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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Speech and Drama
GA 282

It is the desire and intention of the Anthroposophical Movement founded by Rudolf Steiner to meet man's hunger for the spirit and for freedom from the fetters of a soul-destroying materialism, to guide him also to some solution of the riddles of the great world in which he lives. Among those who have looked to the Movement for help have been actors, who have suffered under the conditions and methods of the modern stage and have not been able to find an answer to the problems that vexed and harassed them in the pursuance of their art and in their endeavours after deeper knowledge and understanding. Some of these came to Rudolf Steiner, and he responded to their call. He gave for them this course of lectures on the Arts of Speech and Drama which is now appearing in a second edition. The actors had to wait a long time for the lectures while still more urgent problems were demanding his attention.

Translated by Mary Adams

Note by Translator
Part I: The Forming of Speech
I. The Forming of Speech is an Art September 5, 1924
Style in speech. The sounds of speech are revelations of the spiritual. Speaking originates in the artistic in man. Lyric, epic, drama. Vowels and consonants. The five gymnastic exercises of the Greeks.
II. The Six Revelations of Speech September 6, 1924
Reading from Die Pforte der Einweihung. Gesture has to be taken into speech, that speech may become both plastic and musical. Gesture in its relation to the cosmos. The mime movements of the stage are shadow-pictures of the five gymnastic exercises of the Greeks. How to learn from gesture the forming of the word; how to follow gesture into the intoning of words and sounds. We must have a feeling for how gesture dis-appears in the word.
III. Speech as a Formed Gesture September 7, 1924
The prose of to-day is product of a culture that is derived from the head. Prose found its last artistic expression in rhetoric and eloquence. The modern style, which consists in giving point and emphasis to certain words, is modified in the recitation of epic by the presence of rhythm and metre. The hexameter.Reading from Goethe's Achilleis. The dactyl and the anapaest. The trochee and the iambus. The drama that has style and the drama of conversation.
IV. How to Attain Style in Speech and Drama September 8, 1924
The Alexandrine as a compromise between prose and poetry. Reading from Lecomte de Lisle's Hypatia. Narrative in poetry can lead naturally over to drama, trochees easily acquiring a dramatic character. Stanzas from Herder's Der Cid. Drama of the Spirit that has a touch of the epic can build the bridge to the drama of actual life. Scenes from Lessing's Faust. The artistic element in poetry consists in what is spiritually alive. In dramatic art, intellect is the last and artistic feeling the first thing to be considered.
V. 'The Secret of the Art of the Masters Consists in This: He Annihilates Matter Through Form' —Schiller September 9, 1924
Form, picture, rhythm have to gain the upper hand over matter, perception, feeling. Reading from Goethe's 'German' and 'Roman' Iphigenie. From appreciation of the content of a play we have to pass on to study of its form. Man's formative powers. The speech organism can itself form the speech organs.
VI. Sensitive Perception for Sound and Word Instead of for Meaning and Idea September 10, 1924
The transition from speech-forming to dialogue. Reading from Molière's Le Misanthrope. Integrity in art does not consist in slavish imitation, but in the artistic treatment of the material, which for the art of the stage is the word (in all its variety of form) and mime and gesture. We must learn to understand in hearing, instead of hearing in understanding. The vowel reflects an experience of the soul within; the consonant the striving of the soul to imitate — in the form of the sound — a process or object outside. Sound pictures and word pictures. Sound-shifting, and the changes that words undergo.
VII. Some Practical Illustrations of the Forming of Speech September 11, 1924
The first scene in Hamerling's Danton und Robespierre. The mood is created by the treatment of sound.
Part II: The Art of Production and the Art of Acting
VIII. The Moulding and Sculpting of Speech September 12, 1924
The 'greyness' of stage speaking must be overcome. Regarded artistically, naturalism is untrue. A role like Riccaut de la Marlinière in Lessing's Minna von Barnhelm has of necessity to be spoken with style. Reading from Minna von Barnhelm. Instead of hearing through ' the word, we must learn to hear again the forming of the word. The word having been given its full artistic value, the individuality of the character has then to be shown in gesture and mime. A gymnastics carried out in the spirit of the Greek gymnastics is the best way to begin a training for the stage. The forming of the word becomes then instinctive, so do also mime and gesture. Conscious study has to be accompanied by instinctive experience. The individual personality of the student should be approached out of the spirit of the whole. A great deal of what he learns can become instinct in him. An acting that obeys strict rules gives the impression of being artificial. Naturalism on the stage has the same effect as puppets.
IX. Style in Gesture September 13, 1924
In Goethe's Iphigenie and Torquato Tasso language reaches a high pitch of artistic development. In Die natürliche Tochter and Pandora he turns his attention more to the composition of the stage picture. Reading from Torquato Tasso. On the stage, mere imitation of real life is a dilettantism. A feeling for style must come again. Everything that happens on the stage should follow necessarily from the inner configuration of the piece. Conscious attunement of gesture and word leads to artistic style, and should receive special attention in a school of production.
X. The Mystery Character of Dramatic Art September 14, 1924
The artistically formed word as a revelation of the whole human being. Impressions of a moral nature follow the same path to evoke speech as do physical impressions to give rise to sensation. The art of the Mysteries took its guidance from impulses that reach man from the spiritual world, not excluding those that enter right into the material details of his life. The formed word, as uttered in the Choruses, was so far individual-ised as to be able to betoken Divine Beings. Man's life was brought into close relation with the Divine life. When man could no longer see in the artistically formed word the contours of the Gods, the human being had to come on to the stage. At first he was there to present a God, to present Dionysos. Later, it was felt that in presenting his own innermost soul, man was still presenting something divine; and representation of Gods gave place to representation of the human soul. Inner human experience found expression in the forming of word and of gesture.
XI. The Relation of Gesture and Mime to the Forming of Speech September 15, 1924
Mime and gesture should never be practised unless accompanied by a sound ' feeling, every bodily movement or action should be connected with speech; this is a matter of stage technique. Various gestures expressive of temperament and mood. Laughing and weeping. The value of eurhythmy for an actor. Having first feit how the macrocosmic gesture is continued inwards and held fast there, he should then intone the sound in the presence of this reflection within of the eurhythmy movement. The vowels and consonants acquire thereby their desired purity. This leads to a religious understanding of speech, as well as of mime and gesture, and to a realisation of the central position occupied by man in the universe.
XII. The Artistic Quality in Drama. Stylisation of Moods. September 16, 1924
Schiller's treatment of mood in his Maria Stuart. The theme was chosen by him as one in which he could develop artistic style. Reading from Maria Stuart. The style of the dramatist prepares the way for the actor to develop his own style. A drama where the theme is the dominant interest has to be played differently from a drama where it is the moods, or the course of events, or the characters that give style to the piece. The picture of the stage has also to be stylised in accordance with mood, it has to be inwardly experienced.
XIII. Study of the Text From Two Aspects: Delineation of Character, and the Whole Form of the Play. September 17, 1924
The text is for the actor what the score is for the musician; he has to re-create it. He needs to have a good grasp of the several characters; it will then be for the producer to relate these rightly one to another. After the study of delineation of character, the next step is to find the fundamental colour-tone that can be maintained throughout as the play proceeds. Scene 2 of Hamerling's Danton und Robespierre. The scale of the vowels gives us for tragedy: fear, compassion, wonder; and for comedy: curiosity, apprehension, relief.
XIV. Stage Décor: Its Stylisation in Colour and Light September 18, 1924
In Aristotle's definition of tragedy, we can see a reflection of what took place in the Mysteries for the ensouling of man. Through the experience of spoken sound, man was to attain catharsis. The art of the stage must again become an experience of the soul, — of the soul that has been incorporated in speech and gesture. The picture of the stage must harmonise with this experience. The décor is not finished until, illuminated by the stage-lighting, it is seen in conjunction with the action on the stage. It demands a stylisation, not in form or line, but in colour and in light. In colour lives soul. Costume is the means whereby the characters show their individual colouring, stage-lighting has to accord with the varying moods of the characters, and outer décor with what the general situation requires. In the colours, human feelings are as it were captured and held fast. Study of the rainbow.
Part III: The Stage and the Rest of Mankind
XV. The Esoteric Art of the Actor's Vocation September 19, 1924
Art has to derive its impulse from the spiritual world; if this be forgotten, art gives place either to routine or to naturalism. The actor has to play upon his body as upon an instrument, and be able at the same time to take the füllest interest in his own acting that he has first objectified. To move artistically on the stage has to be learned on an inward path. The actor should consciously conjure up before him again and again his dream experiences. Continual practice in passing from the full tide of daily life to the solitary living in one's dreams will lead hirn to a more and more inward understanding of his role. He will acquire a dreamlike experience of the play as a whole, beholding it spread out as a tableau before him, and out of that experience find for his own part in it the right gestures and actions. Imagination and fantasy are essential to dramatic art.
XVI. The Work of the Stage From Its More Inward Aspect. Destiny, Character, and Plot. September 20, 1924
The history of dramatic art. The drama of ancient times showed the all-powerful working of destiny. Love and humour, as we know them on the stage to-day, had not yet a place. Then came the development of character; in place of the mask of ancient times, we have the character mask, and gradually the type gives way before the individual. Instead of destiny, it is now the characters that determine the action. Finally, plot emerges as the dominant feature. In a school of dramatic art, the history of the art should be studied, and in particular the early character plays of mediaeval times. Sketch of a play of this type. It is from these folk-plays, full of elemental humour, that comedy was born. Such a study gives the right mood in which to set about producing on the one hand tragedy or on the other hand comedy. Meditative exercises to this end.
XVII. Further Study of the Sounds of Speech. September 21, 1924
The student should be led to perceive what it is that happens within him when he speaks: his astral body seizes hold of his ether body, thereby setting free in him a second man who lives in the speaking. Exercises for a fuller experience of the sounds discover to the student the secret of the word. He should also learn how to take every perception into the realm of the intimate. Such things have to be learned as a matter of technique, but we must be alive to their spiritual significance; only then will it be possible for art to take its right place in life. The influences exercised by different rhythms. A poem of Misson.
XVIII. The Speech Sounds as a Revelation of the Form of Man. Control of the Breath. September 22, 1924
Two things are necessary: to pursue an intensive study of speech and gesture, and to give to the art of the stage its right place in life. In the human form the universe is revealed; in the forming of word and sound man is revealed. The speech organism itself teaches us how to speak; the organs of throat and mouth become the pupils of the sounds. The sounds are the Gods who instruct us; we must approach them with reverence. Right speaking depends on the use to the full of the inbreathed air ; this is an indispensable rule. Every detail of dramatic activity has to be approached with religious devotion; then the actor will not fall a victim to the dangers that beset his work and that can have a demoralising effect. The two worlds : stage and audience. Maeterlinck's L'Intruse. The actor and the dramatic critic.
XIX. The Formative Activity of the Word. September 23, 1924
The whole sound-system of speech expresses the rela-tion of the several organs of speech to the entire human organism. Sounds spoken by means of the palate, for instance, go right through man to his heels and toes, and are an this account a good exercise for stage walking. Right speaking renders man's Body lithe and supple, even down to the very forms of the organs. Speech, when we see it as a complete organism, is man himself in every possible shade of feeling. Speech can become for us increasingly objective. A naturalism that simply imitates, substitutes for the animal mask of older times a mask of the soul. When the actor entern fully into the feeling of the sounds, an abyss separates him from the audience, who recognise only the meaning of the words. The actor's art then becomes for him a veritable ` service of sacrifice whereby the spiritual is brought into the world of the physical. The actor learns first to hear his part in the spirit; then, as he speaks it, he will live in the words. Passages from Shakespeare's Hamlet.