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mind the plan that the reading of the message would
naturally have suggested to me.

The frightful soliloquy in the scene which follows the
departure of the messenger, reveals all the diabolical
perfidy and cruelty of this monster in human likeness, and
this inhuman power with which she is armed in order to
succeed in leading her husband to become the instrument
of her ambition. In a word, she becomes the Satanic
spirit of the body of Macbeth. He has a hard struggle
between the "wishing and not wishing"; that woman.



i66 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

that serpent, becomes absolute mistress of this man,
entwines him in her grasp, and no himian power can ever
tear him from it. Consequently, the first words of this
monologue I pronounced in a cavernous voice, with my
eyes bloodshot, with the accent of a spirit which comes
from the abyss, and I ended it with a crescendo of
thundering voice, which changed into an exaggerated
expression of joy on beholding my husband enter.

During this first scene with Macbeth I show a cold,
reserved and patient demureness, not minding at all the
weak denials of my husband in his endeavour not to
listen to my criminal insinuations. I make it apparent
that he will have to yield to my influence. I therefore
imagined a counter-scene at the exit of the person cf, in
order to portray the powerful fascination that this woman
exercised upon her husband. I fancy that Macbeth wished
to interrogate me again and ask of me further explana-
tions. For the purpose of preventing him, I had the
thought of inducing him to pass his left arm around my
waist. In that attitude I take his right hand and placing
his index finger upon my lips I charge him to be silent,
in the meanwhile I am slowly pushing him behind the
wings, his back turned to them. All this was executed
with a mingling of sentiments and magnetising glances,
which fascinations Macbeth could not very well resist.

The hypocrisy, the false himiility of Lady Macbeth
must be excessive when she goes to meet King Duncan,
and with the most perfidious, simulated sweetness
invites the old man to enter the castle.

In the following scene between Lady Macbeth and
her husband, it is necessary to delineate clearly and
strongly two things: First, her energetic reproof of
Macbeth for his pusillanimity in not wanting to do at
that moment what he had wished a little before — a sud-
den change of mind caused by his vacillating conscience;
second, in contrast with this energy, the fiendish per-
suasive art that she brings into play in order to render
simple and natural the plan of the proposed crime and the
impossibility of its detection.

Various are the terrible passages of this scene. The
most majestic is the one in which Lady Macbeth



LADY MACBETH 167

reproves her husband for having so abruptly left the
scene, causing his absence to be noticed ; and the other in
which Macbeth begs his wife not to press him any further,
as the carrying through of the projected crime would be a
horrible ingratitude . . .

To such a prayer the perfidious woman replies:

" Was the hope drunk

Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?

And wakes it now, to look so green and pale

At what it did so freely? From this time

Such I account thy love. Are thou afeard

To be the same in thine own act and valour

As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that

Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,

And live a coward in thine own esteem.

Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'

Like the poor cat i' the adage ? "

Everybody knows that she makes allusion to the
proverb: "The cat would take the fish without wetting
his paw."

Macbeth " . . . . Prithee peace

I dare do all that may become a man ;
Who dares do more is none."

At this point Lady Macbeth, in the fear of seeing all
her ambitious dream vanish away, in a diabolical tone
says:

" What beast was't then

That made you break this enterprise to me ?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both :
They have made themselves, and that her fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender 't is to love the babe that milks me :
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this."

After this the vacillation which is characteristic of
the nature of Macbeth induces him to ask his wife :

". . .... If we should faU?"



i68 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

To which I answer in a sneering way:

" Wefail.

But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep —
Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
Soundly invite him — his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and wassail so convince
That memory, the warder of the brain,
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
A limbeck only : when in swinish sleep
Their drenched natures lie, as a death.
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell?"

These textual fragments are sufficient to me to con-
firm my interpretation preceding these lines.

I jump straight to the second act, there being only
some clear situations furthering the procedure of the
action which do not offer any difficulty in their interpre-
tation, though they embrace the tremendous impressions
which, later on, torment the waking hours and cause the
agony of Lady Macbeth. All will easily understand the
anxiety that she experienced to discover the result of
the attempt against Duncan's life, which she had so well
planned ; the joy of knowing that it was done, the agita-
tion arising from terror which dominated her, the fear
and the exaggerated remorse of her husband. The
fright she experiences when she hears knocking at the
door of the castle with so much insistence, is not caused
by a cowardly fear that the crime may soon be discovered,
but by the state of prostration of Macbeth which may
betray everything.

In the third act there are situations worthy of special
comment, which I am going to analyse in detail showing
that I have studied to produce them as they were out-
lined by the author.

It is in this act that one can plainly see the skill of
Shakespeare. Lady Macbeth must — not only with
words but with her "stage business" — either diminish
or enlarge a great many of the striking episodes of the
drama. Such considerations led me to make a logical
analytical study of this part. For instance, I did not



LADY MACBETH 169

allow to pass unobserved the entrance of the hired
assassin, who comes in to announce to Macbeth the
accomplishment of the murder of Banquo, and the failure
of the attempt against Fleance's life. This news, which
causes two very different forms of emotion, should not
escape a watching eye like that of Lady Macbeth. And
then again, at the sight of the hired murderer who
presents himself in the banquet hall, she must be the
only person to see that man speaking in a whisper to her
husband, and to notice his excited gestures, never losing
sight of him for a moment. She fears some imprudence
on his part, remembering that Macbeth has told her
shortly before " that a great deed would be accomplished
to cause her wonder."

I have taken into consideration that during this scene
Lady Macbeth must show her fear, lest the guests may
notice this strange conversation between Macbeth and
the murderer, in that place and at that moment, and
suspect some wrong-doing against themselves. I found
it, therefore, necessary to play a double part, a dramatic
one!, with Macbeth and a graceful one with my guests.
While taking part in the conversation and the toasts
that the guests are making who remain seated upon
their stools, I cast at intervals fearful and investigating
glances toward my husband and the hired murderer;
and in order to draw Macbeth's attention to me and
warn him of the danger he runs of betraying himself by
some imprudence, I say in a vibrant tone of voice, and
with ostentatious jovialty.

" My royal lord,

You do not give the cheer ; the feast is sold
That is not often vouch 'd, while 't is a-making,
'T is given with welcome : to feed were best at home ;
From thence the sauce to meat is ceremony :
Meeting were bare without it. ' '

With the same "scenic business," but with a more
marked accentuation than before, in a reproachful tone,
half-serious, half-jesting, I give him the following warning :

". . . My worthy lord,
Your noble friends do lack you."



I70 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

I utter these words so that Macbeth alone could under-
stand my object in calling his attention. This is
apparently justified by the fear that Macbeth should
fail to be courteous, and neglect his guests.

1 would show great agitation and great fright at the
incomprehensible and furious visions of Macbeth, seeing
that he is on the verge of revealing the secret of our
guilt. Though the reproach is a bitter one, Lady Mac-
beth, by speaking to her guests, should keep up her pre-
tended gaiety with her facial expression, and apologise
for the eccentricities of her husband by attributing them
to an old infirmity of his.

In the end, finding that all her efforts at repressing the
strange horrors of Macbeth have proved vain, the noble
lady sees herself forced to take leave of the guests in an
excited manner, in order to be alone with Macbeth and
put an end to a situation which becomes dangerous.

After the guests' departure, I thought it best to begin
to indicate the state of prostration of Lady Macbeth, by
imagining a counter-scene showing distress and failing
power, making manifest my painful conviction that it is
useless to struggle against the adverse destiny which has
suddenly risen before me. I show how remorse begins to
torment me, and in showing the beginning of those terri-
ble sufferings I found it necessary for its justification
to render realistic the impending end of that great
criminal.

At the end of the act, at the moment of leaving, I
make it apparent that I am penetrated with a deep sense
of pity for Macbeth who for my sake has become the
most miserable of men, and tell him:

"You lack the season of all natures, sleep."

I take hold of his left hand with my right and place it
over my right shoulder, then painfully bending my head
in deep reflection and turning toward my husband
with a look filled with the remorse which is agitating
my mind, I drag him toward our chamber in the same
manner that one leads an insane person. When
reaching the limit of the stage Macbeth, frightened by
the tail of his cloak trailing at my feet, again shudders



LADY MACBETH 171

suddenly. Then, with a quick turn, I pass on the other
side of him, and try to master the terror with which
I am also seized in spite of myself. Using a little vio-
lence I succeed in pushing him behind the wings, while
quieting him with affectionate gestures.

This mode of acting was not contradictory to the logic
and reality of the situation, and always produced a great
effect.

In the fifth act Lady Macbeth appears only in a scene
of short duration, but which is the most marvellous one
among all the philosophical conceptions of the author,
and it offers to the actress a very difficult study of inter-
pretation.

This woman, this colossus of both physical and moral
force, who with one single word had the faculty of imaging
and causing the execution of deeds of hellish character —
there she is, now reduced to her own shadow which, like
the bony carcass left bare by a vulture, is eaten up by the
remorse preying on her mind. In her trouble she becomes
so thoroughly unconscious of herself as to reveal in her
sleep her tremendous, wicked secret. But what do I
say "in her sleep?" It is like a fever which, rising to her
brain, softens it. The physical suffering taking hold of
her mind with the recollection of the evil of which she has
been the cause masters and regulates all her actions,
causing her, spasmodically, to give different directions to
her thoughts. The very words that the gentlewoman
says to the doctor prove it:

"Since his Majesty went into the fields, I have seen her
rise from bed, throw her nightgown upon her, unlock her
closet, take forth paper, fold it, afterwards seal it, and again
return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep."

The true rendering of this artificial and double mani-
festation and the fusing of these effects without falling
either into exaggeration or into the fantastic at every
change of countenance, of gesture, of voice, all demanded
from me a most exhaustive study. I enter the stage
with the looks of an automaton, dragging my feet as if
they wore leaden shoes. I mechanically place my lamp
upon the table, taking care that all my movements are
slow and intercepted by my chilled nerves. With a fixed



172 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

eye which looks but does not see , my eyeHds wide open, a
difficult mode of breathing, I constantly show the nervous
agitation produced by the derangement of my brain. It
was necessary to clearly express that Lady Macbeth was
a woman in the grasp of a moral disease whose effects
and whose manifestations w^ere moved by a terrible cause.
Having placed the lamp upon the table, I advance as
far as the footlights, pretending to see on my hands still
some spots of blood, and while rubbing them I make the
motion of one who takes in the palms of his hands a
certain quantity of water in order to wash them. I am
very careful with this motion, which I repeat at various
moments. After this I say:

"Yet here's a spot. Out damned spot! out, I say! "

Then listening, I say softly :

"One: two: why, then 't is time to do't."

Then, as if answering :

"Hell is murky! — Fie, my Lord, fie! a soldier, and afraid?
What need you fear? Who knows it, when none can call
our power to account."

And at this place, returning to the cause of my delirium :

"Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so
much blood in him?"

And I show here that I am struck by the colour of
blood in which it seems to me as if I had dipped my
hands. Returning to my manifestation of delirium, I add :

"The Thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?"

And looking again at my hands with an expression
between rage and sadness :

"What, will these hands ne'er be clean?"

With a convulsive motion I rub them again. Then,
always a prey to my delirium, in a bitter tone, and speak-
ing excitedly, I pretend to whisper in Macbeth's ear :

"No more o' that my lord, no more o' that; you mar all
with this starting."



LADY MACBETH 173

Then coming back to my first idea, I smell my hands,
pretending they smell of blood, and I break forth with
passion :

"Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of
Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh, oh!"

And I make these exclamations as if an internal shudder
convulsed my heart and caused me to breathe with diffi-
culty, after which I remain with my head thrown back,
breathing slowly, as if in a deep lethargy.

During the short dialogue between the gentlewoman
and the doctor, I pretend in my delirium to be taken to
the scene of the murder of Duncan, and, as if the object
of my regard were the chamber of the king, bending my
body, advancing slowly and mysteriously toward my
right side where I imagine the murder has taken place,
I pretend that I hear the quick step of my husband and
anxiously inclining my ear in the posture of one who
waits I express how Macbeth is coming to confirm to me
the accomplishment of the deed. Then, with an out-
burst of joy, as if I saw him appear and announce the
deed, feeling very much agitated, I say :

"Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so
pale. I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he cannot
come out on's grave."

I took much care never to forget that the woman who
spoke was in troubled sleep; and during this scene,
between one thought and another, I would emit a long,
deep and painful sigh.

The following verses :

"To bed, to bed! there's knocking at the gate:
Come, come, come, come, give me your hand.
What's done cannot be undone. To bed, to bed, to bed! "

I speak these words in an insistent tone, as if it were a
thing that should be done quickly; then, frightened,
fancying that they knock at the door of the castle and
come to surprise us, I show great emotion, a greater fear,
as if I found it necessary to hide ourselves quickly in our
own rooms. I start in that direction, inviting Macbeth
to follow me, saying in a very imperative and furious tone :



174 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

"Come, come, come! ... " Then, simulating the
act of grasping his hand, I show that I am dragging him
with great pain, and disappear from the sight of the
audience, saying in a suffocating voice : " To bed, to bed,
to bed! . . . "

With this ends the "compendium" of the manifes-
tations and of the strange sentiment of this character
which seems as though it could not have been conceived
by a human mind, and the study of which has proved
so difficult to me, owing to the singularity of situations
which I saw myself induced to portray according to the
imagination of the poet.

Though I flatter myself that I entered into the spirit
of this character in the best way I could, I trust this
analysis of mine — this interpretation of the part of Lady
Macbeth — ^to the appreciation of the critic. From what
I have stated it must be clearly evident what an amount
of strenuous study, and how much mental labour such
an interpretation cost me.








>^



/■



ADELAIDE RISTORI AS MEDEA



CHAPTER IV

MEDEA — A TRAGEDY BY LEGOUVÉ

Without making any attempt to review the dramatic
art of the remote times and looking only at the present
epoch, I will say that the argument of "Medea" was
again dramatised in the year 1810 by a renowned Italian
writer, Gio. Batt. Niccolini. Though some remarkable
evidence of genius appears in this tragedy, which is quite
Greek in character — introducing several passages taken
from Euripides and Seneca — yet it is deficient in the dis-
play of those effects which appeal mostly to the obser-
vation of the spectators, and is in places rather diffuse
in its dialogue. Consequently, it is not produced as
frequently as the other works of this well-known play-
wright, Signor Niccolini.

Another "Medea" was published later by the Duke Delia
Valle, which was found to be worthy of consideration on
account of his having unfolded its argument in a most
concise way. With its grandiose Greek impression, and
its striking scenic effects, this tragedy became very pop-
ular. There was at that time no great actress who did
not perform it, and all the managers of dramatic com-
panies were anxious to add it to their repertoires. How-
ever, I never liked to represent that version of "Medea"
because, nature having gifted me with a high sense of
maternal love, the thought of that mother who with
her own hand slays her children, was too repugnant to
me. I could not present such a monstrosity upon the
stage, and in spite of the pressing requests of my managers
to interpret that role I was unable to overcome my
aversion to it.

At the time of my first visit to France in the year 1855 , the
dissensions between the celebrated pla)rwright Legouvé
and the renowned French tragedienne Mile. Rachel were
of recent date.

175



176 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

After having given a few performances at the Salle
Vanta dour, with which I had the good luck to captivate
the admiration of the Parisians, one morning my maid
announced that two gentlemen wished to see me. I had
hardly finished eating my lunch, but I let them come in.

"I am Monsieur Scribe" — one of them told me.

"And I am Monsieur Legouvé" — said the other.

Who does not know those names in Italy? At that
time they were performing in my country, a large number
of Scribe's plays, and several of those belonged to my
repertoire, as for instance : " AdrienneLecouvreur," "Louise
LignaroUes, " etc. Consequently, on finding myself in
the presence of such celebrities I felt rather abashed and,
at the same time, happy. We engaged in an interesting
and vivacious conversation, in which all of their pro-
ductions included in my repertoire were passed in review.
In consequence of the courteous insistence of my two
visitors, I consented to recite to them some passages of
"Adrienne Lecouvreur," and they had the kindness to
find my interpretation highly satisfactory. Nothing
further was said during that visit. But a few days later,
I again saw Mr. Legouvé, and the following conversation
took place between us:

" Why do you not wish to play my " Medea ? "

"My dear Sir," I answered, "owing to a most serious
reason. I cherish such a strong affection for children
generally that, since the time I was a yoimg girl, when-
ever I chanced to meet one with a charming little face,
with chubby cheeks, and curly blond hair, like a cherub
of Raphael, in the arms of a nurse or being held by the
hand of a maid, I would kiss him with transport, not
caring for the disagreeable looks that those women would
cast at me. You will see from this what an adoration I
have for children, and you will easily understand that
I could not even in fiction pretend to slay children upon
the stage. You know that in Italy we also have a
'Medea,' which is very much liked by the public, and
which pays good returns to the various theatrical man-
agers who produce it; but as for myself, no matter how
great may be the actress who plays it, I never go to see
that drama."




From ail en;,'r..ving by



by H. B. Hall, Jr , New York



ADELAIDE RISTORI IN 1876



MEDEA 177

*' But my Medea kills her children in such a way
that while the audience understands that it is a mother who
commits the nefarious crime they do not actually see how
she accomplishes the deed."

" Please pardon me, Mr. Legouvé, but I can never be
persuaded that the horror that any actress must inspire
at that point does not predispose the audience against
her."

" Would you at least do me the favour of reading my
' Medea,' and satisfying yourself of the truth of my
assertions?"

"If you will let it rest there, for I do not wish to be
discourteous to you who are so kind to me ; but I do warn
you now — so that you won't feel hurt later — ^that it can-
not be possible that your 'Medea' will ever enter my
repertoire."

As if nothing had been said, Mr. Legouvé was about
to take leave of me with these words :

" Yes, yes, read it and we shall speak about it later on."

But I held him back, adding :

"There is yet another reason which prevents me from
performing your ' Medea.' I don't wish at any cost to
let anybody suppose that I wish to take advantage of
your temporary dissension with Rachel, in order to sup-
plant her in a role written for her. Therefore, I could
never consent to play your ' Medea,' unless you first
engaged yourself to express and to announce publicly
your desire that I do so."

" Since Rachel has refused it, what scruple can prevent
you from accepting the role?" — he said to me.

But he understood the wisdom of my objections and
promised to make the declaration I required, if I should
accept the part.

The following day, for the sake of obliging him, I took
advantage of an hour of freedom, while my maid was
dressing my hair, and resolved to read "Medea," yet
with a full conviction of wasting my time, as it seemed
to me logically to be impossible that its author could
conceal the portrayal of the unavoidable catastrophe.
In this not very favourable frame of mind, I undertook
to pass a judgment upon that work.



178 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

With a surprise more easily imagined than described,
the reading of the play began from the start to inspire
in me so much interest that, while proceeding with it,
I would give vent to such exclamations and make such
gesticulations that my poor maid, dreadfully astonished,
cried out to me :

"What is the matter, my lady, I can no longer dress
your hair?"

" Go on, proceed . . . it is nothing . . . don't
mind me."

At the end of the first act I found Legouvé's superior
to all the other versions of " Medea " — I exclaimed : " Oh,
how beautiful it is ! What magnificent situations . . .
how did Rachel ever renounce such a splendid part as
this one? . . . — I could not believe it."

After the second act, my enthusiasm grew and with
the greatest eagerness I read on to see how the author


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