SHERIDAN KNOWLES'S VIRGINIUS: SHERIDAN KNOWLES appeared this week as Virginius
; and dis- played powers of acting which we had not before Given him the credit of possessing: Viewed as a whole, it was not so perfect a performance as his William T614—which left nothing to be de- sired ; but in some of its parts, and those the most difficult, it was More surprising. Virgi:nius was an arduous character for KNOWLES to personate, net only because of MACREADY'S beautiful perform- ance of the part, but on account of the greater elevation and dignity supposed to he required in the Roman; and the madness to be assumed in the last act, which demands all the " appliances and means" of the art of acting to give it due effect. Yet it was in this most difficult part that he was so admirable. Wherever natural emotion is to ' be expressed, there KNOWLES IS most suc- cessful. He becomes so identified with the ideal person, that all that he does seems spontaneous. Hence the freedom and energy, and-even grace, of his action and attitudes, and the varying and appropriate expression of his countenance. KNOWLES'S Virginias had not the completeness and elaborate finish of MACREADY'S, nor its brilliant points of art ; but with the roughness it had the ✓ igour and variety that belong to nature. In MICREADY, we saw and admired the excellent artist ; in KXowtss, we only saw the man. The VirgillittS of MACREADY was dignified by its classic elegance ; the Virginius of KNOWLES was animated by reality o f feeling, and grand by virtue of its natural energy. In the early -scenes with Virginia, MACREADY seemed to stoop condescend- inglv from his stately elevation, and almost to surprise his daughter as well as the audience by his familiar air and amiable manner. KNOWLES, on the contrary, was at home with his child : the interest he took in her studies seemed habitual to him : his manner, look, and tone, were kind, earnest, and genial, like those of a father. Virginias, as drawn by its author, had more of the parent than the stoic in his nature,—else he would not have gone mad : revenge for his daughter's death would have absorbed re- morse. Revenge was as powerful a passion as parental love in the Roman breast. MACREADY seemed to value his daughter's honour as part of his own, and sacrificed her to save both. KsrownEs appeared concerned for his daughter's honour alone ; to preserve which, he sacrificed his affection for her and all his fondly ehetished hopes. If in his delivery of the level passages of the dialogue Mr. KNOWLES was too abrupt, hurried, and conversa- tional in hismanner of speaking, he made ample atonement for the fault in the more stirring scenes. The gush of mingled joy and grief with which he threw himself into his daughter's arms, -when he returns to vindicate her cause, and the burst of indigna- tion with which he denounces the tyrant on his judgment-seat as another Tarquin, precluded an electric effect upon the audi- ence. They were struck with admiration of the grandeur and power of his attitudes ; every muscle of his body seemed direeted by the energy of his will. In the scene where he first enters his house after his loss of reason, we thought KNOWLES somewhat too rigid in his action : his fixed stare of va- cuity should have been relieved by a shifting idle gaze on vacancy; be might have moved about purposeless, with wandering step, as though bewildered with a vague sense of deprivation, and only now .and then recollecting that he was seeking hit daughter. But this, perhaps, is hypercritical. In the next scene, where he rushes into the dungeon of Claudius, and demands his daughter, his move- ments were wild and wayward with restless and uncontrollable energy ; how feeble and uncertain, as though his purpose eluded him—and then all nerve and sinew, as the fire that scorched his brain thrilled through his veins. He glared on his victim with the Airy of -a wild beast robbed of its young. His human nature seemed change into a savage instinct, as with falterincrt' step, but -deadly purpose, he staggered, with outstretched hands, to grapple with his prey, as if he would tear the very heart out of his breast It Was fearfully impressive, and equal to the finest acting of
We have spoken of Mr. KNOWLES as an actor only, and without blinking his faults. Our admiration of his talents is notmade up of .allowance for his defects. We admire hiva in spite of them, and not because of them. They are like veins and flaws in a fine marble sta- tue. We have not taken into account his claims as an author even; his merits as an actor do not need shoring up by the collateral aid of his genius as a dramatist. It is on the ground of the energy, feel- ing, and truth to nature of his personations, that his acting is worthy .of the highest praise. He has not the resources of an experienced • actor at command; and he has some physical disadvantages to con- tend against: so much the more extraordinary is his success. His voice is not, sufficiently powerful to fill the immense area of a modern amphitheatre, without being strained ; and the expression .of his countenance is lest to the majority Of the audience, as KEAN'S is. KNOWLES, like every true actor, can only be appre- ciated by being seen near enough to watch the inflections of the face. His ruggedness of Style, accompanied as it is with a hearty and cordial manner, is to Us we confess, a welcome relief from the smooth undulating flow of declamation, and the merely physical and mechanical exercise of the actor's skill, which prevail -at this time on the stage. We do not, however, justify his abrupt, 'hurried, and inarticulate Utterance; which mars the effeet of many fine passages. This fault is of • frequent oceurrence in Mr. KNOWLES 'S Speaking; and we conjure him to strive byall means to'remedy it. It may be difficult, but not impracticable to accom- plish. • It is the only defect which materially interferes with the enjoyment afforded by his acti.ng ; but it does so to a greater ex- tent than he may be aware of. The tragedy was miserably got up; and the other parts were as miserably performed—with the exception of Miss TREE, who looked Virginia beautifully, and acted with chaste and delicate feeling • and WARDE, who made an admirable Dentatus. BEN- NETT played Claudius to the best of his ability; but he is a merely physical actor, and unfit for leading characters. The Roman mob made a most ludicrous show, and helped to spoil—not the illusion of the scene, for the torpidity of the principal part of the dramatis personee prevented any approach to that, but—the inte- rest of those scenes where they appeared. A dozen scarecrows in drab with sticks, whom a parish beadle would disperse with a flourish of his staff, are made to represent the Roman people. This is one of the deficiencies of stage representation, to which we have got so accustomed, that we almost submit to it as to an irre- mediable absurdity. The indifference and automaton action of the secondary persons of the scene is another. But the consequences are, that a dramatic performance as a whole is commonly below mediocrity.