As far as the picture of Hamlet goes, Mr. Tree deserves much praise. He is graceful and well-knit, and he suggests extremely well a melancholy, northern prince. But his presentation of Hamlet is to a very great degree confined to the trappings and outward show.
The business of the part was almost uniformly good. Mr. Tree's thrusts with his sword at the empty throne after the play scene, his returning to stroke Ophelia's hair after his great scene with her, and his coming back to strew flowers upon Ophelia's grave, though not such bad touches in themselves, are characteristic of the whole part, which is light and melodramatic. The lines of the part are spoken with sensibility and taste, and the time of the verse is good. But on account of the limited range of his voice, Mr. Tree is unable to bring out the various music of Shakespeare's verse. His Hamlet was melodramatic, theatric, and moved brilliantly along over the surface of the poet's intention. Often, indeed, Mr. Tree dipped below the surface, but never sounded the depths. His Hamlet appealed to the eye, the ear, the nerves, sometimes to the heart; but seldom convincingly to the understanding, or deeply to the spirit. In general Mr. Tree treated the text with respect and with artistic skill.
The lecturer regretted that the limited time at his disposal prevented him from speaking of all the players that he had intended to speak of, but that he would take up the three greatest performers he had ever seen - the elder Salvini, Madame Janauschek and Eleanora Duse.
Many people have criticised the acting of Salvini in the part of Othello, saying that Salvini made Othello a barbarous, savage, lustful Moor, instead of the noble, dignified character that Shakespeare intended him to be. A very good argument, however, might be made for the presentation as Salvini gave it. Salvini was savage, but the part is a savage one, as is shown by Othello's deeds. Yet throughout the play Salvini was always a noble barbarian.
In 1886 Salvini and Booth acted together in the Boston Theatre. The acting was simply marvelous, for both actors were influenced by the suppressed excitement and deep interest of the audience.
Madame Janauschek has the complete equipment of genius on the stage; that is to say, not only the utmost skill of her art, but the more divine gift of quickly stirring her hearers with the passion of the scene. Notwithstanding her achievements as Brunnhilda, as Medea, as Lady Macbeth, and as Queen Katharine; probably her most memorable contribution to the history of the stage is the double character of Lady Deadlock and the French maid Hortense in the adaptation of Dickens's Bleak House.
In this piece Madame Janauschek's dressing of the two characters was not more absolutely distinct and individual than her dramatic representation of the lady and the lady's maid.
Madame Eleanora Duse, who was first seen in this country only two years ago, is not less remarkable, in her own most modern way, than the two players already named. The completeness with which she lives her character in the Cavalliera Rusticana; her quick, vehement, peasant-like gestures; her clumping across the stage in awkward peasant shoes; her subsidence toward the end of the play into a hooded statue of grief, are exhibitions of her talent which will be remembered even longer than the untheatric pathos of her "Camille," or the bewitching gaiety and extraordinarily mobile skill of the coquettish Locandiera.
On next Tuesday, April 9, Mr. Copeland will speak of the town of Concord, not only in its present aspect, but also in its relation to the history and literature of the country.