« AnteriorContinua »
still more trivial, indecorous, or absurd, than it would be in private conversation.
13. The want of the observance of time in gesture, which seems to disjoint the action, and separate it from the expression of the voice.
A gesture made before or after the emphatic word. to which it naturally belongs, is entirely out of place. The moment when a given action must come to its acmé, or to its closing movement, is precisely that of uttering the accented syllable of the emphatic word. The impulse given to the frame by the energy of emphasis, being exactly at this point, whatever motion of the arm is to accompany it, must fall, (if performed naturally,) in strict coincidence with it. Hence the necessity of timing the preparatory movement of gesture, so that the action of the arm shall neither outstrip, nor lag behind, the prominent force of voice.
14. The neglect of the preparatory movement of gesture, by which action is rendered either too abrupt or too confined.
Every rhetorical action consists of two parts, a preparatory and a terminating movement. A gesture performed by the human arm must necessarily be so far complex; as the hand cannot, with propriety of effect, or even with ease, spring at once to a given point. A deliberate and dignified manner of action, derives much of its character from the accommodation of this preparatory motion to time and space; performing it with due slowness; avoiding hurry or jerking quickness; allowing it also free scope for the natural and unconstrained play of the arm, and, sometimes for the appropriate sweep of the style of gesture. Quick, narrow, and angular movements render action mechanical and ineffective. This result usually takes place in consequence of delaying gesture, till the emphasis occurring leaves no adequate time for forming a full gesture: a brief, hasty, and very limited movement, is accordingly produced, in the manner that would necessarily exist if the arm were repressed by material obstacles. This
fault sometimes arises, however, from the opposite error of anticipating the gesture, and commencing and finishing the preparatory movement too soon; the arm remaining in suspense for the occurrence of the appropriate word, and then suddenly dropping into the gesture.
15. Using, with unnecessary frequency, the gesture of the left hand, and, sometimes, in alternation with that of the right.
The left hand may be used exclusively, if the person or persons addressed are situated on the left of the speaker; as by one of the speakers in a dialogue, or in an address which is so composed as to be directed to different portions or divisions of an audience, separately, as in the opening and closing addresses at an exhibition. The occasional use of the left hand in the delivery of a long speech, is a natural and agreeable change, in passing to a new topic of discourse, or entering on a new strain of emotion in recitation. [See Figs. 12, 13, 45, 49, 53.] But too frequent recourse to it, or to use it in the early part of an address, destroys its good effect; and to use it in an alternate and antithetic manner, to correspond to the action of the right hand, has a studied and mechanical air of precision, unfavourable to the general style of delivery.
16. Too frequent use of both hands in the same form of gesture.
The occasional use of both hands, in warm and earnest appeal, in the expression of thoughts of vast extent, or in the intensity of poetic emotion, is favourable in its effect. [See Figs. 46, 50, 54.] But it should be reserved for such circumstances in delivery, and not introduced at random, or for imaginary variety.
17. Making gestures occasionally, and by fits; the hand dropping, at every interval of a few moments, to the side, and then rising anew to recommence action.
The dropping of the hand has properly a meaning attached to it, as much as any other action used in speaking. It ought to indicate a long pause, and a temporary cessation of speech, as at the close of a paragraph or of a division of a subject; or it may be used in recitation to denote grief, or any state of mind which quells the expression of gesture, or which for a time cverpowers the feelings, and suspends the utterance. Generally, the hand should not drop at the conclusion of a gesture, but should either remain, for a few moments, suspended, in the position in which the last gesture closed, or pass into the preparation for a gesture following. The use of the suspended hand apfears natural and expressive, if we advert to its effect in conversation, or in appeal and argument. Gesture tecomes,-in this way,-easy and unobtrusive, and ceases to attract the eye unnecessarily; while the perpetual rising and falling of the hand in the irregular manner above alluded to, makes gesture unnecessarily conspicuous, and gives it an air of formality and parade.
The abrupt discontinuance of gesture by twitching back the hand, somewhat in the manner of sudden alarm, has a very bad effect; yet it is a fault to which young speakers are very prone, from their embarrassment of feeling.
An upward or inward rebound of the hand, after the termination of the gesture itself, is often added to the frequent return of the hand to the side. Dropping the hand heavily, and allowing it to shut as it drops, is another fault of this class. The speaker's action is apt, in consequence of such gestures, to become a succession of flourishes of defiance, rather than of persuasive movements.
18. Using gesture without regard to the character of the piece which is spoken, as plain or figurative, moderate or empassioned in style.
A figurative style of language forms at once an expression and an excitement of imagination, or the active states of thought and feeling combined. It implies, therefore, a full activity of manner in the speaker.
The intense action of mind influences by sympathy the corporeal frame, and impels to gesture; and the absence of action, in such circumstances, creates an unnatural disruption or separation of the mutual influences of mind and body.
Narration and description in plain style, however, make no demand for gesture, in circumstances of excited feeling, arising from other causes than those which exist in the language uttered at the moment,—a case which would be exemplified in the statement of a fact connected, but not immediately, with an injury or grievance, or in the commencement of a narration which is to terminate tragically, or in the description of the scene of a remarkable event.
Neither does common definition, statement, or explanation, or unempassioned discussion, call for gesture, unless in very moderate forms, and at intervals. Whatever is addressed purely to the understanding, can derive little aid from rhetorical action. Feeling and imagination are the great springs of gesture; and without these to impel it, it becomes lifeless and mechanical.
19. Placing the hand upon the heart irregularly, without attention to the nature of the feeling, or the circumstances of speech under which this action is appropriate.
This gesture is applicable chiefly to the personal feelings of the speaker; and, in a very vivid style of description, as in the recitation of poetry, it may be used in allusion to deep internal feeling, contrasted with that which is produced by external causes. Thus, it may appropriately occur in the second of the following lines:
"Slight are the outward signs of evil thought; Within, within; 'twas there the spirit wrought."
But, generally, this form of action is erroneously applied to all cases of inward emotion, and sometimes even to the bare mention of the mind and heart, in contradistinction from the body.
The errors in the mode of making this gesture are
very numerous. 1st. Placing the hand on the pit of the stomach, instead of on the breast. [See Fig. 33.] 2d. Bringing the hand round towards the left side. [See Fig. 34.] 3d. Elevating the elbow as in the manner of playing on the violin. [See Fig. 35.] 4th. Hugging the body with the whole arm. [See Fig. 36. 5th. Touching the breast with the thumb, in the manner of familiar and humorous representation. [See Fig. 37.] 6. Pressing the tips of the fingers against the heart. [See Fig. 38.]
20. Making gestures across the speaker's body.
This fault takes place in dialogue, when one speaker employs the hand which is farthest from the other speaker, instead of using that which is nearest to him. An awkward and feeble sort of gesture is thus produced; or the speaker is compelled, in using it, to turn his side to the audience, which destroys the effect of dialogue, by hindering the full view of the persons and countenances of the speakers. [See Fig. 39.*]
When this fault occurs in single declamation, it has a very objectionable air of display and assumption, in its upward lines, and a want of speaking effect, in its lower movements. [See Figs. 41 and 42.]
21. An inward sweep of gesture, instead of an outward, downward, or upward movement.
This fault has a left-handed air, which borders on the ridiculous, and adds no force to delivery.
22. Involuntary and inadvertent gestures, arising from embarrassment and confusion.
Faults of this class are too numerous and varied, to admit of description in an elementary book. The principal are a twisting and working of the fingers, a dangling of the hand, an unintentional clenching of it, or thrusting it into the pocket, or resting it on the side, a sympathetic motion of the unemployed hand, in
*The correct position for dialogue is exemplified in figure 40.