Book 16 Chapter 5 of Tom Jones.

This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones over the course of four years.

This chapter sees Tom and Patridge seeing Hamlet performed by the greatest actor of his time, David Garrick. Partridge is unimpressed by Garrick, who made his reputation with a naturalistic style of acting. To Partridge, Garrick appears simply to be reacting naturally to all of the things which Hamlet encounters. He's much more impressed with the actor portraying Claudius, who screams ACTING! with every line.

I've written before about Fielding as playwright, but he appears to be sneakily introducing some acting theory into this chapter (rather than expounding on it in one of his discursive chapters). He seems to be making the case that what made Garrick a great actor is that he focuses his attention on making his acting partners look good and believable, rather than puffing himself up.

When you see modern actors talking about great actors they've worked with, they almost always talk about how "generous" a great actor is. What they usually mean is that the great actor will give their scene partner a lot to work with, or to put it even more simply, they put their attention on their partner rather than inward into their own emotional life.

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AuthorMark Turetsky