as he does. And did you hear the way Hebert hacks at the words with his k and g? It's simply marvellous! ’
Hamerling prepares us well beforehand for the situation in the scene. A citizen steps forward to announce the approach of the Goddess of Reason, whose festival is now about to be celebrated.
(Der Festzug erscheint unter den Klängen der Musih. Voraus HENRIOT zu Pferde. Dann eine Schar weissgekleideter, rosenbekränzter Mädchen, dann folgen die wie Feldzeichen erhöht getragenen Büsten Voltaires und Marats. Unmittelbar vor der Göttin wird eine grosse angezündete Fackel hergetragen. Die GÖTTIN selbst ruht auf einem blumengeschmückten Triumphwagen, angetan mit weisser Tunika, darüber eine wallende Chlamys von himmelblauer Farbe. Auf dem Haupte eine rote phrygische Mütze. Hinter ihr HEBERT, CHAUMET rB und andere Mitglieder des Rates der Kommune. Nachdem c/er Zug in der Mitte des Platzes angelangt, macht der Triumphwagen Halt, die Göttin verlässt denselben und wird von Hebert und Chaumette auf das thronartige Gerüst hinaufgeleitet, wo sie Platz nimmt. Die bisher ihr vorgetragene Fackel wird in ihre Hand gegeben. Die Jungfrauen gruppieren sich um den Fuss des Gerüstes. Die Musik verstummt.)
EIN BÜRGER. (im Vordergrund zu seinem Nachbar) Präch?
tige Gestalt, diese Göttin der Vernunft!
DER NACHBAR. Ja, sie ist ein schönes Weib, die Momoro; nur ihre Zähne sollen schon einigermassen defekt sein.
EIN WEIB. (zu ihrer Nachbarin) Seht einmal, was sie für grosse funkelnde Ohrringe trägt!
DIE NACHBARIN. Die hat sie von dem reichen deutschen Baron.
HÉBERT. (besteigt die Bühne, doch nicht ganz zu der Höhe, auf welcher die Göttin sitzt) Mitbürger! Die freche Rebellion der exekutiven und der administrativen Gewalten gegen das souveräne Volk, welche in Frankreich wie allenthalben ihr Wesen trieb, ist niedergeworfen. Der von den ersten Beamten des Staates, den Königen, bisher geübte Amtsmissbrauch ist für immer abgestellt. Seit dem Augenblick, da das Haupt Ludwig Capets fiel und der Staub seiner Ahnen in den Prunkgräbern von St. Denys im Staub der Strassen von Paris seinen Bruder begrüsste, ist der Königsbann und Zauber, der auf den Völkern lastete, gebrochen. Wir zogen nach St. Denys, wir öffneten die kostbaren Schreine der verblichenen Despoten von Frankreich: da lagen sie, die einst allmächtigen Abgötter, vor welchen wir das Knie beugten; da lagen sie in ihren Silbersärgen, Staubphantome, nur noch mit den letzten Resten goldgestickter Gewande zusammengehalten. Wenn man mit den Fingern an die Majestäten tippte, rieselte die Totenasche aus den Gold- und Purpurfetzen hervor, wie der Staub aus einem Staubschwamm, den man in der Hand zerdruckt. In ganzen Wolken stäubte sie empor, die Königsasche, und wer da herumging, dem klopfte sein Diener am nächsten Morgen verweste Potentaten mit dem anderen Staube aus den Kleidern. Es gibt keine geborenen Götzen der Menschheit mehr. Die Menschheit wird künftig nur diejenigen ehren, die ihr gedient, nicht diejenigen, die sie beherrscht haben. (Auf die Büsten deutend.) Da seht das Bild Voltaires, des grossen Vorkämpfers der Gedankenfreiheit; da seht das Bild Marats, des echten glühenden Patrioten, der für die Freiheit darbte, siechte, verhöhnt, und zuletzt gemeuchelt wurde—der die Lauen und die Ehrgeizigen zugleich beschämt, die auch jetzt noch das freie Volk zu eigensüchtigen Zwecken zu umgarnen trachten.—Das seien unsere Genien, das seien unsere Götter für die Zukunft! Vor diesen, Volk, entblösse dein Haupt!
(The procession appears amid strains of music, HENRIOT on horseback at the head, then a troop of girls in white and garlanded with roses, after whom, carried on high like regimental colours, the busts of Voltaire and Marat. Immediately before the GODDESS a flaming torch is carried. The goddess herself rests on a flower-bedecked triumphal car. She is clad in a white tunic with, over it, a sky-blue mantle, a red Phrygian cap on her head. Behind her come HEBERT and CHAUMETTE, and other members of the Council of the Commune. The cortege having arrived at the centre of the square the triumphal car is halted, the goddess descends and is led by Hebert and Chaumette to the throne-like scaffolding where she takes her seat. The torch hitherto carried in front of her, is now given into her hand. The maidens group themselves at the foot of the scaffolding. The music ceases.)
A CITIZEN. (in the foreground, to his neighbour) Fine figure of a woman this Goddess of Reason!
NEIGHBOUR. Yes, she's a beauty, Mistress Momoro; only her teeth are none too good.
A WOMAN. (to her neighbour) Just look what great sparkling earrings she's wearing!
HER NEIGHBOUR. She got those from the rich German Baron.
HÉBERT. (mounts the stage but does not go to the level at which the goddess is sitting) Co-citizens! The shameless rebellion of the executive and administrative powers against the sovereign people, which has gone on in France and everywhere else, has been crushed. The abuse of office practised up to now by the leading officers of state, the kings, has been once and for all abolished. From the moment the head of Louis Capet fell, and the dust of his ancestors out of their ostentatious tombs in St. Denys met its brother dust in the streets of Paris, the kingly spell, the kingly magic, has been broken. We proceeded to St. Denys, we opened the costly shrines of the perished despots of France. There they lay, the once all-powerful idols before whom we bent the knee; there they lay in their coffins of silver, phantoms of dust still held together by the last remnants of their gold- embroidered garments. When with gentle fingers one softly touched these majesties, the ashes of the dead showered forth from the gold and purple tatters like the dust out of a crushed puff-ball. They rose up in dusty clouds, these kingly ashes, and those who stood around had, the next morning, decayed potentates brushed with other dirt from their clothes. For mankind there are no more hereditary idols. Mankind in future will honour only those who serve them, not those who are their masters. (Pointing to the busts.) There you see the bust of Voltaire, the great protagonist of freedom of thought; there that of Marat, the genuine, ardent patriot who, for freedom, suffered privation, pined away, was mocked at and finally murdered—who put to shame both the half-hearted and the ambitious who even yet try to incite the free people to selfish ends.—Let such men as Voltaire, as Marat, be our geniuses, our gods, for the future! Before them, 0 people, uncover your heads!
That, then, is Hebert. Let us turn now to Chaumette. If we study the part carefully, we shall feel we can detect in Chaumette a sort of soughing or sighing in ü, indicating a timidity which he conceals under a show of bravado. He tries all the time to stand up to his feeling of fear with ö. And so we have the mood ü ö. Chaumette's will not be a speaking that goes to extremes in any direction; there will be in it a savour of supplication, but of a rather poor and mean kind. The sounds h and sch (sh) will frequently occur, and all the time there will be a sort of insincere heaving and sighing.
Chaumette: ü ö h sch
If we can speak the part with this feeling, then it will be Chaumette.
VOLK. Es lebe die Göttin der Vernunft! (Schwenken der Mützen.) Es lebe die Republik!
DANTON. (zu Robespierre abseits) ‘Er ist verzweifelt wild heute, der Vater Duchesne!'
(Beide verlieren sich unter dem Volk.)
CHAUMETFE. (besteigt die Tribüne, nachdem sie HEBERTverlassen) Republikaner! Wir haben die Tyrannei nicht bloss vom Throne, wir haben sie auch von der Kanzel geworfen. Seitdem zu des grossen Voltaire Zeiten die Mäuse des Unglaubens zum erstenmal den Speck der Kirche benagt, und seit die Naturforschung aufgestanden vom Faulbett des Begriffs der göttlichen Allmacht, auf dem sie geschlafen, ist Frankreich vorwärts gegangen mit Giganten- schritt. Nur fort auf diesem Wege, Brüder! Streuen wir mit der Asche der Könige auch die Asche der Kalenderheiligen aus den Kirchen in alle vier Winde! Und insofern sie von Metall, diese Heiligen, sollen sie gute Patrioten werden und für die Republik ins Feuer gehen: wir schmelzen sie ein! Reissen wir den Kirchtürmen ihre geschwätzigen Glockenzungen aus, und lassen wir sie im Felde als Kanonen brummen; schneiden wir Patronen aus den Messbüchern! Auf die Friedhöfe lasst uns die Inschrift pflanzen: ‘Ewiger Schlaf!’ Opfern wir nicht mehr das beste unserer Habe dem Himmel! Seien wir klug wie die alten Heiden: die brachten den Göttern von den Opfertieren auch nur die Häute und Knochen dar, das Fleisch assen sie selbst. Unsere Göttin sei die Vernunft, die gesunde Vernunft ohne Grübeleien, ohne Wissenskram, ohne aristokratische Gelehrsamkeit. Und als Franzose und Republikaner füg‘ich hinzu: Die Wissenschaft muss nützlich sein, und die Künste müssen einzig dem Patriotismus dienen; sie sollen keine Werkzeuge aristokratischer Verweichlichung sein. Den alt-ehrwürdigen Prachtbau von Notre Dame, der vor uns ragt, weihen wir von heut an zum Tempel der Vernunft! Vorerst aber, zum Zeichen, dass das Licht allen gemein ist (sich zu den Jungfrauen wendend), entzündet die Fackeln und verteilt sic unter das ganze Volk!
(Die Jungfrauen ergreifen Fackeln, von welchen ein grosser Haufe am Fusse des Gerüstes aufgeschichtet ist, und entzünden sie an der Fackel der Göttin.)
CLOOTS. (sich mit seiner Schar nähernd) Lasst alle Völker die Fackeln an diesem Licht entfachen, das in Frankreich aufgegangen!
PEOPLE. Long live the Goddess of Reason! (waving their caps) Long live the Republic!
DANTON. (aside, to Robespierre) ‘He's desperately savage today is Father Duchesne !’
(Both men mingle in the crowd.)
CHAUMETTE. (mounts the tribune on HEBERT leaving it)
Republicans! We have thrown down tyranny not only from the throne but also from the pulpit. Ever since the time of Voltaire, when disbelief for the first time gnawed at the vitals of the Church, and since natural philosophy has arisen from the idle bed where slept the concept of divine omnipotence, since all this, France has progressed with giant strides. But let us go forward on this road, brothers! Let us cast to the four winds not only the ashes of the kings but also those of the calendar saints of the Church! And in as far as they are of metal, these saints, shall they become good patriots and go into the fire for the Republic; we will melt them down! Let us pull down from the Church towers the clamorous tongues of the bells and make them roar as cannon on the field of battle; let us make cartridge cases of their missals! Let us write up ‘eternal sleep‘at the entrance to their graveyards and no longer offer the best of our possessions to the heavens! Let us be as shrewd as the old heathen who brought to their gods only the skins and bones of the sacrificial animals, eating the flesh themselves. Our goddess shall be reason, sound reason, without speculation and unencumbered by knowledge or by the learning of aristocrats. And as Frenchman and republican I add: Science must be made of use, and the arts must serve patriotism alone; they shall be no tools of aristocratic effeminacy. This worthy, noble old pile of Notre Dame we shall dedicate today as the Temple of Reason. But first, as token that light is common property to every one of us, (turning to the maidens) kindle the torches and distribute them among all the people!
(The maidens seize upon the torches, a great heap of which is stacked at the foot of the scaffolding, and light them from the torch held by the goddess.)
CLOOTS. (approaching with his crowd) Let everyone light his torch from this light which has arisen in France!
Chaumette, you see, makes it plain that he wants not only to haul the tyrants down from their thrones but to push them out of their pulpits. This is the character Hamerling gives him. And if you study the part, letting yourself hear Chaumette speak with the voice of a priest who has grown rather insincere, then you will have hit upon the tone that should be maintained for Chaumette throughout.
Robespierre may be said to be the character that interests Hamerling most of all. He should appear rather tall on the stage. Whatever he may have been in real life, here in Hamerling's play Robespierre is a tall man, rather thin and worn, and all the sounds that he utters tend somewhat in the direction of i. There is always a decided contraction at the middle of his palate. He is moreover always ready to talk of great matters— to ‘embrace the world’— in rather grandiloquent phrases. i o, i o; these are the sounds you hear in Robespierre.
Then Robespierre is also very much the schoolmaster whose speaking abounds in d and t. He has a distinct liking for d and t, the pointing sounds.
Robespierre: i o d t
And now there is a passage in the play that can be particularly helpful to us if we want to have a complete picture of the character of Robespierre. Look up the scene that takes place in the house of the carpenter Duplay, where Robespierre has his lodging. The scene is laid in a kind of ante-room which divides Robespierre's apartments from the rooms and workshop of his landlord. Here then we have Robespierre at home.
Hamerling begins the scene by letting Robespierre indulge in a little self-admiration, in the true i o mood. We need to take note of this trait in Robespierre, if we are going to present him on the stage; for it provides us with a key to his character. Robespierre sets great value on what others think about him; but he would not like to admit it—either to himself or to them. And he undoubtedly has at the same time a good deal, as we said, of the schoolmaster in him and even gives the whole Revolution something of that tone. 1 am not of course speaking of the Robespierre of history; all that I am saying refers to the Robespierre of Hamerling's play.
Danton, Billaud-Varenne and the rest are ready to hang people who say anything in favour of the old aristocracy or royalty—or who even dream about them. But Robespierre,—he would like to hang persons who are guilty, for example, of writing an r in the wrong place. He detects in a spelling mistake like this an unforgivable conservatism which hinders the guilty person from taking his place in the new order of things. Schoolmasters, accordingly, whose pupils do not spell correctly—these in particular he is ready to hang.
The two traits are remarkably well brought out by Hamer- ling; and we shall find we can understand the character of Robespierre if we study the part with these traits in mind and with the sound-feelings that belong to them.
ROBESPIERRE. (tritt von einem Fenster zurück) Vorbei die letzten Karren—Hebert flucht—Chaumette macht ein Gesicht wie eine kranke Lerche—der Pöbel, der ihnen vor zwei Wochen zugejauchzt, verhöhnt sie. (Er nimmt Platz an einem Tischchen, durchblättert Zeitungen und öffnet Briefe. Miene, Haltung und Bewegung drücken eine fast pedantische Gemessenheit, Ruhe und anscheinende Gleichgültigkeit gegen den Inhalt der Zuschriften aus.)
‘Robespierre, du Gewaltiger! Seele der Republik—harr‘aus! Geh‘ mutig weiter auf deiner Bahn, entgegen dem Ziele, das dir winkt!’
‘Bürgerrepräsentant Robespierre, ich merke, du strebst nach der Diktatur! Gib sie auf, die volksverräterischen Pläne, oder wisse, dass die Dolche von zweiundzwanzig Brutussen, die sich gegen dein Leben, du Meuchelmörder der Freiheit, verschworen, Tag für Tag über dir gezückt sind—’
‘Robespierre, wahrhafter Freund des Volkes, Unbestechlicher, erhalte dich das Schicksal noch lange, lange für das Wohl Frankreichs und der Welt!’
‘Du lebst noch, Tiger, befleckt mit dem Blute der edelsten Geschlechter von Frankreich? Henker der Menschheit, du lebst noch? Gib acht! ein Sprössling aus edlem Stamme ist noch übrig und sein geschliffenes Schwert lauert—’
‘Robespierre, du teurer, edler, tugendhafter Mann! vergib einer begeisterten Tochter der Republik, die in Bewunderung für dich erglüht, wenn sie dich anfleht um die Gnade, dich sehen, dich sprechen, ihr republikanisches Herz an deinem Anblick laben zu dürfen!’
‘Du Aas, du Madensack, du Würmerfrass, elender Robespierre, hast du keine Scheu vor Gott dem Herrn, dem Beherrscher Himmels und der Erden? Denn wisse, elender Tyrrann’—Tyrann schreibt der Bursche mit einem doppelten r! Dass doch das Volk nie orthographisch schreiben lernt!‘ Elender Tyrrann, dass du samt deinen Spiessgesellen unser Parris’—wieder ein doppeltes r—ich werde den Schulmeister köpfen lassen, zu welchem der Wicht in die Schule ging—
Act I, Scene II
ROBESPIERRE. (withdrawing from a window) The last carts
have gone by—Hebert is cursing and swearing, Chaumette is making a face like a sick skylark; the people who two weeks ago loudly acclaimed them now sneer at them.
He seats himself at a little table, turns over newspapers and opens letters. His expression, attitude and movements convey an almost pedantic precision, repose and apparent indifference to what the writings contain.
He takes up a newspaper in which he is referred to.
‘Robespierre, you mighty one! Soul of the Republic—persevere! Continue with courage on the road to the goal which beckons you!’
He smiles, well pleased and satisfied.—Another paper.
‘Robespierre, representative of the citizens, I can see you are aiming at dictatorship! Give up these plans to betray the people, or know that the daggers of twenty-two Brutuses, who are plotting against your life, you murderer of freedom, are pointed at you, day in, day out—’
Puts the paper irritably on one side.—A third paper.
‘Robespierre, true friend of the people, you, the incorruptible, continue long to uphold your destiny for the wellbeing of France and of the world! ’
Lays aside the paper, well pleased.—Another paper.
‘You are still alive, you tiger, stained as you are with the blood of the noblest houses of France ? Butcher of mankind, you still live? Beware! The descendant of an ancient race has survived and his ready sword lies in wait—’
‘Robespierre, you dear, noble, virtuous man ! Forgive an enthusiastic daughter of the Republic, burning with admiration of you, if she pleads for the indulgence of a sight of you, of speech with you, of being allowed to refresh her republican heart by gazing upon you!’
‘You carrion, you miserable carcass, food for the worms, you wretched Robespierre, have you no shame in the sight of God, the Lord and Ruler of heaven and earth? Know then, miserable tyrrant’—why, the fellow spells it with a double r—so the people never learn to spell correctly when they write!—‘Miserable tyrrant, that you and your accomplices in our Parris’—a double r again. I shall have the master beheaded who taught at the school where this creature went.
There you have the tones of mood and voice that need to be carefully studied. As I said just now, I am accentuating the special features of the characters; here I have purposely
exaggerated a little in order to help you to come to a deep and thorough understanding of the whole figure of Robespierre, as portrayed by Hamerling. For nothing less will suffice if you want to act the part; you will need to find your way right into the very heart and being of the character.
And now when you have learned to understand Robespierre in these two aspects of his character, you will continue your study of the part further. I would like you to take what I am saying here rather as giving a description of how these matters can be gradually brought before students in a school of dramatic art. Having then brought your students so far, you may take with them that moment in the play when Robespierre is called upon to account for the fact that he is not willing to be made ‘dictator’, when all the time he definitely wants to be it! His friend St. Just asks him why it is he spurns the title. And now Robespierre is compelled to divulge something of his true character. Yes, it comes out! And at the same time a third trait of his makes its appearance: we are shown Robespierre the dogmatist, the rationalist, perpetually wanting to pose as schoolmaster for the whole world (ready also to be an opportunist for that end), promulgating a theory of which we are to be repeatedly reminded as the play proceeds; for from now on Robespierre makes every endeavour to justify himself by it with subtlety and precision at the bar of reason. St. Just says to him:
ST. JUST. Du verschmähst den Namen—warum nicht auch die Sache?
ST. JUST. You spurn the name—why not the thing itself?
Robespierre is naturally deeply annoyed at such a question; it probes his weaknesses to the quick—those weaknesses of his that are at the same time the things that make him great. He grows restless, walks up and down. St. Just remains standing still. Robespierre does not answer at once. He has, you see, to find a way to justify himself before the tribunal of reason; he walks to and fro to gain time. Then he claps St. Just on the shoulder.
ROBESPIERRE. Hör Inch', St. Just! Das Wort ist mir sonst Werkzeug, Waffe. Dir gegenüber soll es ein vertraulicher Bote meiner Gedanken sein—so weit du sie begreifen magst. Ich bin vielleicht, wie du gesagt, ein heimlicher Schwärmer. Ich liebe die Menschheit, wie Rousseau sie geliebt! Aber was sind mir die einzelnen Menschen? Ich verachte sie. Nimm den Durchschnittsmenschen aus der Masse heraus—sein Wesen ist die bare Unvernunft. Lass ihn in der Masse, an seinem Ort, und er ist Teil eines zwar blinden, aber infalliblen Ganzen. Die Menschheit geht immer den Weg zum Ziel, aber unbewusst, in blindem Drang, wie ein Nachtwandler. Das Schellengeläut der Phrasen, mit welchen sie sich ihren blinden Drang, ihren Weg und ihr Ziel deutlich machen will, hat wenig zu sagen. Die meisten Worte mischen sich in ihren Fortgang ohne Sinn, bloss zur Ermunterung, wie Hundegebell ins Räderrollen. Wahrhaft bewusst gehen den Weg nur wenige Auserwählte. Diese Wenigen sind Regulatoren, Lenker, Förderer, Bahnbrecher—sie haben den grossen Zweck vor Augen—und einzig diesen.—Weisst du, Freund, was eine grosse Idee ist?
ST. JUST. Ich meine es zu wissen.
ROBESPIERRE. Weisst du, was das Wort Konsequenz sagen will ?
ST. JUST. Ich denke.
ROBESPIERRE. Das ist mir lieb.—Der einzelne, sein Wohl und Wehe, sein Leben, ist mir nichts. Ich lasse ihn unbedenklich für den grossen Zweck über die Klinge springen. Bin ich grausam? Mutter Natur macht's ebenso. Ich wünsche, ich will, dass das Vernünftige sich auf Erden verwirkliche. Das ist mein Prinzip—mein Ideal—davon bin ich begeistert oder besessen, wenn du lieber willst, dämonisch besessen.— Das Unvermeidliche stört mich, quält mich, wie ein Missklang im Ohr. Ich kann es nicht ausstehen. Ich will keine Könige, ich will keine Aristokraten, ich will keine Privilegien, ich will keine Priesterherrschaft, ich will keine Säbelherrschaft, ich will auch keine Pöbelherrschaft—nichts von einer Uebermacht, die Zufall, Geburt, eigensüchtige Schlauheit oder rohe Gewalt gewährt—denn das ist alles Unvernunft und ein Greuel auf Erden. Ich will keine andere Uebermacht, als die der Vernunft über den Blödsinn. Wer zu den wahrhaft Bevorzugten gehört, erhält seine Präpotenz über die Menge nur dadurch, dass er dieser Menge gegenüber eine noch grössere Menge vertritt: die Menschheit. Ich halte mich für einen von diesen. Ich fühle die Flamme der Menschheit in mir leuchten und brennen—Fiebergluten entzündet sie in mir—sie leuchtet, aber sie verzehrt auch—das Licht fordert Unterwerfung, Gehorsam—auch von mir—es ist grimmiges verzehrt mein Menschliches—und dann wundern sich die Kleinen, dass ich ein’ Unmensch’ bin. Wer die Fackel dieses Lichtes trägt, ist dieses Lichtes Sklave: aber den Kindern der Finsternis und der Dämmerung gegenüber ist er Herr und König. Könige wird es ewig geben; aber Zepter und Kronen und höfischer Mummenschanz und Trabantenscharen, das ist schnöde Unvernunft! Der bessere Kopf braucht nur hervorzutreten, um zu herrschen. Darum nichts von Diktatur, Freund, nichts von Diktatur! Nichts von Namen und Titeln und Würden, nichts von Mummenschanz und Trabanten und Liktorenbeilen—dergleichen kompromittiert, diskreditiert nur ... Bleiben wir auf republikanisch- gesetzlichem Wege. Wenn Frankreich tut, was ich rate—was brauch‘ich zu befehlen?—Nichts von Diktatur, Freund, verschone mich damit !
ROBESPIERRE. Listen to me, St. Just! Words on other occasions are my tools, my weapons. To you they shall be the trusty conveyors of my thoughts—as far as you may grasp my thoughts. Perhaps I am, as you say, in secret a sentimentalist. I love mankind as Rousseau loved them! But what are individual men to me? I despise them. Take the average man out of the mass—in his nature he is utterly devoid of reason. Leave him in the mass, in his place, and he is part of a blind whole, blind, it is true, but a whole that is infallible. Men move always towards the goal, but unconsciously, from a blind urge, like a sleepwalker. All those high-sounding phrases with which they seek to make clear to themselves this blind urge, this path and this goal—say very little. Most of the words they employ in their progress are without sense, spoken merely to cheer them on, like the barking of dogs round the wheels of a passing cart. It is but a few of the elect who go on their way in full consciousness. These few are those who govern, leaders of men, instigators, pioneers—these alone have the great aim before them.— Do you know, friend, what a great idea is ?
ST. JUST. I think I do.
ROBESPIERRE. Do you know what the word ‘consistency’ implies?
ST. JUST. So I believe.
ROBESPIERRE. That is what I hold dear.—To me the individual, his weal and woe, his very life, are nothing. To further the great aim, without hesitation I send him to his death. Am I inhuman? Mother Nature does the same. It is my wish, it is my determined will, that the reasonable should be realised on earth. That is my principle, my ideal, that by which I am inspired—or possessed if you prefer it, demoniacally possessed.—The inevitable disturbs me, torments me, like a discordant note in the ear. I can't suffer it. I will not have kings, I will not have aristocrats, nor will I have privileges, priestly rule, nor the rule of the sabre; I will not even have the people as rulers, I want nothing of any domination conceded to chance, birth, selfish cunning or brute force,—for all that is lacking in reason and is an abomination on the face of the earth. I want no other domination but that of reason over foolishness. Whoever belongs to the specially favoured receives his power over the multitude only because he represents a still greater multitude—mankind. I consider myself to be one of the specially favoured. I feel the flame of mankind shining, burning, within me—it kindles within me the glow of fever—it shines but it also consumes—the light demands subjection, obedience, even from me—it is relentless—it eats up what is human in me—and then the small fry are surprised to find me inhuman. Whoever bears the torch of this light is the slave of this light, but over the children of darkness and dusk he rules as lord and king. Kings there will always be—but sceptre and crown and the masquerade and military splendour of courts are a contemptible lack of reason! The better head has only to come forward in order to rule. Therefore, friend, not a word about dictators, not a word! Have done with names, titles, honours, have done with all mummery, with life-guards and the axes of lictors—things of that kind only compromise and bring discredit... . Let me keep to the path of our republican law. When France carries out what I counsel—what need for me to command?—No word of dictatorship, friend, spare me that!
(Translation by V. E. W.)
There you have Robespierre.
That is then the first way in which we should learn to study our text, namely, from the aspect of delineation of character. When we have made progress in this, we can pass on to the second, which consists in learning to give the relevant colouring to the play in all its scenes from beginning to end, but always so that the fundamental tone of the play as a whole is maintained throughout. today we will begin to consider certain things we shall need to understand for this; then tomorrow we shall be in a position to carry the study further.
You will remember, my dear friends, that I showed you how the vowels can be thought of as forming in their sequence a kind of scale. I want now to write them in a circle, making seven halts or stopping-places in the circle where I will write in the vowels in order, so that the last comes round again to the first. Thus, this time they will not be side by side in a line, but inscribed on a circle so that the series returns upon itself: a e i o ä ö ü make seven, and u is the eighth.
When now we study plays in connection with this circle of vowels, we discover something of extraordinary interest.
Imagine we are studying a play, and find we want to arrange for the play as a whole to have a mood that arises out of the feeling of u; we want to let the audience feel from the beginning that up there on the stage the prevailing general tone corresponds to the feeling one has with u. We shall then get each actor to speak his part in such a way that something of the u mood is present. This may be done by accentuation here and there,. or again by the colouring the actor gives to his voice. Then, as the play goes on, we find we have to pass on from u to a, to e—and now to i (see the arrow in the drawing). The play has thus moved on in respect of mood as far as i. We feel, however, that we cannot now go on from i to o. We have instead to come back, we have to let the mood come back again to e, with a slight tendency of warding something off; and yet after all we allow it to come near us again, we return to a; but before u we call a halt, at most letting u only begin to sound.
When we go through the play in this manner, giving it throughout the right colouring in accordance with the feelings that belong to the several vowels, what have we? We set out from u—that is to say, fear. We go on farther and come to i. With i is associated the experience of compassion. We have now reached the middle of the play. In the remaining acts, we are obliged to retrace our steps; we have to come again, even if warding it off a little (for we must not lose hold of what is happening), we have to come back to a. And that is the mood in which the play ends.
We have thus found in the play this sequence: fear, compassion, wonder. But these are the very moods of soul of which Aristotle speaks, although of course he does not connect them with sounds as we have done, fear as we set out in u, and returning at last to wonder in a; and in a coming to a standstill before reaching u, for of fear only a faint murmur still lingers on at the end of the play.
And now suppose we take the other path, setting out this time from i; but from a special kind of i that does not express veritable deep compassion, but does still suggest entering into another's experience, though perhaps less intensely—the i, namely, that conveys the impression of inquisitiveness, curiosity. Let us say we have a play where we find we have to take our start in this mood. We are curious to know what will happen; we are all expectation. We pass on, as the play proceeds, to ä and ö and come then to ii; that is to say, we begin to find ourselves apprehensive, lest things may perhaps not turn out well. That is then the path that the play takes. But now it is essential that we do not go on from apprehension into fear, we must on no account pass from ii to u; for then our play would have an unhappy ending; and that is not the intention. We must, in fact, now go back. And as we return, we are brought into a mood of relief and satisfaction—ä.
Thus, the circle of the vowels gives us, first the sequence: fear— compassion— wonder ; and then, another time, the sequence: curiosity — apprehension— relief, happy ending!
Fear— Compassion— Wonder Curiosity— Apprehension — Relief.
With the first sequence, we have tragedy, and with the second, comedy.
The terms are of course categorical; you will not find that the course of a play ever exactly fits into them. They can, however, provide an excellent basis upon which you can study how to stage your play.
Thus, in dealing with the text of a play, we have first to study it
from the point of view of delineation of character, and then go on to
probe to the very heart and essence of its form.