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  • Title: Actors' Interpretations of King John
  • Author: Michael Best

  • Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Actors' Interpretations of King John

    1Early actors

    [These descriptions of early actors are taken from A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare, ed. H. H. Furness. Third impression. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1919.]

    From Francis Gentleman, The Dramatic Censor, ii, 167 (London, 1770).

    Mr Quin was the first we remember to see figure away in royal John; and, as in most of his tragedy undertakings, he lumbered through the part in a painful manner; growled some passages, bellowed others, and chaunted the rest. Mr Churchill has sneered at Mr Mossop for browbeating the French king; had he seen and remembered the gentleman under consideration, he would have thought the poor tame monarch in danger of being swallowed up alive by his voracious brother of England. Mr [Thomas] Sheridan has, no doubt, impaired as his faculties are at present, very striking merit; where he is working Hubert to the murder of the prince his utterance and attendant looks are highly picturesque. We allow him to be also deserving of praise where he upbraids Hubert with so readily obeying his bloody orders; but in other scenes of the four first acts, low as they are, he sinks beneath them; in dying, he overacts to a degree of particular offence. Mr Mossop, whom we have been obliged to find fault with upon several occasions, here deserves our warmest praise, and we are happy to give it to him. That stiffness and premeditated method which, in other characters, took off from his great powers and good conception, being less visible in his King John. The rays of glowing merit here broke upon us unclouded and dazzling; where the author's genius soared aloft, he kept pace with equal wing; where Shakespeare flagged, he bore him up; wherefore, we are venturous to affirm that no performer ever made more of good and bad materials mingled together than Mr Mossop did in this play. Mr Powell was too boyish, he wanted weight and depth of expression to excel in John.

    Of the chip-in-pottage French king we shall say nothing, as no actor can make anything of him; nor can his son, for the like reason, deserve much notice. However, we remember two performers that are worth mention, one Mr Lacy, who did more in the Dauphin than criticism had any right to expect; and Mr The[ophilus] Cibber, who was undoubtedly the veriest bantam-cock of tragedy that ever crowed, strutted, and flapped its wings on a stage. The Cardinal is a very well drawn churchman of those times, subtle, proud, irascible; rather prone to promote than prevent public calamities, where his master's interest seems concerned; a mere politician, not incumbered with delicacy of principle, or the feelings of humanity; he is not in favour of the actor, yet appeared very respectable in Mr Havard's performance of him, no other person strikes our recollection.

    The Bastard is a character of great peculiarity, bold, spirited, free indeed, too free spoken; he utters many noble sentiments, and performs brave actions; but in several places descends to keep attention from drowsing, at the expense of all due decorum; and what is very disgraceful to furious composition, causes the weaker part of an audience to laugh at some very weak, punning conceits. Mr Ryan had some merit in this part, by no means equal to what he showed in many others. The unhappy impediment of his utterance being more conspicuous in it than usual. Mr Sheridan has apologized for it, but from what we have already said concerning his executive abilities, the reader may easily judge how very unlike the character he must be. Mr Holland was too stiff, and made too much use of his strong lungs. Mr Smith is pretty and spirited, but wants weight and bluntness. We have seen one Mr Fleetwood appear in it this season, at the Haymarket, with every fault of Mr Holland improved, and all his strokes of merit diminished. If ever Mr Garrick's figure made against him, it was in this part; he struck out some lights and beauties which we never discovered in the performance of any other person, but there was a certain petiteness which rather shrunk the character, and cut short the usual excellence of this truly great actor. Upon the whole, we are obliged to declare that our idea of the Bastard and Shakespeare's meaning, to our knowledge has never been properly filled. Mr Barry, for external appearance and general execution, comes nearest the point. This remark may serve to show that though we greatly admire, and have hitherto warmly praised our English Roscius, we are not so idolatrously fond of his extensive merit as to think him always foremost in the race of fame.

    Hubert, though upon the whole an agreeable agent, is by no means an estimable personage; he appears in a very recommendatory light, and favours representation where there are any tolerable feelings. Messrs Sparks and Berry did him very considerable justice, and Mr Bensley has exhibited him with deserved approbation; we cannot say so much for Mr Gibson. At the Haymarket, Mr Gentleman has passed muster, as not having conceived or ill expressed the part; but we cannot, as a public performer, congratulate him much on the happiness of his figure or features. Prince Arthur is a very amiable and interesting character of the drama; we have seen it done affectingly by several children, whose names we forgot; however, recollect being particularly pleased with Miss Reynolds, now Mrs Saunders, some twenty years since. Who did the revolting lords has entirely escaped our memory, except at Mr Foote's, this summer, and those gentlemen who personated them there may wish to be forgot also.

    5Every one of the female characters are too contemptible for notice except Constance; she, indeed, seems to have been an object of great concern with the author, and very seldom fails to make a deep impression upon the audience; her circumstances are peculiarly calculated to strike the feeling heart; dull, very dull must that sensation be which is not affected with the distress of a tender parent, expressed in such pathetic, forcible terms; even Mrs Woffington, who, from dissonance of tones might be called the screech owl of tragedy, drew many tears in this part; to which her elegant figure and adequate deportment did not a little contribute. A fine woman robed with grief is a leading object of pity. Mrs Cibber, in the whole scope of her great excellence, never showed her tragic feelings and expression to more advantage than in Constance; there was a natural tendency to melancholy in her features, which heightened in action, and became so true an index of a woe-fraught mind, that with the assistance of her nightingale voice, she became irresistable and almost obliged us to forget every other character in raptured contemplation of her merit. Mrs Bellamy fell far, very far short of the forementioned lady, and cathedralized the unhappy princess offensively. Mrs Yates and Mrs Barry have both powerful capabilities for the part, but can never justly hope to equal their great predecessor, Mrs Cibber, who must be always remembered with pleasure and regret by all persons of taste, who had the happiness to shed the sacrifice of tears at the shrine of her melting powers.

    Garrick and Sheridan

    From Davies, Thomas, Memoirs of the Life of David Garrick, i, 332 (London, 1780).

    Shakespeare's King John was played with great success at Drury Lane (1744). The King was personated by Mr Garrick with very great skill, and unusual energy of action; but it must be confessed that Mrs Cibber, by an uncommon pathetic ardour in speaking, and a surprising dignity of action and deportment, threw every actor in the play at a great distance. This had a greater effect, from her having never before attempted characters where power of voice and action were so greatly requisite to express the passions of rage, anguish, and despair. This tragedy had, on Mrs Cibber's engagement at Covent Garden, been discontinued for several years at Drury Lane; but, soon after she returned to that theatre, Mr Garrick revived it in 1755. He then took the part of the Bastard, and gave the King to Mr Mossop. When the two principal characters of this tragedy were divided between Mr Garrick and Mr Sheridan, the former chose the King, and he actually consented that the Bastard should be Mr Sheridan's part. Secretly he was determined to the contrary; and after making some apology to Mr Sheridan, he endeavoured to persuade him to exchange parts, to which he was extremely averse; indeed, I know not for what reason; for though he well understood the sense of the part, yet there is in the Bastard Falconbridge an exuberant wantonness of humour and an excessively romantic spirit of gallantry which Mr Sheridan could not assume, Nor could Mr Garrick, with all his spirit and art, attain perfectly to the full exhibition of the character; he was so defective in the mechanical part of it, I mean height, look, and sinew, that be was obliged to search carefully for a proper actor to play his half brother, one with a consumptive look and a meagre form, to contrast and set off his own person; and though in this he met with tolerable success, yet still there was an apparent deficiency; nor did the speeches which related to the Bastard's manly form produce the expected effect. It is but justice to the memory of Walker, who was the original actor of Macheath, to say that he performed Shakespeare's Bastard in King John with such native humour, spirited action, and vigorous deportment that, I think, no actor has, since his time, given an equal idea of the part.

    Mr Sheridan was, by continual solicitation of the manager, prevailed upon at last to take the part of King John; and in this compliance, I think, he gained great advantage to himself: the deep tones of his voice, and the vehemence of his action, were well adapted to the turbulent and gloomy passions of John. In the scene with Hubert in the third act his representation of the anxiety and distress of a mind which labours to disclose and is afraid to discover a secret big with death and horror was expressed with the feelings of one who is a master of the human passions. That accurate observer of the players' deficiencies, Churchill, could not withhold his approbation of Sheridan's action in King John, though in his panegyric he threw some ludicrous strokes on his excesses in look and action. The play was acted several nights, and was honoured with the King's command. Sheridan's success in King John heightened Garrick's jealousy, especially when he was informed by a very intimate acquaintance that the King was uncommonly pleased with that actor's representation of the part. This was a bitter cup; and, to make the draught still more unpalatable, upon his asking whether His Majesty approved his playing the Bastard, he was told, without the least compliment to his action, it was imagined that the king thought the character was rather too bold in the drawing, and that the colouring was overcharged and glaring. Mr Garrick, who had been so accustomed to applause, and who of all men living most sensibly felt the neglect of it, was greatly struck with a preference given to another, and which left him out of all consideration; and though the boxes were taken for King John several nights successively, he would never after permit the play to be acted.

    A German Arthur

    From Bielschowsky, Albert, Life of Goethe (München, Beck, 1896), ii, 96.

    Among the five members whom the Weimar Court Theatre retained from Bellomo's troupe was Christiane Neumann, scarcely thirteen years old, but mature far beyond her years, an unusually talented and charming girl, who had been a favourite with the public ever since her first appearance upon the stage, at the age of ten. Goethe took it upon himself to prepare her for the highest performances, and his efforts were crowned with glorious success. Unfortunately this early blossom withered quickly. Married at the age of fifteen, she died in September, 1797, before she had reached the age of nineteen. Upon her grave Goethe placed as an unfading wreath of laurel the elegy Euphrosyne. In this elegy he has her describe how he, as her 'teacher, friend, and father,' taught her the first important rôle, that of Arthur in Shakespeare's King John (performed on the 29th of November, 1791):

    Can'st thou the hour still recall, when thou on the stage at rehearsal
    Taughts me of tragical art all the more serious steps?
    I was a boy, and an innocent child, thou calledst me Arthur,
    And in me didst fulfil Shakespeare's poetical dream,
    Threaten'dst with red glowing irons to burn out my sight, then turnedst,
    Deeply affected, away, hiding thy tear streaming eyes.
    Ah! thy heart was so tender, thou sparedst the life full of sorrow
    Which an adventurous leap finally brought to a close.
    Tenderly lifting my shattered form, from thence thou didst bear me:
    Folded so close to thy breast, long did I feign I was dead.
    When I my eyes at length opened, I saw thee tenderly gazing,
    Earnest and still and sad, over thy favourite bowed.
    Childlike I raised up my head, and, thy hands in gratitude kissing,
    Offered thee as a reward innocent kiss on my lips;
    Questioned thee: 'Wherefore, my father, so serious? If 'twas a failure
    Oh I then show me, I pray, how I may better succeed.
    Nought that for thee I attempt doth annoy me, every least detail
    Oft will I gladly repeat, taught and guided by thee.'
    Thou didst clasp me with might and caress me with passionate fondness,
    But my heart at the thought shuddered deep in my breast.
    'No, my lovely one,' thou didst exclaim; 'in every least detail
    Play for the folk on the morn just as to day thou hast played.
    Touch their emotions as mine thou hast touched, and, applauding thy playing,
    Glorious tears shall run down e'en from the dryest of eyes.
    But 'tis thy friend, who embraceth thee, thou hast most deeply affected;
    Likeness of premature death causing him deepest dismay.

    10Mrs. Siddons

    From Fletcher, G., Studies in Shakespeare, (London, 1847), 22.

    The remarks extracted from Mrs Siddons's memoranda on the character of Constance, whom she designates as 'the majestic, the passionate, the tender,' show that she felt and appreciated the essential tenderness of the character more fully and justly than the literary critic of her own sex, [Mrs Jameson]. Still we find, from a careful perusal of the great actress's observations, that the ideas of pride and majesty and command unduly predominate in her conception of the 'gentle Constance.' Our source of this error it is important to point out. The first mention of Constance in the play speaks of her as 'that ambitious Constance'; and we affirm most confidently that there is not another syllable in the piece from which it is possible to infer ambition on her part. It is quite plain that the indolence or carelessness of most readers -- a carelessness or indolence of which we might cite many similar examples -- has caused this description of Constance to pass with them as the dramatist's own view of the character. But what is the fact? That these words come from the lips of Constance's deadly enemy and rival, Queen Elinor, who almost in the same breath confesses to us the fact of her and her son John's usurpation. This same essential fact, attested by their own words, leaves not the smallest scope for ambition in Constance, even supposing that the poet had, which he has not, represented her as loving power for its own sake. Surely it is no more a proof of ambition, that she desires to see her son possessed of a crown which is his birthright, than it is of covetousness for a man to desire the payment of a debt which is justly due to him.

    Yet we find even the acute perception of Mrs Siddons to have been misled by the prevailing prepossession, though, abandoning the most absurd form of it, she says, 'I believe I shall not be thought singular when I assert, that though she has been designated the ambitious Constance, she has been ambitious only for her son. It was for him, and him alone, that she aspired to and struggled for hereditary sovereignty.' The same mistaken impression leads the great performer to speak repeatedly of 'disappointed ambition,' 'baffled ambition,' as among the indignant feelings of Constance at the treachery of her allies. To the same source it must surely be attributed that this interesting critic tells us at the very outset of her observations: 'My idea of Constance is that of a lofty and proud spirit, associated with the most exquisite feelings of maternal tenderness.' This mistake of regarding her, in the grand scene with her treacherous protectors, as possessed by a pride inherent and personal, instead of seeing that her sublime scorn and indignation spring exclusively from her deep, keen sense of violated friendship, now added with lightning suddenness to outraged right and feeling and affection, tent, We suspect, a colouring not quite appropriate, a too predominant bitterness and asperity of tone, to Mrs Siddons's acting of this scene, majestic and wonderful as it must have been. The sarcasms, we fear, were uttered too much in the manner of a woman habitually sarcastic; and she seems to have fallen somewhat into the same error which we have pointed out in Mrs Jameson's criticism, of confounding with mere frenzy the awful poetry that bursts from the tortured heart of the heroine. 'Goaded and stung,' she stays, 'by the treachery of her faithless friends, and almost maddened by the injuries they have heaped upon her, she becomes desperate and ferocious as a hunted tigress in defence of her young, and it seems that existence itself must surely issue forth with the utterance of that frantic and appalling exclamation

    "A wicked day, and not a holy day! ! &c."

    Yet Constance might more justly be likened to a hunted hind than a hunted tigress; nor should her exclamations on this occasion, however appalling, be termed frantic. In all this the poet, ever true to nature, has observed a due gradation. Here, indeed, is grief at its utmost, its proudest intensity; but here is no despair she is not even on the way to frenzy, as we find her to be in the scene which follows the capture of her son.

    J. P. Kemble

    From Hazlitt, William. View of the London Stage (London, 1818, reprinted 1906), 271.

    (King John was revived at Covent Garden, Dec. 3, 1816.) We went to see Mr Kemble's King John, and he became the part so well, in costume, look, and gesture, that if left to ourselves, we could have gone to sleep over it, and dreamt that it was fine, and 'when we waked, have cried to dream again.' But we were really told that it was fine, as fine as Garrick as fine as Mrs Siddons, as fine as Shakespeare; so we rubbed our eyes and kept a sharp lookout, but we saw nothing but a deliberate intention on the part of Mr Kemble to act the part finely. And so he did in a certain sense, but not by any means as Shakespeare wrote it, nor as it might be played. He did not harrow up the feelings, he did not electrify the sense; he did not enter into the nature of the part himself, nor consequently move others with terror or pity.

    The introduction to the scene with Hubert was certainly excellent: you saw instantly, and before a syllable was uttered, partly from the change of countenance, and partly from the arrangement of the scene, the purpose which had entered his mind to murder the young prince. But the remainder of this trying scene, though the execution was elaborate painfully elaborate and the outline well conceived, wanted the filling up, the true and master touches, the deep piercing heartfelt tones of nature. It was done well and skilfully, according to the book of arithmetic; but no more. Mr Kemble, when he approaches Hubert to sound his disposition, puts on an insidious, insinuating, fawning aspect, and so he ought; but we think it should not be, though it was, that kind of wheedling smile, as if he was going to persuade him that the business he wished him to undertake was a mere jest; and his natural repugnance to it an idle prejudice, that might be carried off by a certain pleasant drollery of eye and manner. Mr Kemble's look, to our apprehension, was exactly as if he had just caught the eye of some person of his acquaintance in the boxes, and was trying to suppress a rising smile at the metamorphosis he had undergone since dinner. Again, he changes his voice three several times in repeating the name of Hubert; and the changes might be fine, but they did not vibrate our feelings; so we cannot tell. They appeared to us like a tragic voluntary. Through almost the whole scene this celebrated actor did not seem to feel the part itself as it was set down for him, but to be considering how he ought to feel it, or how he should express by rule and method what he did not feel. He was sometimes slow and sometimes hurried; sometimes familiar and sometimes solemn; but always with an evident design and determination to be so. The varying tide of passion did not appear to burst from the source of nature in his breast, but to be drawn from a theatrical leaden cistern, and then directed through certain conduit pipes and artificial channels, to fill the audience with well regulated and harmless sympathy.

    15We are afraid, judging from the effects of this representation, that 'man delights not us, nor woman either,' for we did not like Miss O'Neill's Constance better, nor so well as Mr Kemble's King John. This character, more than any other of Shakespeare's females, treads perhaps upon the verge of extravagance; the impatience of grief, combined with the violence of her temper, borders on insanity; her imagination grows light headed. But still the boundary between poetry and frenzy is not passed; she is neither a virago nor mad. Miss O'Neill gave more of the vulgar than the poetical side of the character. She generally does so of late. Mr Charles Kemble, in the Bastard, had the 'bulk, the thews, the sinews' of Faulconbridge; would that he had had 'the spirit' too. There was one speech which he gave well 'Could Sir Robert make this leg?' And suiting the action to the word, as well he might, it had a great effect upon the house.

    Frances Anne Kemble

    From Records of a Girlhood (London, R. Bentley, 1878), 359.

    Mar. 13, 1831.

    My dear H---, shut your eyes while you read this, because if you don't, they'll never shut again. Constance is what I am to play for my benefit. I am horribly frightened; it is a cruel weight to lay upon my shoulders; however, there is nothing for it but doing my best, and leave the rest to fate. I almost think now I could do Lady Macbeth better. I am like poor little Arthur, who begged to have his tongue cut off rather than have his eyes put out; that last scene of Constance, think what an actress one should be to do it justice! Pray for me. I have been sobbing my heart out over Constance this morning, and act Fazio to night, which is hard work.

    Your affectionate

    Dear H--- , this is Wednesday, the 23rd; Monday and King John and my Constance are all over; but I am at this moment still so deaf with nervousness as not to hear the ticking of my watch when held to one of my ears; the other side of my head is not deaf any longer now; but on Monday night I hardly heard one word I uttered through the whole play. It is rather hard that having endeavoured (and succeeded wonderfully, too) in possessing my soul in peace during that trial of my courage, my nervous system should give way in this fashion. I had a knife of pain sticking in my side all through the play and all day long Monday; as I did not hear myself speak, I cannot tell you anything of my performance. My dress was of the finest pale blue merino, all folds and drapery like my Grecian Daughter costume, with an immense crimson mantle hung on my shoulders which I could hardly carry. My head dress was exactly copied from one of my Aunt's, and you cannot imagine how curiously like her I looked. My mother says, 'You have done it better than I believe any other girl of your age would do it.' But of course that is not a representation of Constance to satisfy her or any one else, indeed. You know, dear H , what my own feeling has been about this, and how utterly incapable I knew myself for such an undertaking; but you did not, nor could anyone, know how dreadfully I suffered from the apprehension of failure which my reason told me was well founded. I assure you that when I came on the stage I felt like some hunted creature driven to bay; I was really half wild with terror. The play went off admirably, but I lay, when my part was over, for an hour on my dressingroom floor, with only strength enough left to cry. Your letter to A revived me, and just brought me enough to life again to eat my supper, which I had not felt able to touch, in spite of my exhaustion and great need of it; when, however, I once began, my appetite justified the French proverb and took the turn of voracity, and I devoured like a Homeric hero. We are going to a party at Devonshire house tonight. Here I am called away to receive some visitors. Pray write soon to your affectionate


    Hunt, Leigh, Review in The Tatler, March 25, 1831.

    Miss Fanny Kemble repeated last night the part of Constance in King John which she played for her benefit Monday. It is not one of her best performances, especially in the eyes of those who recollect her aunt in the character. It wants movement and effect. It wants passion. We do not mean vehemence, of which it has rather too much, but suffering and impulse. Finally, it wants dignity. There is now and then, in this as in other performances of Miss Kemble, a passing shade of family likeness to Mrs Siddons. Her head dress last night assisted it. But to institute a direct comparison with her is surely unfortunate. The Constance of Mrs Siddons was one of the most natural, passionate, yet dignified of her performances. The passage in which Constance wildly seats herself upon the ground and exclaims

    'Here I and sorrow sit: let the kings come bow to me,'

    20produced no effect last night. All who remember Mrs Siddons must remember its electrical effect, and how marvellously she reconciled the mad impulse of it with habitual dignity. Miss Kemble was almost always stationary in her grief. Mrs Siddons used to pace up and down, as the eddying gust of her impatience drove her, and all her despairing and bitter words came with double force from her in the career. And then what a person she had! and how regal she used to look! hardly more so as Queen Constance than as Mrs Siddons herself! lofty tones and conscious modulations seemed natural in her mouth, as expressing the beauty of all that was ideal both in her theatrical and personal character. In Miss Kemble (without meaning to imply that she is not otherwise quite as estimable a person in every respect) they always carry with them an air of elaboration and assumption -- we mean assumption in the literal sense -- something taken up for the purpose of the moment, and foreign to her in the abstract. Her best passage last night was the quiet and exhausted manner, the momentary patience into which she fell from her general vehemence, just before she resumed it and tore off her diadem. But the performance upon the whole was flat, and thought to be so. Miss Kemble never does anything without showing great occasional cleverness: in some characters, as in the Fair Penitent, she does more; but Constance is certainly not one in which any of her powers is elicited to advantage, not even in the sarcasms directed against Austria, which seemed rather the effusions of quiet spite, than of uncontrollable contempt. We doubt whether she will be tempted to repeat the character often. To mention Mr Charles Kemble's Faulconbridge is to praise it; for everybody knows how excellent it is.

    W. C. Macready

    From Reminiscences, ed. F. Pollock (New York, 1875), 1823, 201.

    King John was the next play of Shakespeare's that added another character to my list. Kemble's reputation in this part had reference chiefly, if not exclusively, to the grand scene of John's temptation of Hubert. On this I bestowed, of course, my utmost pains, but brought also into strong relief that in which the coward monarch endeavors to shift his own criminality on Hubert, a scene to which Kemble, in his impressive representation of the part, had neglected to give prominence. It was in this play that Charles Kemble appeared to very great advantage. His handsome person answered to the heroic idea of Faulconbridge, and his performance of the character was most masterly.

    From Diaries, ed. W. Toynbee (London, 1912), April 19, 1836; Oct. 16, 1836.

    Acted King John in a way that assured me that I could play it excellently; it seemed to make an impression on the house, but I had not made it sure, finished, and perfectly individualized. Some fools set up a monstrous hubbub at the passage of defiance to the Pope, and Mr Charles Dance told me afterwards in the green room that the Catholics would 'cut our throats.' It is a sin or ought it not to be to have the faculty of reason and power of cultivating it by examination, and yet remain so low in the intellectual scale. Mrs Sharpe was very ineffective in the effective part of Constance. What a character! But it is because every line is so effective that common minds cannot arise from one level, and have not the skill by contrast and variety to give relish and effect without great effort.

    From C. Cowden Clarke, Shakespeare Characters (London, 1863), 339.

    [Clarke gives the following account of Macready's performance of King John at Drury Lane in 1842.] 'In the first place, the difficulty of representing the skirmishes and alarms of battle on the stage -- till then historically and proverbially ludicrous -- was on that occasion triumphantly overcome. The siege of Angiers was a serious event. Also, the whole department which is technically styled the "getting up," the scenery, and the costume, were absolutely perfect; it was a gorgeous pictorial illustration of a great dramatic poet. But what I would principally distinguish as the crowning talent displayed in that very fine revival was the conception of the character of King John himself. It was the more artistical, inasmuch as the peculiar moral features of that bad king are rather to be suggested to the imagination than palpably and broadly developed. The stealthy watchfulness, the crafty caution, and the want of faith in human goodness, are all features that demand acute discrimination to perceive, and refined and delicate touches to embody. It requires subdued deportment, self-mistrust, or rather the want of self-confidence -- nice points of character to study, and all which few actors dare to personate with fidelity, because, unless they be understood and appreciated by an audience, it is frequently thought to be tame or under acting.

    The whole character and bearing of John, in the version of Shakespeare, form a striking contrast to those of Henry V. The one is ardent, brave, confident in the love and support of his people -- the true English king; the other, wily, artful, making every movement by a stratagem, and feeling that he holds his subjects by no other tenure than the right of might, and an appeal to the baser passions of their nature. They who call to mind those two brilliant and impetuous speeches those rousing appeals to the zeal of his people in Henry V. beginning "Once more unto the breach, dear friends," in the 3rd Act; and, "What's he that wishes so? my cousin Westmoreland?" the celebrated speech upon the eve of the Agincourt fight; and then draw a parallel between them and the speech that King John makes to the citizens of Angiers in the 2nd Act

    "These flags of France that are advanced here,
    Before the eye and prospect of your town,"

    sneaking his way, as it were, and feeling the pulse, as he proceeds, of those whom he is addressing they, I repeat, who institute a comparison between these speeches in the two plays, will perceive my meaning. These words may be taken as keys to the two characters. In John we have no confiding appeals, no "dear friends"; but the extortionate tyrant to his people appears in such phrases as

    Ere our coming, see thou shake the bags
    Of hoarding abbots; imprison'd angels
    Set at liberty: the fat ribs of peace
    Must by the hungry now be fed upon:
    Use our commission in its utmost force.

    Compare this with Harry Monmouth's courageous and magnanimous reflection:

    "There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
    Would men observingly distil it out,
    For our bad neighbour makes us early stirrers,
    Which is both healthful and good husbandry:
    Besides, they are our outward consciences,
    And preachers to us all; admonishing,
    That we should dress us fairly for our end.
    Thus may we gather honey from the weed,
    And make a moral of the devil himself."

    25And then note his playful intercourse with his soldiers, and those sprightly exclamations to his faithful old adherent, Sir Thomas Erpingham, "God' amercy, old heart, thou speakest cheerfully." Compare his confident reliance on his English bosoms with John's misgivings and doubts, as of a man conscious and feeling that he has no right to the love of his subjects in the scene of his recoronation: "And looked upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes." And again, "I have a way to win their loves again "; as well as his storm of reproach and remorse, and base endeavour to shift the ponderous load of his guilt on to the shoulders of his instrument, Hubert. They who fortunately witnessed the performance will not forget the manner in which Mr Macready impersonated the King, and the artistical way in which he demonstrated the unhappiness of wickedness throughout; the gradual and constant declension of his spirit, its tide being always at the ebb; his small amount of confidence, his suggested consciousness of meanness, guilt, and the loss of all respect; his bearing latterly as that of a man who felt that indignant eyes were flashing on him, and his gait as if surrounded by pitfalls, in short, the general substratum of wretchedness which pervades the whole character, and yet is only known and felt, not blazoned; all this unprotruded demeanour, and which the million do not appreciate, greatly surpassed in merit the conception even of his dying scene, terrifically real as that was. Alexander placed the poems of Homer in a jewelled casket of inestimable price, the shrine being an emblem only of the offering; and the late theoretical regenerator presented the public with illuminated editions of the world's poet; superb, indeed, and wholly worthy of the text, were it only by reason of the zeal with which they were executed.'

    Edmund Kean

    From Hawkins, Frederick.W., Life of Edmund Kean (London 1869), ii, 50.

    Douglas was succeeded by King John on the 1st of June. Miss Macauley had exceeded the tragedian's expectations in Lady Randolph, and he gladly assigned her the part of Constance for the occasion. His King John, without disturbing the impression which John Kemble had created by his performance of the character, was nobly represented. The absolute triumph was won, as might be expected, in the scene where he darkly intimated to Hubert his desire for Arthur's death. Churchill's lines on Sheridan possessed the full extent of their application here:

    'Behold him sound the depths of Hubert's soul,
    Whilst in his own contending passions roll;
    View the whole scene, with critic judgement scan,
    And then deny him merit if you can.'

    In this and the subsequent scene where his remorseful fear prompted to overwhelm the supposed murderer with indignation, his characteristic fertility of expedient and quickness of invention were brought into conspicuous play. The wily, circuitous, and serpent-like approaches in the former derived a vivid and appropriate colouring from his action, voice, and force of feeling, from which they all drew the impulse of 'dire and fatal persuasion'; and the latter comprehended everything that could be wished for, no less than it exhibited a fine combination of energy and skill. In ardent display of fire in his passionate reply to the Cardinal's denunciation, and the qualms of conscience which he suffered when Hubert constantly recurred to the supposed murder of Arthur, were finely drawn, vigorous, and impressive pictures. The natural truth which pervaded the death scene elevated him in that part to a proud superiority over his predecessors. He did not destroy the reality by the exhibition of more energy than belongs to the exhausted powers of a dying man; be did not caricature and posturize in the representation of this awful close of human life. No; his delineation here stood in the place of nature. In the other scenes where studied dignity predominates in the place of passion, he appeared to considerable disadvantage; neither being seconded by that premeditated regularity of art which, indispensable to the due effect of the character in the parts referred to, conformed so well with the statuesque inflexibility of Kemble as to have rendered the King John of the latter one of the most admired and successful of his impersonations.

    30Helen Faucit

    From Fletcher, George. Studies of Shakespeare 27.

    What strikes us first of all in Miss Helen Faucit's personation [of Constance] is her clear and perfect conception that feeling, not pride, is the mainspring of the character; that the dignity of bearing natural to and inseparable from it, and which the advantage of a tall, graceful figure enables this actress to maintain with little effort, is at the same time an easy, unconscious dignity, quite different from that air of self importance, that acting of majesty, which has been mistakenly ascribed to it by those who have attributed to the heroine an ambitious nature. She makes us feel throughout not only the depth, the tenderness, and the poetry of the maternal affection dwelling in a vivid fancy and a glowing heart, but is ever true to that 'constant, loving, noble nature,' which is not more sensitive to insult from her foes and falsehood from her friends than it is ever ready to welcome with fresh gratitude and confidence the return of better feelings in any who have injured her. That intimate association, in short, of gracefulness with force, and of tenderness with dignity, which this lady has so happily displayed in other leading characters of Shakespeare, in her especial qualification for this arduous part -- the most arduous, we believe, of all the Shakespearian female characters -- for this plain reason, that while it is one of those exhibiting the highest order of powers, the range of emotions included in it is the wildest, and the alternations, the fluctuations, between the height of virtuous indignation and contempt, and the softest depth of tenderness, are the most sudden and the most extreme. The principle of contrast, in fact that great element of the romantic drama, as of all romantic art which Shakespeare delighted to employ not only in opposing one character to another, but in developing each character individually, is carried out to the highest pitch by the trials to which the course of the dramatic incident subjects the sensitive, passionate, and poetic, the noble and vigorous nature of Constance.

    We think it one of the most notable merits in the representation of the part by the lady who now personates it, that so far from letting the indignant excitement cast for one moment the slightest shade upon her brow or harshness into her tone when turning to the boy, she follows undeviatingly the poet's indication; and, in like manner as he has made the first effusion poured out by Constance, on hearing her abandonment, one of maternal grief and tenderness only, so amidst her subsequent bursts of indignant reproach and fiery denunciation, in every look and word which the present actress addressed to Arthur, the afflicted mother seems to find relief from those effusions of bitterness, as repugnant to her nature as they are withering in their power, by melting into double tenderness over the beauties and misfortunes of her child. This, we repeat, seems to us to be one of the very happiest features in Miss Faucit's personation of the Lady Constance. Thus it is, for example, that in the first scene with Elinor she renders with such perfect truth and beauty the exquisitely characteristic passage .

    'His grandam's wrongs, and not his mother's shames,
    Draw those heaven moving pearls from his poor eyes,
    Which heaven shall take in nature of a fee:
    Ay, with these crystal beads heaven shall be brib'd
    To do him justice, and revenge on you.'

    Again, in her scene with Salisbury, where Constance is informed of the peace made between the two kings, and where the emotions that agitate her are deeper and more conflicting, we can conceive nothing in acting, or in reality, more exquisitely touching than the expression which she gives to the passage,

    'But thou art fair; and at thy birth, dear boy, &c.'

    The faltering pauses, more eloquent than the finest declamation, must have gone directly not only to every mother's heart, but to every heart present alive to any touch of sympathy. Indescribably sweet, too, in her utterance, are the words

    'Of Nature's gifts thou mayst with lilies boast,
    And with the half blown rose.'

    In those brief accents she breathes to us all the inmost soul of Constance, the idol mother, delicately sensitive and richly imaginative. Nor can anything be more beautiful in itself, or more true to nature and to the poet, than the graceful fondness with which, after throwing herself on the ground in the climax of her grief, she looks up, and raises her hand to play with the ringlets of her boy as he stands drooping over her.

    35We must speak rather more at large of Miss Faucit's acting in the following scene, the most difficult of all in so difficult a part. Undoubtedly, the dramatist conceived of his heroine as of one endowed with the most vigorous as well as exquisite powers. Only such a person could rise to the adequate expression of that towering sublimity of virtuous invective and religious invocation which was indispensable to this part of his dramatic purpose. Equally certain it seems to be that these solemnly appealing and withering scornful passages, demanding above all things the display of what is commonly meant by tragic force, were the most successful parts of Mrs Siddons's personation of the Lady Constance. Not having had the advantage of witnessing those majestic efforts of the great actress, we are not enabled to compare the force of delivery shown in those particular sentences by Mrs Siddons and by the present actress respectively. But we have the means of comparing the force of execution in the present performer with what we conceive that the part itself demands, and in that view we find her personation adequate.

    The force which Shakespeare exhibits in the eloquence of Constance is not the hard force of an arrogant, imperious termagant, such as we see in his Queen Elinor, but the elastic force that springs from a mind and person having all the vigour of a character at once so intellectual, so poetical, and so essentially feminine as that of Constance. To the expression of this highest and most genuine tragic force we repeat that Miss Faucit shows her powers to be not only fully equal, but peculiarly adapted. She has that truest histrionic strength, which consists in an ample share of physical power in the ordinary sense, combined with exquisite modulation of tone and flexibility of feature by turns the firm and the varying expressiveness of figure, voice, and eye. We say this after much attentive study of her acting, especially in her Shakespearian parts; and as regards the perform ' ance of the Lady Constance in particular, how perfect soever Mrs. Siddons may have been in certain other Shakespearian characters, yet, considering her decided deficiency in tenderness, we cannot hesitate to regard the present personation of the heroine of King Johnas truer to that spirit of bold and beautiful contrast which we have already observed, is in the very essence of the part, as it is in that of the whole Shakespearian drama. Thus it is that the caressing of her boy, while seated on the ground, according to the true Shakespearian conception, at once deepens the impression of the preceding words and action which make that sublime enthronement of her grief, and gives bolder effect to her majestically indignant contradiction of the French King's speech in glorification of that 'blessed day,'

    'A wicked day, and not a holy day! &c.'

    and yet more to the personal invective against Philip,

    'You have beguil'd me with a counterfeit
    Resembling majesty, &c.'

    And in like manner, her action and tone, in bending down to clasp her son, with the words --

    'And our oppression hath made up this league!'--

    while they speak all the beautiful nature of Constance, make us the more strikingly and sublimely feel its energy when, as if drawing from her child's embrace the strongest stimulus of which the wronged and sorrowing mother is susceptible, she rises, as it were, to more than the natural height of her noble figure, and lifts high her hands to heaven in the majestic appeal --

    'Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perju'd kings, &c.'

    It is this exclamation of the figure -- this aspiring heavenward of the whole look and tone, and gesture -- that gives, and can alone give, adequate effect to the flashes of scorn that burst, in her glances and her accents, upon the despicable and devoted head of Austria, when he interrupts her invocation, in its highest fervor, with those very characteristic words of his, 'Lady Constance, peace!' This it is, as given by the present actress, that makes her piercing and scorching reproaches seem to be drawn down like the forked lightnings from above, searing and blasting where they strike, and sharpened to their utmost keenness by the practical sarcasm which she finds in the bodily aspect worn by the object of her indignation -- in the 'lion's hide' upon 'those recreant limbs.' This, in all the part, is the passage most requiring the display of physical energy richly and variously modulated, as remote as possible from monotonous loudness and vehemence. Miss Faucit, in her whole manner of rendering this passage, shows how well she comprehends this distinction. By the fluctuating look and intonation, -- by the hesitating pauses, at a loss for expressions adequate to the intensity of her unwonted bitterness, and giving keener force to the expressions when they come, -- she makes us exquisitely feel the stung spirit of injured, betrayed, and insulted confidence and tenderness, more terrible and blighting far than that of mere exasperated pride. And after this climax of her indignation, when the legate appears, as if sent from heaven in answer to her call, most affectingly and impressively beautiful, to our mind, is the expression of the noble nature of the heroine, which her representative gives to the kneeling appeals which Constance makes to the virtuous and religious feelings of the Dauphin.

    Already, in speaking of Mrs Siddons's acting of the part, we have fully expressed our opinion as to the true reading of this important passage. We have here only to add that Miss Faucit gives that reading, as it seems to us, with admirable effect, delivering especially, with all that noble and generous fervour which, we conceive, belongs to it, the unanswerable answer to Blanch --

    'That which upholdeth him that thee upholds,
    His honour; oh, thine honour, Lewis, thine honour!'

    40It is to be regretted that owing to the suppression, in the acting play, of that part of the dialogue which immediately follows, the last words of Constance in this scene --

    'Oh fair return of banish'd majesty!' --

    the crowning expression of her trusting, grateful, forgiving spirit are nearly drowned in their delivery by the too hasty noise and bustle on the stage of breaking up the royal conference. We shall not attempt to speak in detail of this lady's acting in the terrible despairing scene, She renders its anguish-born poetry with a delicacy of expression yet more overpowering than its force. The looks, and tones, and gestures of a performance like this are not things to be described, but to be seen and heard, felt, and wept over. For our own part, long shall we be haunted by those accents, now piercingly, now softly thrilling -- now enamoured of Death, now rushing back to the sweet and agonizing remembrance of her child, now hurrying forward to anticipate the chasing of 'the native beauty from his cheek' -- till her last lingering ray of hope expires, and reason totters on the verge of frenzy. All these emotions are rendered to us by the actress, in all their varied beauty and their trembling intensity. In the concluding exclamation --

    'O Lord! my boy! my Arthur! my fair son!
    My life! my joy! my food! my all the world!
    My widow comfort, and my sorrow's cure!'--

    her voice, it is true, rises almost into a scream; what, however, we would ask, are the whole three lines in themselves, but one long scream of intensest agony? The immediate effect upon the feelings of the auditor is doubtless painful, as the shrieking accents are to his ear; yet both are necessary to the full dramatic force and beauty of the passage.

    The woes of Constance and her son are to be visited in retributive justice on their oppressors; and to sustain our interest vividly through that subsequent portion of the drama it was requisite that the affliction of the bereaved mother should be brought home to us in its darkest and most heart rending extreme. The poet, therefore, conducts her through every stage of desperate grief -- the yearning for death -- the longing for madness the constant craving for the presence of the boy whose image 'walks up and down with her' -- till this last fixed idea finally seizes, burningly and burstingly, on her brain, and consigns her not to insanity, which, as she says, might have made her 'forget her son,' but to a torturing frenzy, hopeless and mortal. Of this her final state on earth Shakespeare gives us one awful glimpse, one harrowing strain, then mercifully hurries her from our sight and hearing. An exclamation like this, then, let us repeat, in justice to the actress, can only have its due effect from being delivered, not with the harmonious modulation of tone appropriate to even the most impassioned words of Constance while her self possession yet remains to her, but rather like the death shriek of a spirit violently parting. Among the other omissions in the acting, we have to regret that of the lines spoken by King Philip in the middle of this scene --

    'Oh, what love I note
    In the fair multitude of those her hairs!
    Where but by chance a silver drop hath fallen,
    Even to that drop ten thousand wiry friends
    Do glue themselves in sociable grief,
    Like true, inseparable, faithful loves,
    Sticking together in calamity!'

    These are wanted not only for the purpose to which Shakespeare ever so diligently -- attended to relieve the feelings and attention of the auditor, by breaking the continuity of the heroine's effusions of despair -- but also to give double effect to those effusions, by the impression which the exquisite poetry of this passage shows to be made by her cureless affliction, even upon the not over feeling personages about her. The dry, cold words which are left in Philip's mouth,

    'Bind up your tresses,'

    are a grievous falling-off. The suppression is an injury to the actress no less than to the heroine.

    Charles Kean

    From Cole, John W., The Lfe and Theatrical Times of Charles Kean (London: R. Bentley, 1859) 1:344.

    In the year 1846 Charles Kean ventured on an experiment never before hazarded in America -- the production of two historical tragedies of King John and Richard the Third on a scale of splendour which no theatre in London or Paris could have surpassed. The scenery, the decorations, the banners, armorial bearings, heraldic blazonry, groupings, weapons of war, costumes, furniture, and all the minor details were so correctly studied that the most scrutinizing reader of Montfaucon or Meyrick would have been puzzled to detect an error. But our brethren of the stars and stripes are utilitarians rather than antiquaries; more inclined to look in advance than to turn over pages of the past, or to pore into ancient chronicles. They appeared not to understand or enjoy with a perfect zest the pomp of feudal royalty, and the solemn display of baronial privileges. The upshot of all was that the expenditure far exceeded the return, and the produce of the second year bore no comparison with that of the first.

    From Cole, John W., The Lfe and Theatrical Times of Charles Kean (London: R. Bentley, 1859), 2:26.

    45[Under the management of Charles Kean, at the Princess's Theatre, London] The Merry Wives of Windsor ran for twenty five nights, and then made way for King John, produced on the 9th of February, 1852. This may be considered the new manager's first great attempt on the plan he has since carried out with such indomitable success. He had long felt that, even by his most eminent predecessors, Shakespeare in many respects had been imperfectly illustrated. He had seen what earlier actors had accomplished. He felt that steps had been taken in the right direction, and longed ardently to press farther on in the same path, to a more complete end. No longer fettered by restraining influences, and confident in the result, although previous experiments were attended by failure, he entered boldly on the enterprise. The result is before the public. It has worked a complete revolution in the dramatic system by the establishment of new theories and the subversion of old ones.

    The time had at length arrived when a total purification of Shakespeare, with every accompaniment that refined knowledge, diligent research, and chronological accuracy could supply, was suited to the taste and temper of the age, which had become eminently pictorial and exacting beyond all former precedent. The days had long passed when audiences could believe themselves transported from Italy to Athens by the power of poetical enchantment without the aid of scenic appliances. In addition to the managerial credit which Mr Charles Kean established by this early effort, and the still higher expectations he gave birth to from the manner in which King John was placed baefore the public, he made an important step in his reputation as an actor of the first class by a very complete and well studied embodiment of the principal character -- one of the most difficult, and perhaps altogether the most repulsive on the stage. There is nothing to assist the representative -- no taking qualities, no commanding energy, no brilliancy, even in crime. All is sordid, contemptible, gloomy, ferocious. Yet there is dramatic strength in this craven monarch, as Shakespeare has drawn him, which has commanded the attention of the greatest tragedians.

    Old stage records tell us how the 'shining' lights of the other days acquitted themselves in this arduous part. John Kemble's performance of the King was considered faultless; Young, following in the track of Kemble, played it with almost equal effect. Many estimated it as Macready's best Shakespearian attempt; and in Charles Kean's list it may perhaps take the fifth place, giving precedence to his Hamlet, Lear, Wolsey, and Shylock. In the Lady Constance Mrs C. Kean stepped out of the line peculiarly recognized as her own, and assumed a character of matronly dignity and agonizing passion, which had been supposed to tax their utmost the surpassing energies of her greatest predecessor, Mrs Siddons. She had performed the part with universal approbation in New York, but had not yet ventured it in London. It was a hazardous undertaking, with the reminiscences attached to it. The result completely took the public by surprise. Never was a character represented with more true feeling and natural pathos; with more convincing evidence of careful study, or a more complete demonstration of having thoroughly caught up the spirit with superior awe, Mrs C. Kean drew more largely upon their tears. Campbell says, in his Life of Mrs Siddons, that it was not unusual for spectators to leave the house when her part in the tragedy was over, as if they could no longer enjoy Shakespeare himself when she ceased to be his interpreter. This sounds very much like a poet's hallucination. The sentence reads with an imposing air, but we have never heard it! corroborated.

    Herbert Beerbohn Tree

    Saturday Review, Sept. 21, 1889, 31.

    Any lover of Shakespeare who went on Thursday to the Crystal Palace eager to see one of the finest of the historical plays, and one which has not been given in London for several years, might well be ready to overlook many shortcomings due to hasty preparation for a single performance, to make allowances for defects of stage management, and to be duly grateful if only he might hear a fair rendering of the play as a whole. Such a playgoer would have been most agreeably disappointed. The performance went without a hitch; the voice of the prompter was almost unheard, and, considering the small size of the stage, which could not but mar the effect of such scenes as those before Angiers, the stage management was excellent throughout. Indeed, the only fault to be found with the mounting of the play is that the arms of England on the banners were those of the present day. We have heard it rumoured that the preparations for producing the play occupied little more than a week, and if this be the case the degree of perfection attained is indeed remarkable.

    To the majority of the audience probably the chief point of interest was the assumption of the part of King John by Mr Tree, whose presentation of a very different Shakespearian character is fresh in all memories. Tall and gaunt, with a rather colourless face, thin light beard, and wandering eyes, he represented well the anxious claimant of a crown not his by right. Perhaps he made rather too much of this aspect of the character; a little more kingly dignity would not have been amiss in the scene, for instance, with the nobles in the fourth act. Mr Tree was at his best in the two great scenes with Hubert -- that in Act III, where he first breaches to him the death of Arthur, and again when he reproaches him with murder. The former scene was led up to by a well-conceived piece of 'business.' The King, weary from battle, sets down his helmet encircled by the crown. Arthur takes it up and puts it on his own head. John, seeing him, snatches the crown away, and his hints to Hubert arise quite naturally from this incident and the thoughts which it suggests. The speech itself was admirably given. The guilty look and the broken utterance, the nervous repetition of the words 'I had a thing to say,' were as good as they possibly could be. The conclusion of the scene lost something of its impressiveness by the omission, whether intentional or accidental, of the significant interchange of words which follows Hubert's promise so to keep Arthur 'that he shall not offend your Majesty.' The text runs thus:

    K. John. Death.
    Hub. My Lord?
    K. John. A Grave.
    Hub. He shall not live.

    50Hubert's impassive bearing through the scene makes John uncertain whether his meaning has really been understood, and this brief explanation is necessary and most forcible. But for some excessive clutching at Hubert's dress Mr Tree's gesture in this scene was as good as his speech, and he made a most effective exit. Equally good in a different way was his defiance of the power of Rome -- which, by the way, ought to have produced more effect than it did on the throng of soldiers and courtiers in whose presence it was uttered. Such a speech in those times would have made all around shrink in horror from him who made it.

    Mr Tree was well supported in his best scenes by Mr Fernandez as Hubert. Next in interest to Mr Tree's King John is undoubtedly the Arthur of Miss Norrey's, whose success was complete. She looked the part to perfection, and spoke her lines admirably. In her scene with Hubert she showed true pathetic power, and produced great effect upon her audience. Her fall from the castle window, by the way, was not well managed, and came dangerously near to provoking mirth. If Arthur must roll through a bush upon the stage, care should be taken that his tumble may not recall memories of last season's pantomime. Mr Macklin as Philip, the bastard, deserves to be spoken of with respect, if without enthusiasm. He has a manly presence and a soldier-like bearing, and speaks his lines with vigour and distinctness, but his emphasis appears to us to be a little mechanical, and to be placed sometimes with regard rather for sound than for sense. Moreover, he does not quite succeed in hitting off the humorous side of the character. The part is one which makes great demands, physical and other, upon the actor. The Bastard is at once adventurer, humourist, and resourceful man of action, and he has, moreover, to perform to some extent the functions of a Greek Chorus. Few actors could do all that the part requires; Mr Macklin does a great deal. Miss Amy Roselle, too, deserves praise, but not unreserved praise, for her performance of Constance. She has force and passion, but she reminds one rather too frequently of the injured heroine of modern melodrama, and has certain tricks of style and gesture which jar on the spectator more in Shakespeare than in a modern play. Her earlier scenes were marred by a gasping utterance, which almost disappeared in the great scene of all, after Arthur's capture, with the King of France and the Cardinal. Here Miss Roselle was at her best. Her delivery of the speech to Pandulph affected the audience as nothing else in the whole play did, but she has not fully mastered the difficult art of speaking blank verse.

    With regard to the remaining characters, it is only necessary to mention the admirable elocution and dignified bearing of Mr Kemble as Pandulph, and Mr Brookfield's clever little character sketch of Robert Faulconbridge. His make-up was excellent, and his stolid stare, awkward gait, and stooping shoulders represented the loutish squire to the life. There was some de- fective elocution among the minor characters, one or two of whom were at times almost unintelligible, but the acoustic properties of the Crystal Palace Theatre probably leave something to be desired, and if Mr Tree ever finds it advisable, as we hope he may, to produce King John at the Haymarket, these little shortcomings will, no doubt, be remedied.

    G. B. Shaw. Saturday Review, Sept. 30, 1899, 420.

    In a nobly vaulted chamber of Northampton Castle are set the thrones of the king and the queen mother. The portly chamberlain, wand-bearing, red-robed, stands waiting on one of the topmost steps of the great staircase. An organ sounds, and he stalks majestically down. After him skips a little jester. A long sombre procession of bowed heads and folded arms, the monks come, chanting a Mass. After them walk the courtiers. The monks pass away through the arches. The courtiers range themselves around the throne. A blast of trumpets heralds the king and the queen mother, who presently seat themselves upon the throne. In the brief parley with Chatillon -- 'new diplomacy,' with a vengeance! -- one feels that not the king, but the sinister and terrible old figure beside him, is the true power, ever watching, prompting, enforcing. Chatillon flings his master's defiance and is escorted from the presence chamber. The ill-matched brothers are ushered in; the straight-limbed elder, splendidly confident and insolent; the younger, lantem-jawed and cringing, grinning with fear. At the foot of the throne the younger whines his cause with quick, wretched gestures. The king suppresses a smile. His eyes wander to the bastard, finding in him 'perfect Richard.' 'Man and no-man' are here -- and elemental situation. Sped by a blow of the jester's bladder, 'no-man' scurries out of the chamber, happy in the acquisition of his gold. The bastard is left exulting in his manhood and the glory it has brought him. . . .

    Under the walls of Angiers Philip of France parleys with his enemy. The queen mother holds out her arms to little Arthur, and Constance reads in her eyes all that would befall him in England. The citizens open their gates, and on a cushion the keys of the city are presented to the two kings, who, hand in hand, pass in to hold revelry. . . . Pandulpho, tremendous embodiment of the Pope's authority, comes to the two kings. John, strong in his mother's presence, receives the curse. Philip snatches his hand away from the clasp of his ally. Torn with conflicting fears, he submits himself to Rome. . . . You see the two armies 'face to face, and bloody point to point.' In a corner of a dark field, fitfully lit by the flames of a distant village, you see the victorious Bastard fell his arch foe and snatch from his shoulders the lion skin of Richard. . . . In a glade of slim beeches John communes with the faithful, grim Hubert. The old soldier stands immovable while his master whispers in his ear. Beyond stands the queen mother, watching with her eyes of ill omen. Little Arthur is plucking the daisies. The king smiles down at him as he passes, and the child starts away. There are some daisies growing near the spot where the king has been whispering his behest. Lightly, he cuts the heads of them with his sword. . . .

    55In the crypt there is no light but from the cresset where the irons will be heated. Arthur runs in, carrying a cross-bow on his shoulders. 'Good morrow, Hubert.' 'Good morrow, little prince. . . .' All the vassals have left their king. The jester who watched the scene from a gallery has fled too. The king takes up the sword and the sceptre, sits haggard upon his throne. Hubert comes in, and the sound of the footstep causes the king to shudder and cry out like a child. But Arthur still lives. Nothing but his death-warrant remains against the king. While the king burns this parchment on the cresset, the monks file into their mass. Up the stairs they go, chanting. The king smiles, and then, still leaning by the cresset, folds his hands in prayer. He walks, with bowed head, up the stairs, abases himself at the altar. . . . It is the dusk of dawn in the orchard of Swinstead Abbey, and through the apple-trees the monks hurry noiselessly to the chapel. The dying king is borne out in a chair. He is murmuring snatches of a song. The chair is set down and with weak hands he motions away his bearers. 'Ay marry,' he gasps, 'now my soul hath elbow-room; it would not out at windows nor at doors. There is so hot a summer in my bosom, that all my bowels crumble up to dust. . . . And none of you will bid the winter come, to thrust his icy fingers in my maw,' The bastard comes in hot haste, and the king, to receive his tidings, sits upright, and is crowned for the last time. He makes no answer to the tidings. One of the courtiers touches him, ever so lightly, on the shoulder and he falls back. The crown is taken from his head and laid on the head of the child who is now king. The bastard rings out those words in which the poetry of patriotism finds the noblest expression it can ever find. . . .

    I have written down these disjointed sentences less in order to enable my readers to imagine the production at Her Majesty's Theatre than to preserve and accentuate for my own pleasure my own impressions. Probably I have omitted many of the important points in the play and in the show. I have merely recorded the things which an errant memory has kept clearest. Most of the points I have alluded to are, as you will have observed, points of 'business' and the stage management. For this I make no apology, I have never seen the play acted before, and I must confess that, reading it, I have found it insufferably tedious. I had found many beautiful pieces of poetry in it, but drama had seemed to be absolutely lacking. That was because I have not much imagination. Lengths of blank verse, with a few bald directions -- 'enter A; exeunt B and D; dies; alarums and excursions' -- are not enough to make me see a thing. (And, I take it, this is the case with most of my fellow-creatures.) Therefore, when I go to a theatre and find that what bored me very much in the reading of it is a really fine play, I feel that I owe a great debt of gratitude to the management which has brought out the latent possibilities. I can imagine that a bad production of King John would be infinitely worse than a private reading of it. A bad production would make the play's faults the more glaring. But a good production, as at Her Majesty's, makes one forget what is bad in sheer surprise at finding so much that is good. I can say without partiality, and with complete sincerity, that I have never seen a pro- duction in which the note of beauty was so surely and incessantly struck as in this production of King John. As for the actual performance, there are many interesting points which, unfortunately, I cannot discuss this week. I shall write about the performance as soon as there are not so many other plays clamouring to be noticed.

    G. B. Shaw, The Speaker, Sept. 30, 1899, 346.

    The King John Revival at her Majesty's is an excellent piece of work. To the present generation the play is virtually unknown -- for few people, it is to be presumed, read chronicle plays for their own amusement, and there was only a sparse audience on that afternoon a dozen years ago or more when Mr Tree gave a scratch performance of King John at the Crystal Palace. I was present on that occasion, but as I remember nothing save the peculiar slipperiness of the cane-chairs in the Palace Theatre, it is plain that Mr Tree's acting then produced no sort of impression on my mind. I should not call his acting 'impressive' to-day -- Mr Tree is not an impressive actor and, for that matter, King John is not an impressive part -- but it is plausible, well-considered acting. And Mr Tree is always lively, he gives you the notion that there is something up, that he is taking a hand in the game. I do not mean that he lacks dignity. Indeed, his John is 'every inch a king' -- even in that scene of the tempting of Hubert to Arthur's murder, wherein both John Kemble (according to Hazlitt) and Charles Kean (according to G. H. Lewes) fell to the ordinary level of melodrama. His death, too, has a certain grandeur (Charles Kean's reminded Lewes of 'the agonies of a Jew with the colic'), though one doubts whether--as with a good many other stage-deaths from poison -- the manner of it would be approved by experts in toxicology. John's sardonic humour and Mephistophelean cunning are the points he seems chiefly to desire to bring out -- as in the scene with Hubert after the murder is supposed to have been done, and in the effective little piece of dumb-show behind Pandulph's back after John's pretense of becoming 'a gentle convertite.' His appearance, whether he is in flowing white robes of white silk or in close-fitting chain armour, is always picturesque; and I was devoutly thankful to find that his make-up owes nothing to a certain portrait of Macready in the part, which is a thing of positively appalling hideousness. These are the chief points that strike me as a playgoer.

    Earnest students, fresh from the perusal of Green's Short History, it may be, will want to know more. As, What is Mr Tree's conception of John's character? and How does he help us to a better knowledge of the true John? The answer is that plays are not played to answer such questions, and that we are not to trouble ourselves about matters which certainly never troubled Shakespeare, and, I should hope, have not greatly troubled Mr Tree, even though he has not had Shakespeare's luck in escaping the age of historical research. The measure of Shakespeare's achievement is well given by Mr Pater (Appreciations, p. 1194), who says the dramatist allows John 'a kind of greatness, making the development of the play centre in the counteraction of his natural gifts -- that something of heroic force about him -- by a madness which takes the shape of reckless impiety, forced especially on men's attention by the terrible circumstances of his end, in the delineation of which Shakespeare triumphs, setting, with true poetic tact, this incident of the King's death, in all the horror of a violent one, amid a scene delicately suggestive of what is perennially peaceful and genial in the outward world.' This is Shakespeare's plan. Mr Tree 'goes and does it.' Et voila!

    But if John is the protagonist of the play, Faulconbridge is, of course, its popular hero. He starts with the immense advantage of bastardy -- an advantage, indeed, on which he insists with somewhat embarrassing plainness. A hero who is at once a fils naturel (the younger Dumas knew all about that), 'one of nature's noblemen,' and at the same time 'kep' out of his rights' (like Arthur Orton), presents an irresistible combination. Faulconbridge has it all his own way, from his knighthood before he has been five minutes at court to the close of the play, when he preactically 'runs the show.' 'Have thou the ordering of this present time,' says John to him; and he has. This is just the part for Mr Lewis Waller, who 'bullyrags' Austria with great gusto, rails at 'commodity' as heartily as though be supposed his admirers in the pit were familiar with the Shakespearian use of that word, and delivers the final patriotic 'tag'

    'Come the three comers of the world in arms
    And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
    If England to itself do rest but true'

    60as though he were defying Oom Paul. On the first night men's heads instinctively turned to the stage box occupied by Mr Chamberlain, who sat tight. The hysterical grief of Miss Julia Neilson's Constance seems overdone. But it is of the essence of hysteria to seem overdone, is it not? After all, it is a part to tear a cat in, and (if my suspicions are correct) gives us an uncomfortable glimpse into Shakespeare's domestic experiences. Mrs Siddons used to shed real tears as Constance at least, so she said; but that was in the sentimental age, and Miss Neilson's eyes are dry. Anyhow, if she cannot act like Mrs Siddons (I do not add 'Thank goodness!' though I sometimes think Mrs Siddons must have been what the Americans call 'a holy terror'), she is a much more beautiful woman. Master Charles Sefton, who astonished the town so much in The Heather Field, astonishes it still more as Arthur. He is a wonderful boy, seeming to live his part rather than to act it. If he is not spoiled by early success -- and he has the air of being a modest, unaffected lad -- he probably has a fine future before him. Miss Lettice Fairfax's Blanche is a 'dainty rogue in porcelain,' and Miss Bateman's Queen Elinor a granite monolith. The Hubert of Mr McLeay, the Austria of Mr McKinnel, Mr Gerald Lawrence's Dauphin, and Mr Louis Calvert's Pandulph are all good. The stage-spectacle is superb -- giving the impression of tumultuous life essential to a chronicle play, which was in some sort a promotion of the kinemtograph. And, as it is also of the essence of a chronicle play to be loosely constructed, tied down as it is by material limitations of the stage rather than by any rigid unity of treatment, I see no objection to the interpolated tableau of The Granting of Magna Charta. It is only a case of putting another slide into the lantern, not of tampering with the text and -- for that matter, if Shakespeare had known as much of Magna Charta as our Modern Board scholars, we may be sure he would have had something to say about it. The great thing, after all, in these Shakespearian revivals is to see that they are something more than mere survivals -- to put new life into them, in short. Mr Tree puts new life into King John.

    Robert Mantell (New York)

    W. Winter. New York Tribune, 9th March, 1909.

    The most important dramatic event of the year occurred last night, when Robert Mantell, appearing at the New Amsterdam Theatre, impersonated King John in Shakespeare's historical tragedy relative to that Monarch, and by a great performance gave conclusive proof that he is a great actor. The character of King John, although not one of the greatest of Shakespeare's creations, is, of all his characters, one of the most difficult of authoritative, enthralling representation, for the double reason that, while it is not uniformly and explicitly drawn, it is embedded in a tumultuous and somewhat distracting profusion of military exploits. Almost all of the first half of the play is devoted to a development of the principal persons concerned in it, and to preparation, by means of debate and the clangor of martial combat, for the portrayal of those persons, in a web of movement essentially dramatic; and during that preliminary period the character of the king is, in a considerable degree, reserved from full disclosure -- for he appears as an intrepid, resolute, expeditious warrior, not openly exhibiting either malevolence, weakness, or guile. When, themfore, after the capture of Prince Arthur, he suddenly reveals himself as a subtle, crafty, treacherous, sinister villain, prompting the perpetration of a dastardly murder, of which he scarcely has the courage to speak, the author's revelation of him in this new light tends to bring with it a sense of discord, and to make the character seem anomalous. Formation of a clear, consistent, definite, practical idea of King John, accordingly, requires keen discernment in a comprehensive survey of the tragedy as a whole, while the effective impartment of that ideal to a theatrical audience exacts the exercise of a consummate faculty of insinuation and extraordinary skill of embodiment. The crowning excellence of Mr Mantell's performance is his interfusion, from the beginning, of malignity with royal arrogance, duplicity with irascible valor, and a lurking incertitude beneath an outside show of power.

    In this respect his acting excels that of Charles Kean, the best and most renowned representative of King John who has been seen here, within a long rememberance of our stage. That interfusion is not accomplished by any expedients of extravagant demeanor, nor by any exacerbations of the traditional Plantagenet temper (John, it is recorded, habitually swore 'by God's teeth !'), but by aspect, movement, facial play, modulations of the voice, and such other close denotements of the personality as, while they cannot perhaps be precisely defined, are intuitively comprehended.

    The actor who is a scholar will, of course, avail himself of whatever biographical information he is able to obtain, relative to peculiarities of appearance and manner known to have been characteristic of any historic person whom he is desirous to represent; but the actor is not justified in going behind the poet's fiction in order to derive an ideal from the historian's alleged fact.

    The character of King John, as represented by History, is far from being identical with the character of King John as represented by Shakespeare. The actual man appears to have been a ruffian, and, though possessed of redeeming qualities (such as promptitude of win, inherent authority and sporadic, bulldog courage), hideously cruel, monstrously licentious, a savage tyrant, perfidious, ruthless, intrinsically wicked: such a man as, being practically almost a barbarian, could not, if literally drawn, be made interesting in a work of art. It should be remembered that the age of King John was one of violence; that, for the most part, the chronicles of his reign proceed from monkish writers, unlikely to be tender of the reputation of a prince who defied the Pope of Rome; and that, whatever may have been his vices and crimes, his sovereignty of England lasted for eighteen years, and was terminated, not by his disposition but by his natural death. The purpose of art, in treating of such a person, -- whether that art be of drama or romance, -- could only be served, as it has been in Shakespeare's play of King John and in Scott's novel of Ivanhoe, 'through a judicious consideration of those facts, and through the conception of a character not compact of merely monotonous brutality, but commingled of many attributes, susceptible of artistic treatment and of more or less sympathetic exhibition.' A savage, occupied in the industry of ordinary crime, is practically useless, whether in a play or in a novel. Character, in order that it may be interesting, must be diversified.

    65Shakespeare, in delineating King John, has largely ignored the testimony of such records as were accessible to him, and -- closely following, as to plot and as to the ground plan of the several prominent persons, an old play, of which the authorship is unknown, but with which Shakesperian scholars are familiar, -- has drawn a man and not a brute. Beneath the magic touch of the poet a burly barbarian is transfigured, so that he becomes a creature of imagination; a being capable of inspiring friendship as well as animosity; a being prone to frightful wickedness, but not immune from equally frightful remorse. The historian Macaulay designates King John as a trifler and a coward. Shakespeare has depicted him as an incarnation of valor, policy, and depravity -- valor that is defeated by rashness and misfortune; policy that is thwarted by remorse and superstitious fear, and depravity that is punished by the defection of his barons and the protracted tortures of an agonizing death, In that way Mr Mantell has apprehended and represented the character, manifesting a broad comprehension of the whole subject, and enriching the stage with a Shakespearian figure not less magnificent than true.

    The dramatic thread of the tragedy is the opposition of King John to Prince Arthur, in a contest for the crown of England, the title to which is lawfully vested in the prince while the possession of it is unlawfully vested in the king. Behind the prince stands his mother, the passionate, picturesque Constance, clamorous for his royal birthright, and frantic in dolorous lamentation when that birthright is bartered. Behind the king stands the arrogant Queen mother, Elinor, inspiring her son to hold, by the strong hand, that sovereignty to which she knows he is not entitled and cannot otherwise maintain; and behind him also stands the gay, martial, buoyant, truculent, honest Faulconbridge, whom no peril can daunt and no obstacle impede. Sometimes in alliance and sometimes in opposition, the scheming potent Philip, King of France, whether as friend or foe, is a continual menace to the English usurper. Behind all, -- the spring and impulse of the action -- stands Cardinal Pandulph, legate of the Pope, prompting to war or peace, as best befits his political purpose to augment the Papal power. Viewed even as a financial epitome of old English History -- while allowing for its compression of events and its proved errors of alleged fact -- the play is exceptionally luminous and vitally interesting. Viewed as a study of human nature it is precious for its substance of truth and marvellous for its beauty of expression. Maternal love and grief are nowhere else put into such superlative words as those of Constance. The exquisite scene in which Arthur pleads and Hubert relents is, of its pathetic order, unmatched and unmatchable. The consistent preservation of poetic tone is not less absolute than the sustainment of perfect fidelity to nature and essential fact.

    King John, in reality, was as contemptuous of the 'bell, book, and candle' of the church as Faulconbridge is in the play. His surrender to Rome, like his surrender to the Barons when he signed the Great Charter, was an act conceived in policy and performed under compulsion for he well knew that what was demanded would soon be extorted if it were not then given. In the tragedy be is shown -- after the death of his formidable mother, and lacking her counsel and support -- to be gradually but surely breaking beneath the affliction of a haunting doubt and a secret terror. Disasters thicken around him. Omens affright him. The fever that is heavy on him has troubled him for a long time. His heart is sick. The death of Arthur, for which he knows himself responsible, is a burden upon his guilty mind. He feels that his friends are falling away. He dreads the power of Rome. He dreads the power of France. Above all things else, he dreads the nameless horror of an inscrutable, retributive Fate. From the moment when King John incites and enjoins Hubert to murder Prince Arthur the atmosphere of the tragedy is tremulous with a fearful apprehension of mysterious, impending doom. From that moment the monarch, though he walks in sunlight, is conscious of the ever darkening shadow.

    As far as possible in his treatment of the play, and entirely and decisively in his performance of the King, Mr Mantell has preserved the atmosphere. He endues the miserable sovereign at once with a dangerous personality, a nervous temperament, a disquieted mind, a sinister look, and an impetuous, irascible demeanor -- making him a man who, while bold in pretention and expeditious in movement, is, furtively, ill at ease, continually rancorous and capable of evil, and yet at vital moments weakly irresolute. His impersonation, accordingly, is all of one piece, so that, when he reaches the King's temptation of Hubert to do a murder, he only fully reveals a nature that he has already indicated. That terrible speech of King John to Hubert -- 'I had a thing to say' he speaks in a hollow undertone, placing, however, a distinct, blood curdling emphasis on the conclusive phrases -- 'Death' -- 'A Grave!' -- and enforcing them with gesture and glance so baleful, and of such fatal meaning, that the observer shudders with horror. The sudden change to grisly exultation, with the words 'I could be merry now!' intensifies that impartment of dread. Indeed, the whole treatment of the temptation scene is admirable for its investiture of wickedness with plausibility, and for its subtle transparency the suggestion of treachery, cruelty, and hideous crime being made in such a way that Hubert's acceptance of it and compliance with it seemed unconstrained and natural.

    The King's convulsive, clinging grasp of the hand of Philip. when the Cardinal threatens the curse of Rome, is a significant forerunner of that submission which his shifting, irresolute mind will, in all its subsequent access of infirmity, make to his spiritual lord, and it is all the more felicitous, as a touch of art, because it follows a splendid burst of passion, in the defiance of the imperious priest. But while Mr Mantell does not in any scene act for 'points,' his finest effects are obtained in the scenes with Hubert and in the death scene. His shrill and querulous denunciation of Hubert, after the defection of the distempered Barons, in the telling words, 'I had mighty cause to wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him,' is exactly in the fitting tone of irrational, panic stricken tremor and self pity, while the frantic revulsion of feeling, when Hubert exclaims 'young Arthur is alive,' is rightly and most effectively made to express itself in hysterical clamor of relief.

    70A singularly fortunate make up intensifies every effect of the actor's part. Mr Mantell's King John, when he is first seen, is seen to be a sick man, feverish in body and distressed in mind. The aspect is singular, menacing, almost repulsive, and yet it is attractive -- possessing the reptile fascination of the serpent. The face is blanched. The gaze of the cruel blue eyes is sometimes concentrated cold, and stony, sometimes wavering and shifting, as in the habit of self conscious evil. The lips are full, red, and sensual. The head is crowned with a shock of reddish hair. The cheeks are covered, but not concealed, by a red, matted beard. The body slightly stoops, and, while it indicates physical strength, it conveys a suggestion that the vital forces will not long prove adequate to sustain it. The movements are quick and, at some moments, spasmodic. A trick of plucking at the hair of the beard expressively denotes a nervous, splenetic temperament, overstrained and with difficulty held in check. At first the voice of the king is clear, stern, and aggressive; later -- especially in the scenes with Pembroke, Salisbury, and the other discontented lords, when he inquires 'Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?' and after he has been apprised of the death of Queen Elinor -- it becomes thin, hoarse, and fretful. No essential detail of the part has been forgotten; no illuminative characteristic of it has been omitted. Thought is manifested in every device of treatment, and prudent care of the voice is shown in an improved and fluent elocution, obedient to each ordainment of design. Those facts possess a decisive significance. Mr Mantell has brought to a task of uncommon magnitude a fine intuition, sedulous study, profound sincerity, and a rare faculty of impersonation, and so the large result of great talents and many years of experience is shown in a noble achievement.

    Mr Mantell's version of King John is not a new version, but the old version authorized by Charles Kean, a little varied, and divided by a larger number of curtains than hitherto used. The more notable of the old actors who, on the American stage, appeared as King John were Douglass, Cooper, Barry, two of the Booths, Charles Kean, Hamblin, and E. L. Davenport. Edwin Booth never acted King John, but his father, J. D. Booth, acted it, and so did his elder brother, J. B. Booth, Jr., with John McCullough as Faulconbridge and Agnes Booth as Constance. In England the part has been less neglected than in our country. Mr Benson has been seen in it, and it was performed at Her Majesty's Theatre by Mr Beerbohm Tree. The scenery used by Mr Mantell is appropriate, handsome, and effective, but like most of the scenery that is provided on such occasions as this, it is obviously new, lacking the depth of mellow color, and tinge of antiquity which would make it impressive. The discreet use of a 'pounce bag' would be beneficial.

    The closing scene of Shakespeare's King John -- in its clear suggestion of picturesque, impressive investiture, in its marvellous fidelity (poetic, and not for even one instant degenerating toward realism) to the afflicting fact of a miserable death, and in the exceeding beauty of its language -- beggars description. In that scene Mr Mantell is at his best; a somewhat rare felicity! for it is not always that a dramatic performance, even when it is of a high order, continues to be evenly, potently, and splendidly sustained until its very end. The situation is a simple one, and all the more exacting for that reason. The King is dying -- poisoned by a monk. 'The life of all his blood is touched corruptibly.' His agony has been terrible. He has been delirious, making 'idle comment' and pathetically breaking into song. He momentarily recovers his reason at the last. He will not die within four walls or beneath a roof. His soul must have 'elbow room.' 'It would not out at windows nor at doors.' He is brought into the orchard of the Abbey. The time is night. A wavering, golden light streams over the form of the dying man, and over the stalwart knights and courtiers who are grouped around him some of them in full armour, others in the sumptuous colored raiment that John, like all the Plantagenets, liked to see. The body of the King, convulsed with pain, is shrunken and withered. His hair and beard are dishevelled. His face is ghastly, and, as seen in the flickering light, it gleams with the gathering dew of death. He has thrown aside his rich attire, and is clad in black trunks and long black hose, with a white shirt, torn open at the throat; around his shoulders there is a loose robe. A more piteous spectacle -- made awful with mysterious, grim, and weird environment -- has not been seen; and Mr Mantell makes the illusion so complete that the theatre is forgotten. The threadlike, gasping, whispering, despairing voice in which he utters the dying speeches of King John -- the abject, pitiful supplication that his kingdom's rivers may be allowed to take their course through his burnt bosom -- can only be heard with tears.

    If pity and terror be the legitimate object of tragedy -- touching the heart and thrilling and exalting the mind -- Mr Mantell, assuredly, has accomplished its object. Wonderful death scenes have, at long intervals, been shown upon our stage: those, for example, of Ristori in Queen Elizabeth; Davison in Othello; Edwin Booth in King Lear; Henry Irving in King Louis; Salvini in Conrade. The death scene of Robert Mantell's King John is worthy to rank with the best of them. The art of it is superb. The monition of it should sink deep into every heart. To each one of us the hour of death must come the forlorn, abject isolation from humanity -- the awful opening of that dread pathway which every human being must tread alone -- the great mystery -- the piteous solitude, when mortality breathes its last sigh and murmurs its last farewell.