Acting And Mimicry:
Expressions - Part 1
Expressions - Part 2
The Smile—the Laugh
Love In Its Different States And Expressions
Intellectual And Other Expressions
Effects Of Pathological States On The Expressions
Read More Articles About: Acting And Mimicry
Intellectual And Other Expressions
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Attention is a state of mind. In its expression the head is bent forward slightly, the eye-brows sink and approach the sides of the nose, the eyes look in the direction of the object that is attracting notice, and the mouth is slightly open.
Though the attention aroused may be of the eye, ear, taste, smell or touch, the attitude is always a mental one, as there is a focusing of the thought process on the spot from which the bodily senses have been attacked. So, when the gaze is attracted by something in the distance, the attitude of mind is a "waiting" one, or in other words, the attention becomes alert, the hand shades the eye as the mind directs a search to discover the object. When the sense of hearing is attacked, the hand often moves upward to the ear in an attempt to locate the source of the sound.
The facial expression will "register" satisfaction, pleasure, admiration, fear, or terror, ac-cording as the object that was attracting attention is discovered to bear these characteristics. For instance, in the last act of "Othello," Desdemona's attention resolves itself into wild terror.
Surprise.—Attention, then, can be turned into surprise, admiration, astonishment or amazement. In surprise, the eyes are raised higher than in attention, the mouth is open, transverse wrinkles appear across the forehead, the eyebrows are abnormally arched. Often the hands are raised above the head, or the arms are bent at the level of the head. The palms are directed towards the object of surprise, the fingers are separated. When surprise is disagreeable or causes the necessity of self-defense, these movements are directed forward, away from the body.
Naturally, the intensity of these movements depends upon the degree of the emotion. They increase in strength and vividness of expression
when surprise passes into astonishment or amazement.
Astonishment; Amazement.—This state has the same characteristics of motion and gesture as that of surprise, only more strongly accentuated.
Admiration consists of pleasant surprise, mixed with a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of approval. The head turns toward the object admired, the eyebrows are gently raised, the eyes are opened more than ordinarily, the look is bright, the mouth is parted by a faint smile, and the lower jaw drops slightly.
The "Visual Senses," senses of sight, are called into play when admiration is mingled with a remembrance of the native land, in which instance we may cite the recitative "Il mulino," etc., done by Rodolfo in "Somnambula," and also the scene in "Aida" when the admiring masses greet the victorious Radames.
Admiration may be called the satisfied attention of the senses.
Reflection, which is deep and long thought, consists of an analysis of the idea or thing under
consideration. The state of reflection does not admit of very expressive, characteristic mimicry, until we find an obstacle to overcome, in which case we frown, thus denoting the intellectual effort sustained.
Meditation may rightly be called the sister of reflection. It is a purely intellectual expression. During its process, the lower eyelids a .e wrinkled and raised. The expression of the eyes, which are not fixed on any object, is pecu iar, indicating only absorption ; the head drop slightly, so that it can be supported by the hand ; the mouth is slightly open, therefore the lower jaw drops.
The body is in a relaxed position, all the effort being concentrated in the brain. The reflection may often be perplexed, and in such moments we raise our hands to our forehead, mouth or chin.
Decision; Determination.—This process may often come as a result of reflection or meditation.
Decision is characterized by a firm closing of the mouth. The gesture is energetic in case the decision is a resolve not to yield Alfio in "Cavalleria," but it is slow, undecided, if the decision is to yield to wit; Violetta when she gives in to the demands of the father.
Fear; Terror.—Astonishment often results in fear, in which case the eyes and the m outh are wide open, the eyebrows raised, and the fore-head wrinkled. In the first rush of fear the body remains motionless and the trunk seems to dwindle in size. The breathing is accelerated, the heart action is exaggerated and irregular, resulting in the striking pallor so characteristic of fear and terror (Margherita in the prison scene of "Faust," and Boito's Mephistopheles, and Desdemona in the last act of "Othello,' are examples). Some muscles tremble, especially those of the lips. Other indications very dangerous for a singer to show are dryness of the mouth, and contraction of the throat, for th( se result in vocal inconvenience. The nostrils tre dilated. The look may be fixed on the object causing terror, but it may also wander, as if seeking some means of salvation. The hands can be alternately closed and opened, often with twitching movements. The arms may be thrown widely over the head.
Dr. J. Crichton Browne gives the following description of terror in an insane woman :
When a paroxysm seizes her, she screams out, "This is hell!" "There is a black woman!" "I can't get out!" and other such exclamations. When thus screaming, her movements are those of alternate tension and tre nor. For one instant she clenches her hands, holding her arms out before her in stiff, semiflexed position; then, suddenly, she bends her body forward, sways rapidly to and fro, draws her fingers through her hair, clutches at her neck and tries to tear off her clothes. The sterno-cleido-mastoid muscles (which serve to bend the head on the chest) stand out prominently, as if swollen, and the skin in front of them is much wrinkled. Her hair, which is cut short at the back of her head, and is smooth when she is cal n, now stands on end, that in front being disheveled by the movements of her hands. The countenance expresses great mental agony. The skin is flushed over the face and neck , down to the clavicles, and the veins of the forehead and leck stand out like thick cords. The lower lip drops, and it is somewhat averted. The mouth is kept half open, with the lower jaw projecting. The cheeks are hollow and deeply fur-rowed in curved lines running from the wings of the nostrils to the corners of the mouth. The nostrils themselves are raised and extended. The eyes are wide open, and beneath them the skin appears swollen ; the pupils are large. The forehead is wrinkled transversely in many folds, and at the inner extremities of the eyebrows it is strongly fur-rowed in diverging lines, produced by the powerful and persistent contraction of the corrugators.
Horror.—The difference between terror and horror is this : terror may be called an alarm for personal safety, but horror is created by sympathy for, and shock at, the sufferings of others. These expressions are similar in mimicry, for, as Darwin explains, "by the power of imagination and of sympathy, we put ourselves in the position of the sufferer and feel something akin to fear" (note the chorus in Valentine's death in "Faust").
The body turns away from the object or cause of horror; the arms violently protrude or bend at the chest; the mouth is open, the lower jaw is dropped, the forehead is wrinkled, the eye-brows are arched. Horror has exactly the same influence on the body, heart and respiration as terror.
It may sometimes cause self-sacrifice and a decision to protect others.
Hatred.—Dislike is the beginning of hatred. Hatred in well-educated persons is, to a great measure, concealed, but in low characters it is expressed violently, so that, we may say, it explodes: Tonio in "Pagliacci" when his love is changing to hatred, or Iago, when scheming against Othello, will differently express their feelings. Hatred may burst forth in malediction, as that of Monterone in "Rigoletto," or it can prompt bad and low actions, as in the case of Tonio in "Pagliacci," etc.
Rage is an explosion of anger. It s a brutal passion in which, especially among the lower classes, the will has no control over the emotion. In rage, every muscle of the face is contracted so that an enraged man may be likened to a beast; he exposes his teeth; his eyes burn; he knits and unknits his brow ; his eyebrows are raised ; his nostrils are distended; his teeth are set; his mouth is closed ; his fists are clenched ; his arms are raised; and the veins stand out on his head and neck. There is a seeming desire to crush every-thing.
In rage the breathing process, the heart action and the brain are affected, so that apoplectic strokes often follow the outbreak. When rage is developing, the gesture seems to be purpose-less.
Rage has a depressing effect upon the breathing. Interpretation of these passions must be well under control by the singer.
The expressions of hatred and rage may be strongly observed in a mob, especially during a lynching.
Anger.—Darwin thus describes an outbreak of anger between people:
At first she vituperated her husband, and whilst doing so foamed at the mouth. Next she approached close to bim with compressed lips, and a virulent, set frown. Then she drew back her lips, especially the corners of the upper lip, and showed her teeth, at the same time aiming a vicious blow at him.
A second case is that of an old soldier who, when he is requested to conform to the rules of the establshment, gives way to discontent, terminating in fury. He commonly begins by asking Dr. Browne whether he is not ashamed to treat him in such a manner. He then swears and blasphemes, paces up and down, tosses his arm wildly about, and menaces any one near him. At last, a his exasperation culminates, he rushes up towards Dr. Browne with a peculiar sidelong movement, shaking his doubled fist, and threatening destruction. Then his upper li may be seen to be raised, especially at the corners, so that his huge canine teeth are exhibited. He hisses forth his curses through his teeth, and his whole expression assumes the character of extreme ferocity.
Indignation is nothing else than rage in a slight degree, and, consequently, has all the characteristics of rage "in miniature."
Sneering and Defiance are still other degrees in the rising passion of rage.
Scorn.—The forehead is wrinkled, although much less than in anger. The eyebrows are knit together and, at one extremity, approach the nose, while at the other they are raised. The chin is advanced, the head tossed back, the look cold.
The nostrils are distended, thus wrinkling the cheeks. The under lip protrudes and causes the corners of the mouth to take a downward curve. The mouth is almost always shut, bui is sometimes slightly open on one side, uncovering the canine tooth.
Disdain.—We show disdain for a person toward whom we feel antipathy. The 1 Thole scene of "Tosca" in Scarpio's room is full of disdain, as is also the entrance of Amonasro in "Aida." The expression of disdain and contempt originates around the nose, for this movement is similar to the one made when the sense of smell is offended. Piderit has observed that, in extreme cases of disdain, both lips are protruded and raised, or the upper lip alone, so as to close the nostrils as by a valve, the nose being thus turned up. Snapping the fingers is another sign of disdain or contempt.
Disgust.--The feeling produced when in con-tact with something that offends our feelings or taste is called disgust. This expression, too, originates around the mouth. It is signaled by frowning, by holding the mouth wide open and the upper lip strongly retracted. This movement wrinkles the sides of the nose, causing the lower lip to protrude. The shoulders are raised as in horror.
The expressions of scorn, disdain, contempt, disgust, have much similarity to the expressions of hatred, rage, etc. They all represent low spirits.