24 Pages

An Essay on the Stage; or, the Art of Acting

Printed anonymously and signed merely ‘A Comedian’, the poem is presumably authored by a ‘young Gentleman’ who had no intention of publishing it and hence did not have a chance to correct ‘some few Errors’ that found their way into it. e poem is obviously in uenced by Aaron Hill’s e Art of Acting, but also follows the format of other eighteenth-century acting treatises, with its brief obligatory mention of the Greek and Roman stage, its emphasis on natural talent for acting (‘genius’) as opposed to training (‘precept’), its references to classical authorities (here, Quintilian and Horace), its protracted advice to aspiring actors about the writers whose works they ought to read (Shakespeare, Fletcher, Nathaniel Lee, Terence, Plautus, etc.) and the skills they need to master (e.g., ‘the grace of attitude, and art of speech’), and its list of contemporary actors the author deems exemplary (Garrick, Quin, Barry, John Lee, Ryan, Wo ngton, Clive, Cibber and Pritchard).