THE dramatic spectacle of the Jewess. which was produced at Drury Lane on Monday, after the Siege of Rochelle, is the triumph of stage show. The pageantry, in itself superbly picturesque, and effective beyond comparison with former displays, is not only subservient to, butt illustrative of, the drama ; and keeps its proper place as a splendid accessory. Nothing irrelevant to the story is made an excuse for accu- mula.ting finery, whilst no legitimate opportunity for introducing striking scenic effects.is neglected. There is no senseless tawdriness of deco- ration surfeiting the eye with gilding and trumpery; the richness is all characteristic, and tends to develop the nationality and to indicate the precise period of the incidents. In a word, it is an historic spectacle- s. series of living pictures, embodying the manners and feeling of the times, and carrying us back into a bygone age.
This praise belongs, however, in the first place, to our Continental
neighbours, the French ; for the drama is only an English version of SCRIBE'S La Juice ; and the costumes are taken from the French stage—in so far as they are new and correct. The music, too, is se- lected from HALEVY'S opera ; but neither its quantity nor its quality calls for criticism : it is limited to a chorus or two, and some melodra- matic flourishes, which are not more empty and noisy than usual.
The scene is laid in Constance, in the beginning of the fifteenth.
century ; that city being the place where a solemn festival is held in honour of the successes of Leopold, the son of the Emperor Sigis- mund, over the Church Reformers under John Huss. The event is to be further celebrated by the marriage of Leopold with the Princess Eudocia his cousin. Leopold, however, has an amour with Rachel, the daughter of Eleazar, a wealthy Jew, whom be wooed in the cha- racter of it Hebrew youth. Leopold urges Rachel to fly with him ; but she refuses to leave her father : by and by the father, after some natural Hebrew reluctance, consents, if her lover will first marry her. This Leopold refuses ; and being pressed by the Jew, avows himself to be a Christian, and precipitately leaves the house. Rachel follows ; traces him to the palace ; and procures herself an appointment as one of the Princess's attendants. Just as the nuptials of Leopold and Eu- doria are about to be celebrated, she comes forward, and, in a fit of jealous deaperation, denounces him as guilty of an illicit commerce with herself, a Jewess—a crime for which the law dooms both parties. to death. She subsequently retracts the accusation, to save her lover ; but herself and her father are nevertheless condemned to be plunged into a boiling cauldron for the false accusation. The horrid sentence Is about to be inflicted ; when the Cardinal de Brogny, addressing the Jew, offers to, save both him and Rachel if he will declare where the daughter of the Cardinal, whom the latter had supposed dead, but the Jew declares still alive, is to be found. The Jew, stung by persecu- tion, and looking for revenge as a miserable satisfaction for the tortures he has just undergone to wrest the secret from bim,—finding also Rachel resigned to her dreadful fate,— refuses. The Jewess ascends the steps and reaches the cauldron's brim : a shout from the populace rends the air ; the Jew, on his litter, imagines the heroic maiden has made the fatal plunge, and with his dying breath he tells the Cardinal that Rachel is his lung-lost daughter! The curtain falls on the restoration of Rachel to her real father, the Cardinal.
In the original, we understand, the Jew's vengeance is consummated by the sacrifice of Rachel, after which he is seen resolutely mounting the steps to his own fate as the curt tam falls : a horrible catastrophe,
but terrifically tragic. The present termination is inconsistent with character and probability. But it was considered necessary to mitigate the horror of the scene. In the same spirit, we remember, the catas- trophe of the Red Mask was altered, because the audience were dis- gusted by the mimicry of a beheading on the stage. So, because people very naturally recoil from the actual representation of death by the executioner, the spirit of a tragic drama is to be violated by converting the terrible catastrophe into a happy termination. Our readers know that we are no advocates for the introduction of needless horrors on the stage in any shape, and should no more desire to see the semblance of an execution by the axe or the boiling cauldron than by blazing fagots or the gallows. But to alter a catastrophe because it happens to be an execution instead of a murder, is absurd. Both are violent deaths; but in the case of a murder, even in cold blood, the passion of the drama redeems its foulness, while an execution shocks the senses by its gratuitous horror—it being an act without a motive in so far as the relation in which the victim and the slayer stand to each other is considered. The fatal consummation should in such cases be merely indicated by the falling of the curtain on the exit of the person to the scaffold ; or the sound of a gong, the toll of a bell, or any audible sign might intimate it to the driller imaginations among the audience. La Juice, the original drama, is skilfully constructed, so as to wind up the interest of the plot to the highest pitch. The success of the Jew's scheme of vengeance gives a grandeur to its malignity; and the retri- bution on his Christian persecutors is almost sublime. The horror at the dreadful fate of Rachel is mitigated as regards her by the reflection that her affections are blighted, and that death is a merciful release to her. As it is, poetical justice is Violated; for the Jew, who is the op- pressed and injured party, is foiled in every way, while his persecutors triumph completely. No doubt, this is sometimes the case in life— for instance, in Ireland, hitherto, in the case of the oppressed Papists. The acting of VANDENHOFF, as Eleazar the Jew, is vigorously natural and powerfully affecting. his bursts of anger and passion show like real feeling. In characters of this kind be displays a mastery of his art, and never lets the actor appear before the dramatic personation. ELLEN TREE disappointed us in Rachel. She said and did what was set down for her very gracefully and properly, but was deficient in till- ing up the outline ; so that her performance, though often pathetic, was as a whole unequal and formal. She may improve, however, as she becomes more at home in the part : at present she seems to take her tone rather from the stiff and mechanical stage manner of her lover, COOPER, than the earnestness and impassioned fervour of VAN- DENHOFF. WARDE, as the Cardinal, suited the cold statue-like hard- ness of the artificial character well ; but where the churchman softens into the father, he was loud instead of being subdued.
For the spectdcle we scarcely know which part to select for praise, since every scene is equally characteristic ; even the most unassuming, .such as the interior of the Jew's house, and a Gothic apartment in the palace, being, as far as they go, perfect in pictorial effect. The view in the city, showing the winding street or close through which the grand procession passes, is highly picturesque in itself, independent of the pageant : but the most nova and effective is certainly the last, where the city is seen in the distance, bounding an immense amphi- theatre filled with people to witness the immolation of the Hebrews. The front of the stage represents a raised platform, on which the Emperor and the dignitaries are seated, and from which the prisoners are to proceed to the fatal cauldron ; so that the heads only of the soldiers and crowd surrounding the place of execution are visible in the fore- ground. The way in which the painted figures and the real persons are blended together, so as to produce the complete coup-d'ceil of an immense multitude, is a masterpiece of scenic effect. This beats the
real crowd" in Gustavus, hollow, The GRIEVES have here shown themselves masters of interiors and architectural effects ; though STANFIELD is sadly missed in the landscape view from the palace gardens.
The procession of the Provost and Cardinals to the mass is charac- teristically picturesque in the details as well as the general effect : but
the entree of the Emperor, attended by the Grand- Marshal and six
other Knights, all armed cap-a-pie in polished steel,—escorted by a guard of bowmen in coats of mail and demi-cuirasses with steel thigh and knee. plates, and by a troop of billmen in party-coloured liveries, followed bya retinue of nobles, priests, and officers, in appropriate costumes,--is the grand pageant of the piece : and for characier and picturesque effect it is unique in the annals of stage representation. The high conical caps with streaming veils of the ladies—the mantles of the nobles, embroidered with heraldic devices, and their red turban- like caps with long ends flowing down to the girdle—the motley dresses of the pages, one leg blue and the other white—the red hats and dresses of the Cardinals, the gorgeous vestments of the priests, and the Provost with his black velvet cloak starred with gold—these inter- spersed with the metallic glitter of armour, and the blazonry of ban- ners, produce an effect so various and exciting that the eye is never wearied, because the mind is engaged at the same time, for every thing has a meaning. This procession moves across the front of the pit on a platform before the orchestra, which thus looks like a great gash in the stage. One or two of the horses proved some- what unruly on the first night ; and not only the musicians but the audience were alarmed, so that the quadrupeds do not now cross the platform, but file off and fall in again. The winding of the pro- cession through the street, and its passage across the pit, has a very striking effect—which the platform certainly aids considerably : so that this is not mere trickery, and the encroachment, which BUNN'S trinn- peters were careful to puff as taking up fifteen pounds' worth of room, is worth the sacrifice to the Manager. The armour is very complete ; and its cold dull gleam gives additional value to the gilding and co- lours. This has been manufactured in Paris—at an enormous expense, it is said. It is probably the same that was used in the original piece, mid which might be hired. The suit that the Emperor wears is gilt ; and the appearance of KING (the actor we mean) in the helmet-crown and gold armour is magnificent. In short, the whole pageant is truly Chivalrous.
Yet we dare say that this spectacle did not cost so much to get up — positively perhaps, certainly not comparatively —as others of a worthless kind. Not that we mean to disparage it on this score, for we do not estimate the merit of a stage representation by its cost. We mention it to show that taste and knowledge may make a little money go a great way. That this stage-show was not got up with an utter disregard of expense, is evident from the intrusion of some faded spangled kirtles of a nondescript fashion among the nobles, and the ap- pearance of two or three bunting red turbans intended to match with the scarlet caps, but evidently of Turkish fashion. The calimanco of the Cardinal's robe, moreover, is somewhat of the scantiest. This is penny-wise economy. There is no objection to calimanco for a Cardinal, provided he has an ample train ; or to faded jackets, provided they be of the right fashion—though the tarnished spangles show most shabbily beneath the new scarlet caps. Let the semblance be complete, and we care not if the velvet be of silk or of cotton, or the coats be of cloth or serge. The interest of the drama and the characteristic splendour of the spectacle combined, will make this piece lastingly popular. It deserves a place as a first piece ; which were it merely a pageant it would not. Being visible at half-price, we are only surprised that the upper boxes do not overflow as they did on thefirst night.