Oska Guttmann.

Aesthetic physical culture: A self-instructor [...] online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryOska GuttmannAesthetic physical culture: A self-instructor [...] → online text (page 9 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

another ; that is, the mind must retain a part, be it ever so small,
of the former mood, before the new one can be fully developed.
This part of acting is the most difficult of arts ; its right practice
is the stamp of perfection.

{h) The stage walk must conform exactly to the character re-
presented, as well while playing as when appearing on the stage
and leaving it. We often see the actor enter with his usual gait,
while the play requires that of the role. In leaving he also falls
back into his own gait. This destroys that illusion which is the
object of all acting.

Entrance upon and exit from the stage are alike difficult. Be-
cause the actor seldom speaks upon his entrance he forgets his
imitative character and remembers it only when his words begin,
which is false. Here let it be remarked that many actors lay little
stress upon the number of steps they take in presence of the au-
dience ; in this way they mar the characterization. The law of
beauty demands that no steps be taken except those required by
the situation. Here also we must lay down the fundamental
law as in arm-movements : " As few as possible." Repose is the
main thing in a picture. An actor shows little culture, if in
representing a crowned head, he finds no way to express his dig-
nity save in striding around the stage.

(/ ) It is self-evident that in acting the player never forces him-
self to the front unless the character or the situation demand it,
and yet so many unpardonable blunders of this kind happen, that
we must say a few words in regard to them. If the actor remains
true to the character and situation, exaggeration is impossible ;
but we often see an actor so exert himself to make a great deal
out of a minor part, that we turn from him in aversion. The
actor must not go an inch beyond his role, otherwise he will de-
stroy its effect and incur the reproach of presumption, vanity and

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


an inordinate desire for applause. The true actor, when upon
the stage, regards himself as but a co-worker for the attainment
of a common goal.

Just as reprehensible is the manner of some modern virtuosos,
who either cut out the minor roles of a piece, or shorten them so
that nothing of the author's work remains but a parade role,
which is sure to be the one most applauded by the public, while
the co-actors, whose every chance for effect is cut off, sink in its
estimation as artists. This sort of clap-trap arising from a
miserable vanity or desire for speculation, has had its day, thank
heaven ! Let us hope that its end is near.

J. Of the Use of the Left and Right Hand,
My pupils have often put to me the question : "What is your
opinion on the use of the right and left hand ? Do you deem the
more frequent use of the right hand an act induced by habit or
by inner, organic causes ? " These are questions that require no
answer in our book, still we have to point out how the actor
must use them.

Both arms and hands must be educated alike in. order that the
left may be used at the left, the right at the right side. No move-
ment must take place with the right hand to the left side and
vice versa. To allow only the slightest movement to the left
hand while the whole burden of motion falls upon the right hand,
betrays the untrained actor. And still, we find this fault in dis-
tinguished actors. Circumstances arise upon the stage, when,
as in daily life, the right hand only must be used, as in the oath,
the shaking of hands, etc. All this whether one stands to the
left or right on the stage must be executed with the right hand ;
but if an occasion arises when either may be used, in the move-
ment to the left, it must always be the left hand that is taken ; in
that to the right, always the right hand. Here, for example, be-
longs the kiss of the hand. If the lady stands upon the gentle-
man's left he may be easily led to take her hand in his right in-
stead of his left hand ; but this would look awkward. ( See

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


Handkiss). Just so, if one would hand or pass something from
or to the left side, he all too readily employs the right hand.
This is entirely wrong.

If in sitting at table one has to serve wine to the right and left
( although serving usually takes place with the right hand), he
must reverse our rule and serve to left with the right and to
right with the left hand, since it is awkward to hold the wine-bottle
in such a way that the nails of the hand are turned upward, or to
turn around so much that one's back is to one's neighbor.

It is absolutely necessary in daily life, as upon the stage, that
the .hands be trained in like manner. If in daily life we have not
always a public before us, we have one around us in society, and
it is both awkward and discourteous, if when sitting with the left
sicle to the table and with the body inclined forward, we take
from it a cup of tea, or whatever else it may be, with the right
hand. This always shows a lack of tournure.

4. Greetings Prayer^ Oath.

The expressions and signs in salutation, vary greatly among
different nations. That kind feeling inborn in every man, as well
as its expressions and tokens embodied in the salutation, are more
or less diversified according to the degree of his culture, his re-
ligious and political ideas, his nationality, race, position and social
rank. Thus the manner of greeting indicates, in some sort, the
elementary character of a people, a tribe, and, in many respects,
a single individual.

The Orientals always have been and still remain far more volu-
ble and ceremonious in their manner of salutation than the Oc-
cidentals. Among all Asiatic people it is the custom to prostrate
one's self in token of utter subjection, while serfdom in Europe
required this only partially and incidentally. Until very recently,
Asiatic subjects addressed their kings only kneeling or prostrate
in the dust, regarding them as supernatural beings. This manner
of salutation first came in vogue among the Romans, under the
reign of Diocletian, (about A. D. 300). The custom in Europe may

Digitized by LjOOQ IC



be regarded as an after-growth, respect and submission having
been until quite recently expressed merely by Icneeling, a practice
still common in Russia.

5. Salutations of the Hebrews.

(a) Benediction. — Divine service was ended by the priestly bene-
diction with extended hands and bowed form : " The Lord
bless thee and keep thee," etc. The priest who gave the bene-
diction, covered his face with both hands. (Fig. LXI.)

Fig. LXI.

For the better understanding of the position of the fingers the engraver has
shown the hands in an upright position. They must, however, be held bent
forward though directly covering the face.

(b) The Civil Greeting. — Not to return a salutation was con-
sidered the height of ill-breeding. It was, however, the custom
not to salute those mourning or fasting, — a custom still in vogue.
Distinguished persons must be greeted, however, but if they were
fasting or in sorrow, they need return no answer.

In coming and going, as well as in meeting, the lower bowed
before the higher, repeated his obeisance, bowed more profoundly
according to the rank of the person greeted, sometimes falling
upon the earth. People also fell upon one another's necks and
exchanged kisses. The kiss was a token of mutual good wishes,
also a sign of reverence and homage. It was given upon arrival.

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


at meeting and parting. The mouth or beard was grasped by
the hand, and kissed. Toward princes, the kiss was a sign of
homage. As such, it was imprinted upon the hand or knee.

The Hebrew never uncovered the head in greeting high or low.
In like manner he prayed — prays to this day — with covered head.
It was a shame for women to uncover the head. The head of
the woman found guilty of adultery was violently bared by the

The uncovering of the head as now practiced in Europe to ex-
press reverence, respect, good will, came after the promulgation
of Christianity, but became with higher culture, a symbol of salu-
tation among men. (Women never uncover the head in greet-
ings). Notwithstanding the Hebrew custom of covering the head
in sacrifice or prayer, the apostle Paul forbade it. And so it
happened that among later Christians, it became a fashion to un-
cover the head to exalted persons in token of reverence or kind

(c) Position in Prayer. — The Hebrew who prays, stands with
his face to the east, his form erect, his feet together, his hands
folded across his breast, or their palms folded and in this way
raised to heaven. He retains this attitude during his whole
prayer. Whenever the name of God occurs in his prayer, he
bows more or less profoundly. The Hebrew never prays kneel-
ing ; but in the temple, the whole congregation fall on their
knees, as soon as the name of God is uttered. When the prayer
ends the suppliant takes a few steps backward to denote this.
Naturally this happens only in long prayers.

(d) The Oath. — In the oath the Hebrew raised his right hand
to heaven.

6. The Moslem Salutation.

{a) Prayer. — The Mussulman prays like the Hebrew with

covered head. The one who prays, stands with his face toward

Mecca, lifts both hands to his face, touches the tips of the ear

with the end bf his thumb, and says : " God is very great ! "

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


Then he begins his prayer, now standing, now kneeling, now with
nose and forehead touching the floor.

If he prays kneeling, he sits upon his heels, his hands with out-
spread fingers, resting upon the thigh or above the knee ; some-
times he rises and makes low reverences. The Mussulman prays
so assiduously that if in journeying he comes to water, he washes
his hands and then spreads out a rug and prays.

If he prays standing and does not know in what direction
Mecca lies, he keeps turning around during prayer.

In taking an oath, the Turk raises one or all the fingers of the
right hand.

{b) The Citizen's Greeting. ^Tht usual salutation in meeting
is, " Peace be with you ! " The answer is the same. This is
called the selam.

Among highly-bred people it is the custom for him who first
salutes, as well as for him who returns the salutation, to lay the
right hand upon the heart, or in rare instances to touch his lips,
then his forehead or turban with the same hand. This is called
the tejmineh, and is the most respectful manner of greeting, the
one especially used in intercourse with distinguished people.

Among the Moslems, Persians and Egyptians, if people of
lower ranjc meet those of a higher, the selam is seldom uttered;
it is expressed symbolically by touching the heart, the seat of
emotion, with the hand, bowing in deepest humility and then
touching the earth, lips and forehead with the hand. It is quite
usual among the Moslems for the one who salutes to place both
hands on the turban.

There is also a prevalent custom of kissing the hand, usually
upon the wrist or palm, and then laying it on the forehead to ex-
press pecuHar respect, submission and humility. The deepest
submission is shown by kissing the foot instead of the hand.
The son kisses the hand of his father, the woman that of her hus-
band, the. slave and also the freed servant that of the master. A

V Digitized by LjOOQIC


great man's slaves or servants kiss their master's sleeve or the
hem of his garment.

Friends salute by each placing his right hand in that of the
other ; then each kisses his own hand, carries it to his lips or
forehead, or merely lays it on his heart without kissing it.

After long separation, they embrace or fall upon each other's
necks and kiss, first upon the right then upon the left cheek or
the neck. The head is never uncovered in salutation.

The laughah^le custom of bowing in supposed Oriental fashion
upon the stage with hands crossed upon the breast, should give
place to the true method. ^

(c) At Visits. — Upon entering the room in which the master
of the house sits, one utters the selam. The host returns the
salutation. If the visitor is of lower rank, the master of the
house remains sitting ; if of the same rank, he makes a slight
movement as if to rise. If he stands higher in office, religious
or scientific repute, the host rises and approaches, according to
rank, one or more steps to the middle of the room, to the door,
to the passage between the chamber and the court, or into the
coui*t itself.

If the visitor stands higher or not lower than the master of the
house, he receives / a pipe from the latter; in ottter cases he is
served by his slaves. A cup of coffee is then set near each.
While the visitor takes the coffee with or without a pipe, he salutes
the host with the tejmineh, which is returned. The same
happens when he gives back the cup to the servant. In the same
manner the host salutes the guest every time he receives his cup
and hands it back, in case he is not far below him in rank.

If the visitor is of higher rank, the host will accompany him to
the stairs or door.

7. Chinese Salutations,
While we find dignified reverences among the Hebrews and

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


Moslems, we see among the Chinese more bowing than obeisances,
quick successions of them indeed with much clasping of hands.

Of all Oriental peoples, the Chinese are the only ones who
offer salutation with bared head like the Europeans, but this is
only before magistrates and when one wears a broad- brimmed
straw hat. A silent, respectful attitude is indispensable in pres-
ence of an officer, who himself gazes down in scorn. This law
of etiquette must be strictly observed. Before exalted personages
it is the custom to bow profoundly, to even prostrate one's self
upon the earth.

The Chinese honor the gods whose statues are in people's houses,
by prostration before them. Before the emperor, one prostrates
himself, and touches the floor nine times with his forehead.

Upon entering and leaving a court of justice, subalterns make
a low bow to the officers.

8. Hindoos^ Greeks and Romans,

The Hindoo salutation consists in touching the forehead and
bowing the head to the earth. In Sumatra and other East India
islands, it consists in prostrating one's self on the ground or plac-
ing the foot of the person saluted upon one's head.

The Greeks, in praying and taking oaths, raised both arms and
hands, with the inner palms together, the little fingers turned

The Romans likewise raised both arms, but with this difference :
The inner palms were outward and still turned upward by a back-
ward movement of the wrist. In both cases the fingers must be
neither clasped nor apart, but maintain their natural position.

It was an old Greek and Roman custom to greet the coming
and departing guest with a shake of the hand, always giving the
right hand. Among all ancient peoples the right hand was sacred.
Blood relatives and intimate friends did not give the hand only ;
they embraced and kissed each other.

It was the Roman custom to kiss not the lips only, but the right

Digitized by LjOOQIC


hand. Among the ancients there was a sort of kiss in which bojfs
grasped both ears of their parents and other relatives with both
hands, and thus kissed. Lovers also kissed in this way.

The Romans in all things showed greater honor to rulers than

to private individuals. When rulers came and went, all present

rose from their seats. In meeting them the head was uncovered.

p. Salutation^ Oath and Prayer of Modern Times According to the

European Fashion among Civilized People,

The uncovering of the head is a general custom. Once prac-
ticed only in presence of people of high rank, it has been in vogue
as a common salutation since the seventeenth century.

The Russians, upon Easterday, salute with a kiss on the fore-
head. In Poland the peasant greets the priest with a kiss on the
hand ; the higher classes grasp the hand, but instead of kissing it,
they still retain it, and kiss the priest's shoulder.

The greeting of the present day consists in removing the hat
with gentlemen ; in a slight bow with ladies.

The rococo time ordained that in removing the hat and placing
it on the head, no bow should be made, but the hand perform
the whole business. Modern custom demands that the removal
of the hat be accompanied with a slight bow and turn of the head
toward the one saluted. The hat paust always be grasped with the
hand opposite the glance, and remain off the head until one is quite
beyond the line of the person greeted. The hand must mean-
time hold the hat in such a way that its inside is not turned
toward the one saluted, but toward one's self.

Military salutations are subject to certain rules, and demand a
special study foreign to the purpose of our book.

Salutation in a room takes place by a bow more or less pro-
found according to the rank of the person saluted. This subject
is further treated under the head of " Compliment."

The Oath of Christian people is taken by men with an uplift-
ing of the right arm atid holding up of the three fingers from the
thumb, while the last two are turned inward. The fingers held

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


Up must not be in close contact but retain their natural position.
Women and priests place the three fingers only on the left side of
the heart.

Prayer is made by Catholics mostly while kneeling ; by Pro-
testants standing with bowed heads and clasped hands.

It is self-evident that all rules given under the heads, Saluta-
tion, Prayer and Oaths must not be slavishly imitated upon the
stage ; but if the actor would grasp the various characteristics, he
can do so only by a full knowledge of their use. It is left to his
fine tact to appropriate what is necessary and proper for the
serious as well as the comic drama.


I, Drinking,

If the actor has a full glass in his hand, in raising (it to give a
toast he is apt to fall into a very absurd gesture. He lifts the
hand containing the glass without considering that fluids are not
solid bodies ; and after he, in any event, would have spilled the
contents by this movement, he enacts the pantomime of drinking.
Nothing can be more absurd than this. One has only to take a
really full glass in hand and note how different will be the gesture.
The glass is certainly raised at the toast, not with a jerk, however,
but with a gentle arm-movement.

Many commit just as great an error when sitting before a
full pitcher or cup from which they must drink for a long time ;
they make at the first or second draught, a movement indicating
that the liquid is all gone, and after this pretend to drink from
the already empty vessel. This must be carefully avoided.

If the actor has to drink continuously from a glass or mug,
without power to refill it, he must reckon exactly how he may
represent the gradual exhaustion of the vessej. This must also
be observed in pouring wine from a bottle or pitcher. The
second pouring usually gives the spectator an idea that the vessel
is empty, and yet we see the actor go on making the motion of
pouring from the empty bottle.

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


Neithet must the drinker, as a man of the worid, bend his head
down to the cup ; he must carry it to his mouth. If the drinking
is characteristic, if it is to represent an extraordinary thirst, a sort
of eagerness, the head must be bent toward the cup more or less
according to the degree of thirst, or the lower or higher rank of
the person.

Trivial as these faults are, they are, nevertheless, faults, and
the actor must not suppose that they escape the close observer.
They excite a smile, the smile leads to a laugh, which called forth
in the wrong place will spoil everything.

2, The Holding of a Cup of Coffee or Tea,

If a cup is to be finely held, the spoon must not be placed in
the saucer, but must remain in the cup. The saucer is held with
the left hand, the cup with the right (Fig. LXII.) and is carried

Fig. LXII.

to the mouth without bending the head toward the cup, and re-
placed the same way in the saucer. To take sugar with the
fingers is always " bad form.'*

J. Patomimic Reading and Letter Writing,

Both, as a general thing, occur upon the stage in so remarkably
short a time that it is impossible for the spectator to believe in
the truth of what he sees.

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


Reading, — Every letter has a superscription. Let the letter
contain what it will ; it may set the reader into ever so much ex-
citement (sorrow, joy, pain, etc.,) he usually reads its superscrip-
tion calmly, if it does not of itself prophesy misfortune, or the
reader does not already know that misfortune awaits him. Here
a pause, be it ever so short, is necessary ; then begins the panto-
mime of reading the letter. Whether it is long or short, the ef-
fect must in this way be visible to the spectators. The actor has
exactly to indicate the preface, the continuation and at last the
culmination of the letter, if ever so short, before he passes over
to its effect in the pantomime. But as we see constantly, es-
pecially in opera letter reading, the opening and the patomime
of the climax are one, and the reading takes place with a rapidity
that in real life would not suffice for reading the simplest super-
scription. The tragic situation thus becomes comic.

Writing, — In just such an unnatural way writing takes place
upon the stage. If the actor has not as much time as the writing
of the letter really demands, he must strictly hold to the required
stage time if he would not destroy all illusions. But most letters
are written in as short a time as the mere signature of the writer
would demand. We seldom see the letter dried in pantomime
by sand or blotting paper, and the audience have the involun-
tary feeling that its receiver receives a blotted, illegible letter,
which is against the laws of good breeding. If the actor has no
blotting paper upon his desk, he must go through the patomime
of using sand. But he must not forget to shake off the sand, for
it is as bad form to send a letter full of sand as a blotted one.

" One thing I implore, no more sand upon the little notes you
write to me ! To-day I quickly passed it to my lips, and my
teeth grated." (Werther to Lotte.)

Here Goethe is only in jest, but it is really not nice to show
sand upon a letter, nor quite respectful to a superior. It is bet-
ter to use blotting paper which should be upon every writing-table.
If neither is at hand, the actor must make a slight movement

Digitized by LjOOQ IC


through the air, to hint at least at drying ; and a hint suffices on
the stage.

4. Turning the Leaves of a Book,
Many in real life have the habit of moistening the finger at the
mouth in turning a leaf, and carry this habit to the stage. The
reason of this is a fear that two leaves may be turned instead of
one. It is a habit wounding to fine sensibilities, and upon the
stage, where there should always be the semblance of good socie-
ty, it is more offensive than in real life. The leaf to be turned
must not be seized at the very moment of turning, but some
time in advance thereof, and in the following manner : Lay the
thumb lightly on the leaf to be turned, and at its upper edge
sever it lightly from the others with the index and middle fingers.

5. Use of a Pencil,

It is just as ill-mannered to moisten the pencil at the mouth,
from time to time. If the pencil is good it will do its work un-
moistened ; if bad, moistening is of no use, for it must follow
every word, and how would such writing look ?

These are slight faults, but if one aspires to high and noble
things, he must avoid them.


If the pupil has mastered the first three parts of our book, the
preparatory steps demanded by our system are nearly ended.
His next step must be a practical application of what he has
learned, — ^by gestures and movements without words.

A few examples will illustrate our demand. We take these
from Fred. Ludwig Schmidt's, " Aphorisms," a book to be warmly
commended to every disciple of art, that is to say, after he has
mastered perfectly the three above mentioned parts of our book.
Otherwise the following and all similar demands made upon the
pupil will be useless work to both pupil and teacher. These trials

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryOska GuttmannAesthetic physical culture: A self-instructor [...] → online text (page 9 of 15)