Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thomas Betterton

'...Home and there found Creed, who dined with us, and after dinner by water to the Royall Theatre; but that was so full they told us we could have no room. And so to the Duke's House; and there saw "Hamlett done, giving us fresh reason never to think enough of Betterton. Who should we see come upon the stage but Gosnell, my wife’s maid? but neither spoke, danced, nor sung; which I was sorry for. But she becomes the stage very well...'

Samuel Pepys had poor luck finding fit entertainment on May 28, 1663, as he records in his diary.  Pepys enjoyed Thomas Betterton's acting, mentioning the actor more than once in his diary.  As Robert Lowe points out in his biography "Thomas Betterton", 'We can scarcely wonder, then, that Pepys interjects notes of admiration again and again regarding this great impersonation. "Above all," he writes, on August 24, 1661, "Betterton did the Prince's part beyond imagination." Again, on May 28, 1663, he "saw Hamlett done, giving us fresh reason never to think enough of Betterton." And his last notice of the play (August 31, 1668) appropriately reaches a climax of approval—"To the Duke of York's Playhouse, and saw Hamlet, which we have not seen this year before, or more; and mightily pleased with it; but, above all, with Betterton, the best part, I believe, that ever man acted."...'

 Lowe reports an observation on Betterton's abilities that Pepys and others may have appreciated:

'In The Laureat, a venomous attack upon Colley Cibber, published in 1740, the author specially mentions Betterton's Hamlet. He says—
 "I have lately been told by a Gentleman who has frequently seen Mr. Betterton perform this Part of Hamlet, that he has observ'd his Countenance (which was naturally ruddy and sanguin) in this Scene of the fourth Act where his Father's Ghost appears, thro' the violent and sudden Emotions of Amazement and Horror, turn instantly on the Sight of his Father's Spirit, as pale as his Neckcloth, when every Article of his Body seem'd to be affected with a Tremor inexpressible; so that, had his Father's Ghost actually risen before him; he could not have been seized with more real Agonies; and this was felt so strongly by the Audience, that the Blood seemed to shudder in their Veins likewise, and they in some Measure partook of the Astonishment and Horror, with which they saw this excellent Actor affected."...'

 Walter Scott, being aware of Betterton's reputation, includes the actor's name in the speech of character Will Smith in "Peveril of the Peak":

 '...”Useless? I deny it," replied Smith. "Every one of my fellows does something or other so exquisitely, that it were sin to make him do any thing else—it is your jacks-of-all-trades who are masters of none.— But hark to Chaubert's signal! The coxcomb is twangling it on the lute, to the tune of Eveillez vous, belle endormie—Come, Master What d'ye call, [addressing Peveril,]—get ye some water, and wash this filthy witness from your hand, as Betterton says in the play; for Chaubert's cookery is like Friar Bacon's head—time is—time was—time will soon be no more."...'

No comments:

Post a Comment