Alfred Bunn’s production of Manfred (Covent Garden, October 29,1834 to February 18, 1835) maintained a successful season and was regularly performed during subsequent years. The major constituents, however, were in unfortunate competition. Stage lighting gave emphasis to the immense paintings by Thomas and William Grieve. The playbill forewarned the audience that “Chandeliers around the Front of the Boxes will not be used on the Evenings of the Performance of Manfred.” The backdrop paintings were crucial to Bunn’s production. “In order to produce the necessary effects of Light and Shade,” downstage action took place in the shadows. Henry Gaskell Denvil in the lead role as Manfred sought to impersonate the author, though dead and gone, reanimating himself as the character condemned to an internal vigil. His performance was intended as another stage enactment of Lord Byron and his personal scandal, representing on stage an impersonation of Byron performing the role of the Byronic character. The impersonations had become more familiar to London audiences than any of the fading memories of the poet. As Byron himself confessed, Edmund Kean was exceptionally skilled in his impersonations. When Denvil took on the role of Manfred at Covent Garden, his performance was burdened by expectations that he would not simply impersonate Byron in that role, but also reprise Edmund Kean’s well-known impersonations of Byron. Also competing with Denvil’s performance as a voice in the shadows beneath the vast backdrop paintings, was the full orchestral score by Henry Rowley Bishop, who rearranged lyrics as popular opera with elaborate solos and choruses. Among the most striking alterations was the retention of the song of the witches (“As the raven sits / On the raven stone”) from the concluding scene of Byron’s original version. Bishop has transformed the song for Ellen Tree, with chorus, at the close of her scene as the Witch of the Alps. Bishop also altered Byron’s revised conclusion, substituting a song made of lines from The Giaour (“This—as the stream and ocean greet”). Bunn succeeded in adapting Manfred as a spectacular musical production, but Bishop’s abbreviated and rearranged libretto deprived the audience of much of Byron’s dramatic poem.
1. Opening with a Faustian scene in which Manfred abjures his previous studies that “did not avail” (I.i.12), Byron introduces the time-conscious “vigil,” the compulsive need to “watch” and “to look within” (I.i.7-8). In each of the successive encounters, the temporality of “watching” is modulated in accord with a scheme other than the familiar course of earthbound time. With the spirits of earth and air, as with the demons of the Hall of Arimanes, Manfred shares an unconstrained vista of universal time and space. “The lightning of my being,” he tells the Seven Spirits, “is as bright, / Pervading, and far darting as your own” (I.i.155-6). Affirming his lot outside of normal mortality, he tells the Chamois Hunter “Look on me.” (II.i.42). “Look on me / Or watch my watchings,” he tells the Witch of the Alps (II.ii.128-9). To the Phantom of Astarte, he says, “Look on me!” (II.iv.119). To the Abbot of St. Maurice, the request is again repeated: “Look on me!” (III.i.138) and “Look upon me!” (III.i.149). While keeping watch upon the tower, Manuel relates to Herman how Astarte was once “companion of his wanderings / And watchings” (III.iii.43-4). Even as he prepares to die, Manfred defies the demons who come to fetch him. Unlike his Faustian prototype, Manfred has made no pact with the devil. He owes his mastery of dark powers to his “superior science” and “length of watching” (III.iv.116).
2. The staging of Manfred might have readily realized the motif of watching by implicating the audience in the different modes of witnessing Manfred as dominant character from scene to scene. Instead, Alfred Bunn’s premier production of the play at Covent Garden (October 29, 1834 to February 18, 1835) decentred the role of the title character with the theatrical enhancements of lighting, setting, and music. To take advantage of the poetic contexts of the demonic and sublime, Bunn commissioned a series of immense theatre paintings by the Grieves. Henry Gaskell Denvil was expected to perform the character of Manfred in the established manner of impersonating Byron performing the role of the Byronic character. Bunn was persuaded by Francis Jeffrey to accept that “obscurity is part of its grandeur.” This entailed a pretence of secrecy regarding “the painful nature of the circumstances,” which Jeffrey declared arose “from the disappointment or fatal issue of an incestuous passion on which its distress is founded” (Jeffrey 122). The hints of brother-sister incest in Manfred’s relation to Astarte were understood to be Byron’s own confession of his illicit relationship with his half-sister, Augusta Mary Byron. On August 17, 1807, Augusta married her cousin, Colonel George Leigh, and had a number of children by him, but Byron was acknowledged as father of her daughter, Elizabeth Medora Leigh, born in 1814. Two years later, Byron’s marriage to Annabelle Milbank had failed and he departed from England amidst rumours of incest with his half-sister (Broadview 13-4).
3. Among Bunn’s entrepreneurial ploys to insure a sensation on opening night at Covent Garden was the invitation of a special guest. There was an electric buzz of excitement as the audience waited for the curtain to rise on the premier performance of Manfred (29 October 1834). The buzz was hushed when the audience witnessed one last spectator take her place in one of the central boxes. The Honorable Augusta Leigh had arrived to watch the play that fueled the stories of incest (Tunbridge 212-36). Twenty years had passed since the birth of their daughter (April 15, 1814), and ten years since the poet’s death at Missolonghi (April 19, 1824), but the old scandals were as lively as ever. During the conjuration of Astarte (II.iv), heads were twisting back and forth in the attempt to judge the reactions to the events on stage by the lady in the box seat.
4. The impersonations of Byron had become more familiar to London audiences than any of the fading memories of the poet. As Byron himself confessed, Edmund Kean was exceptionally skilled in his impersonations of Byron. Kean’s impersonations were only mildly embarrassing when performed in private. They were far too convincing when performed publicly, as in Kean’s performance as Salim in The Bride of Abydos (Drury Lane, February 5, 1818). When Denvil took on the role of Manfred at Covent Garden, his performance was burdened by expectations that he would not simply impersonate Byron in that role but also reprise Edmund Kean’s well-known impersonations of Byron.
5. At odds with his own denial of any ambitions for theatre performance, Byron achieved a far more extensive stage presence than any other playwright of the Romantic era. He attained this prominence in spite of the limited and belated success of his own dramatic works. The popularity of the Byronic character seemed to follow inevitably from the partially autobiographical revelations developed in his literary protagonists. Many years ago, David Erdmann observed a closely related paradox that Byron should declare his purpose “to reform the stage” yet repeatedly deny his intentions to have his plays performed (Erdman 5-6). Upon submitting Manfred to his publisher, John Murray, Byron confessed “an invincible repugnance” of the stage (March 9, 1817, BLJ V:185). In a letter to Douglas Kinnaird, he declared that Manfred is “the very Antipodes of the stage and is meant to be so—it is all in the Alps & the other world—and as mad as Bedlam—I do not know that it is even fit for publication—the persons are all magicians—ghosts—& the evil principle — with a mixed mythology of my own” (March 25, 1817, BLJ V:194-195).
6. One week later, Byron wrote again to Kinnaird to offer yet another reason why “success on the stage is not to me an object of ambition.” The reason is much like the one he borrowed from Milton’s Satan and gave to Manfred: “’Tis better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven” (Paradise Lost, I.254-5; III.i.73). Neither success nor failure in serving the fickle audiences of London would bring any satisfaction. “Unless I could beat them all—it would be nothing” (March 31, 1817, BLJ V:196). At odds with his disclaimers, Byron expressed again and again his thoughts on how his plays might be successfully performed (Erdman 219-43). The argument whether Byron’s works were to be relegated to the sub-genre of “closet drama” is rendered specious and irrelevant by the repeated success of the plays when revived on stage following the poet’s death.
7. Of Byron’s eight plays, Marino Faliero was the only one performed during his lifetime, and Byron protested vehemently against that performance. In the Preface to the play, he wrote “I have had no view to the stage.” As principle reason, he cited his doubt in the competency of an audience to judge his work for better or worse: “Were I capable of writing a play which could be deemed stage worthy, success would give me no pleasure, and failure great pain. It is for this reason that even during the time of being one of the committee of one of the theatres, I never made the attempt, and never will” (Poetical Works 407-8). The performance of Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice (Drury Lane, April 25, 1821) featured John Cooper in the title role. The aged Doge is first angered by Steno’s taunts about the infidelity of his young wife, then enraged by the refusal of the Council to punish the perpetrator, and finally driven in frenzy to a conspiracy to overthrow his own government. Partly because Robert Elliston, manager at Drury Lane, had cut the scenes of the psychological self-torment, and partly because Cooper as an actor was incapable of expressing that capacity of an Othello to be his own Iago, the play closed after five performances (Murray 195-6). Elliston’s abbreviated version stripped away the subtle increments of the Doge’s frustration and infuriation, and Cooper’s performance of the character offered few of the attributes of Byronic temperament that might excite a gossip-craving audience.
8. Several actors, including Edmund Kean (Manning 188-206) and William Charles Macready (Barker 342-4), sought to make the most of Byron’s autobiographical presence in the Byronic character. Responding to the public celebration of the virtuoso performer, actors engaged a rivalry in performing Byronic roles. Needing much more than simply enacting the spirit of the Byronic character, the actors had to make it appear as if Byron himself were on stage performing that character. Parallel to the double role that Byron assigns himself as narrator and character in Childe Harold and Don Juan, the doubleness was also manifest in the stage performance (Burwick, “Subinsinuation” 98-110). Peter Cochran was among the first to give close attention to the staging of Byron’s plays (Cochran “Byron and Drury Lane” 1-34, 201-2). To the staging of Byron’s plays must be added the stage adaptations of such romances as The Corsair and The Bride of Abydos. Too, the appraisal of a stage Byron ought to include the stage adaptations of novels featuring the most notorious representations of Byron: Lord Glenarvon Ruthven in Lady Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon (1816) and Lord Ruthven in John Polidori’s The Vampire (1819). William Barrymore’s stage adaptation of Glenarvon (Coburg, July 13, 1819) featured Henry Kemble as the Byronic Lord Glenarvon. J. Amherst’s version of Glenarvon (Coburg, December 3, 1821) cast H. H. Rowbotham as Ruthven Glenarvon. Both Kemble and Rowbotham turned the role into a studied impersonation of Lord Byron (Burwick, “Playing” 71-86). James Robinson Planché, in The Vampire (English Opera House, August 9, 1820), brought John Polidori’s short story to the stage. He retained the now-familiar sinister name of Lord Ruthven, performed as a stage Byron by Thomas Potter Cooke (Burwick, Romantic Drama 230-57). The best of the Byron impersonators was Kean, who exercised that ability effectively as Selim in The Bride of Abydos (Drury Lane, February 5, 1818), adapted for the stage by William Dimond. When Charles Dibdin, Jr. prepared the staging of The Corsair (Sadler’s Wells, August 1, 1814), he gave Conrad all the poses and situations popularly associated with Byron (Burwick and Powell 59-72).
9. Given its antecedents, the performance of Manfred at Covent Garden on October 29, 1834 was anticipated as another stage enactment of Lord Byron and his personal scandal (Playbill Manfred, Covent Garden, 1834). With scenery by Thomas and William Grieve (Grieve Theatre Designs) and music by Henry Rowley Bishop (Corder 78-97; Caldwell 179-80), stage-manager Alfred Bunn intended a spectacular production of Manfred. Denvil would be performing as Byron performing as Manfred, or as Kean performing as Byron performing as Manfred. Performing before Grieves’ imposing scenery, Denvil confronted the challenge of being upstaged magnificently by the stage itself. Several reviews appraised Denvil’s performance from the perspective of his audience. Bunn, as manager of Covent Garden, communicated the high expectations he had for his young tragedian (Bunn 214-7). William Macready’s account expressed cynicism masked as pity and the noblesse oblige of an experienced senior actor (Macready I:165-6, 187, 269-70). Planché, who had introduced Denvil to Bunn, assumed the role of a concerned mentor but also as playwright offering advice on performing an unusually challenging text (Planché I:213-4.).
10. In spite of delivering with gusto those lines in which Manfred commanded the Chamois Hunter, the Witch of the Alps, Astarte, the Abbot of St. Maurice to look upon him, Denvil found it difficult to step out of the shadows. Determined to represent a reincarnated Byron/Manfred in the grips of a succession of passions, Denvil’s efforts were effectively stifled by an artistic exposition of the Byronic sublime in which Denvil served only as tour guide. According to one reviewer, the great attraction was neither Byron’s poetry nor Denvil’s acting, but rather “the beauty of the scenery, its music, and its mechanical and scenic effects, which are equal, if not superior, to any thing ever yet seen” (Observer, qtd. in Meisel 175). The review continues: “The Messrs. Grieve have exhibited some of the most beautiful specimens of their art; the Jungfrau Mountains, the Cataract of the Lower Alps, and a Terrace of Manfred’s Castle are exquisite pictures, & the Hall of Arimanes, a copy of Martin's Pandemonium was terrifically grand” (Meisel 175). The reviewer in the London Literary Gazette objected to the mistake of rendering the spiritual as physical, and expecting more of Denvil than the monologue provided. “To avoid the ridiculous was a great point, and in that he succeeded” (rpt. in Broadview 127-8).
11. Planché’s main reason for introducing Denvil at Covent Garden was “the old obstacle, the want of a singer who could act.” Covent Garden was without “a popular melo-dramatic performer,” who could sing (Planché I:214). Although Planché made it clear that Denvil was to be reserved for those singing roles in melodrama, “Bunn, fancying he had secured a second Edmund Kean, insisted on Denvil making his first appearance as Shylock.” Reviewers attacked Denvil for his presumption. Denvil, for his own part, knew he was being cast in roles beyond his experience. “He is putting me,” were his words, “on a pinnacle to break my neck: but what can I do? I have, for weeks past, walked Kensington Gardens without a dinner, in order that my wife and little ones should not lose a crumb by me. Mr. Bunn offers me five pounds per week, which is affluence to us and salvation! How can I refuse?” (Planché I:214). Denvil did his best to fulfil the demanding Shakespearean roles, then at the end of October came the rehearsals for the grand spectacle of the season. On the evening of October 29, Denvil stood alone in the dark. Literally. The playbill forewarned the audience that “Chandeliers around the Front of the Boxes will not be used on the Evenings of the Performance of Manfred.” The backdrop paintings were crucial to Bunn’s production. “In order to produce the necessary effects of Light and Shade,” downstage action took place in the shadows. A voice in the shadows, a voice in the vastness (as rebuilt in 1809 Covent Garden seated 2,800 with no amplification), Denvil’s Manfred was further constrained by a musical score in which Manfred was silenced by the series of solos and choruses. Denvil was a strong tenor—as Planché declared, he could sing as well as act. Nevertheless, he was given no opportunity to sing in Henry Bishop’s score.
12. Denvil was so conscious of performing the character as an incarnation of Byron that he seemed to leave him but half resurrected from the tomb. In part that effect was owing to the breathy quality of Denvil’s voice. He seemed as much a supernatural being as Astarte or any of the characters conjured in the court of Arimanes (Planché I:213-5). Denvil rose to the challenge of performing multiple roles in the character of Manfred. He was the poet exiled in scandal and returned as a vampire from the grave; he was the tormented lover longing for the forgiveness of his lost Astarte; he was the defiant apostate fearing neither demons nor death. Singled out for special praise was the scene with the Witch of Alps performed by Ellen Tree (Planché I:214).
13. As Planché explained, Bunn cast Denvil in a succession of demanding roles, as Shylock, as Richard III, and as Bertram. Not surprisingly, the critics blamed the actor for an overeager ambition:
14. When Manfred opened at the end of October, William Macready was on tour and performing at Dublin. The audience reception remained sufficiently strong throughout the first season to sustain the run for thirty-six performances. Macready read the reviews and expressed his opinions in his letters to Bunn, who several months earlier had urged Macready to “perform Manfred, postponing for that purpose my Dublin engagement.” Macready told Bunn that it would be impractical to prepare for Manfred in advance of his visit to Dublin. In his diary, however, he recorded his conviction that there was “no chance for the success of Manfred—it is . . . not a monodrama, but a monologue; splendid as the poetry is, it is not at all dramatic.” Macready had already gained acclaim for bringing to the stage both Werner (Drury Lane, December 15, 1830) and Sardanapalus (Drury Lane, April 10, 1834), roles that he would reprise during his Dublin engagement (Macready, 1:165).
15. When Bunn engaged Denvil for the 1834-1835 season, Macready watched with interest the criticism in the Examiner. From “his repetition of Shylock and his announcement to-morrow for Richard III,” John Forster, the respected literary reviewer, saw a flaw in Bunn’s confidence in Denvil, “whose exact place in the scale of actors he seems unable to determine” (Macready I:187). Based on additional reports, Macready’s estimation is similarly reserved: “he has, from what I have read of him, a mind above the common theatrical level and the intellectual material to furnish forth an artist.” Unable to anticipate the consequences of Bunn’s aggressive use of Denvil’s talent, Macready concludes, “What will come of it is in the will of other powers” (Macready I:187). A generous review of Denvil’s Shakespearean roles prompted Macready to denounce the Times as a “base and profligate paper” guilty of “dirty malignity” for praising others and ignoring him (Macready I:189).
16. Lamenting Denvil’s “brief career and his ill-treatment by Bunn, and melancholy exit from the stage of life,” Planché wrote as if Denvil were burdened with hardship and failure following his performance as Manfred. “Under a more judicious management” than Bunn had offered, Denvil might have been “permanently established in the higher position which . . . he had attained.” In spite of Planché’s gloomy pronouncement, Denvil fared well in his subsequent career. As soon as the season at Covent Garden ended, Denvil accepted an invitation from John Farrell at the Pavilion Theatre to perform as Manfred for the week of July 20, 1835. At the Pavilion in 1835, and in years following, Denvil’s performances as Manfred were no longer diminished by Bishop’s grand score, nor by the imposing scenes of the Grieves. Edward Woolf composed the new music, and scenery on a more modest scale was constructed by the Gordons, father and son, with sublime vistas by Brunning (Playbill, Manfred, Pavilion, 1835).
17. In January 1836, Denvil was in Bristol playing Macduff opposite Macready’s Macbeth, and Iago opposite Macready’s Othello. In what may have been a warning, Denvil told Macready of pitching a fellow actor “from a height of eighteen feet” during a performance. Macready also complained of being “very much inconvenienced and embarrassed” by Denvil, as Iago, repeatedly upstaging him (Macready I:269-70). In addition to one character tormenting the other, the audience witnessed one actor tormenting the other. When Bunn ceased casting Macready in leading roles, leaving him to play only in an afterpiece, Macready lost his temper, called Bunn a “damned scoundrel,” and punched him in the face. Bunn defended himself by biting Macready’s little finger (April 29, 1836, Macready I:301-2).
18. Denvil accepted an invitation from Park Theatre, New York, where he repeated the roles of his first season at Covent Garden, with his “début . . . in October, 1836, as Shylock. Which he followed up with Richard III, and Manfred, returning to England in 1837” (Adams 392-3). Denvil returned to performing the singing roles in melodrama, the roles for which Planché had said he was best suited. On one occasion (June 1, 1840) Denvil played the lead in The Pirate of Manfredonia, adapted from Maturin’s Bertram, a role that he had played for Bunn during the fall of 1834. As evident from his appearances in New York, he had not utterly abandoned the Shakespearean roles Bunn had imposed upon him. At the City of London Theatre in 1843 he appeared again as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and as Rolla in Sheridan’s Pizarro.
19. Jointly with his wife, Alice Matilda, Denvil was managing and performing at the Pavilion Theatre in Whitechapel Road during the 1840s. Alice Matilda Denvil not only acted but also authored several of their plays, and by 1842 Master Manfred Denvil was on stage for the interlude performing a sailor’s hornpipe. On August 21, 1857, Charles Kean, lessee of Princess’s Theatre, signed an agreement for the engagement of Alice Matilda Denvil (Memorandum, Y.d.380, Folger Library, Manuscript). Planché’s reference to Denvil’s “melancholy exit from the stage of life,” suggested a gloomy fate for Denvil’s latter career. In spite of financial difficulties Denvil enjoyed a period of relative success at the Pavilion.
20. Theatre critic Westland Marston began his account of Manfred by describing not Denvil but Ellen Tree:
21. Denvil’s impersonation of Byron as Manfred at Covent Garden was accompanied by a burlesque at the Strand Theatre ridiculing Bishop’s score, mimicking other composers, as fitting accompaniment to Denvil’s mimicking Byron and Kean (Tunbridge 212-36). Gilbert Abbott à Beckett’s Man-Fred (December 26, 1834) amused the crowds with Mitchell’s impersonation of Denvil’s impersonation of Byron as Manfred (à Beckett ix.6). According to the reviewer in the Times, the best scene in the burlesque involved Mitchell’s mimicking “the attitude in which Mr Denvil lately astonished the visitors at one of the patent theatres, and in which he is represented in the shop windows” (December 27, 1834). That Manfred in Byron’s tragedy was perceived as needing a comic counterpart in burlesque is reconfirmed when Manfred was revived thirty years later (Drury Lane, October 14, 1863) with Samuel Phelps in the lead role as Manfred. No time was lost in bringing forth Manfred’s madcap double in Martin Dutnall’s Mad Fred at the Royal Surrey Theatre (Times, November 20, 1863).
22. The opening scene in the Grieves’ “Gothic gallery” provided Denvil with a comfortably enclosed stage space, and presented the audience with a scene already familiar. Billed as “Goethe’s Terrific Drama of Faustus” (Coburg, June 7, 1824), the partial translations by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley were woven together by Henry M. Milner (Burwick, "The Faust Translations" 30-42). Better known and more often performed was Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (1594, published 1604), which also opened with a scene of abjuration. “Settle thy studies Faustus,” Marlowe’s character tells himself, “and beginne / To sound the depth of that thou wilt professe.” Aristotle’s Analytics, Galen’s Medicine, Justinian’s Law, are put aside, for Faustus will now devote his mind to mastering necromancy (Marlowe 164, 166). Goethe’s Faust similarly dismisses his study of the traditional disciplines—Philosophy, Law, Medicine, Theology—as having failed to bring him closer to the knowledge he seeks (Faust ll.354-9). The abjuration scene occurs in other early plays. In Robert Greene’s Bacon Friar and Friar Bungay (1594), the faculty charges Friar Bacon for having turned to magic, a trespass he readily confesses:
23. Left with only pieces of monologue, Denvil’s Manfred was nevertheless able to abjure outmoded disciplines with a broad indictment of arcane knowledge. In the Hall of Arimanes, the First Destiny declares that Manfred’s aspirations have taught him the wisdom of hell: “That knowledge is not happiness” (II.iv.59-62). Recognizing the importance of Manfred’s opening monologue in establishing character, Denvil was able to lay claim Manfred’s ethical independence in the opening lines when he reframes the words of Genesis (2:9, 17) to define the futility and fatality of knowing.
24. The three-part abjuration is followed by three attempts at conjuration: first he conjures with a “written charm,” and then by the “sign, / Which makes you tremble.” When neither charm nor sign arouse the spirits, he utters a third incantation “By the strong curse which is upon my soul” (I.i.28-49). This spell succeeds, calling forth the spirits (I.i.50-131), whose respective songs are accompanied by full orchestra. The spirits of the four elements sing in succession. Air descends from the cloud, Earth from the mountain, Fire from the volcano, and Water from “the blue depth.” Then come the three powers: “the rider of the wind,” the “stirrer of the storm,” “the shadow of the night.” Next would come light, “The star which rules thy destiny,” but Bunn has omitted the role of the seventh spirit, who has no song, no lines, no place among the dramatis personae. Instead, Bunn’s score moves directly into the chorus, where all seven are listed: “Earth, ocean, air, night, mountains, winds, thy star, / Are at thy beck and bidding” (I.i.132-3). To Manfred’s request for “forgetfulness,” the spirits reply that they “can but give thee that which we possess.” The forgetfulness that Manfred desires is an end to his unrelenting vigil, the image of “that which is most within me” (I.i.137). When he then calls upon the spirits to assume some form that he may behold them, the otherwise absent seventh spirit, played by Miss Clifton, appears and disappears in the form of Astarte:
25. In Act I, scene ii of Bunn’s production Manfred is transported to “A Wild Rocky Pass,” where Denvil lies on the scaffolding while the spirits sing their incantation, “When the moon is on the wave, And the glow-worm in the grass” (I.i.193-4). In the original text, the incantation continued for sixty-nine lines. Bishop has reduced the song to the first two ten-line strophes. When Manfred awakens from the trance, he must acknowledge the inefficacy of his conjuration.
26. In the next scene (I.iii in Bunn’s production), the dimensions of the Grieves’ settings become evident. Denvil is poised on the concealed scaffolding half way up the face of “the Mountain of the Jungfrau,” sufficiently high above the stage to lend credibility to his reflections on a suicidal leap. The Chamois Hunter was played by John Cooper, who thirteen years earlier was “the young actor doubly damned” by Byron for his performance in the title role of Marino Faliero (Bunn 154). As a transition to the scene with the Witch of the Alps, Denvil must again fall into a trance as Bishop introduces two more ten-line strophes from the Invocation, now adapted as a Malediction, “And a magic voice and verse / Hath baptized thee with a curse” (I.i.223-32, 253-62).
27. Cutting the dialogue and rearranging the scenes, Bunn explained, was necessary to take advantage of Byron’s “vast contribution of the ‘marvellous’ and the ‘improbable’.” “By favoring us with little plot, little action, and few characters,” Bunn further argued, “the noble poet did his utmost to render his progeny unfit for representation.” By condensing the text, and enhancing the performance with grand set designs and appropriate music, Bunn was able to overcome the presumed dramatic deficiency. The resulting production “was eminently successful — applauded by a crammed auditory, lauded, with but one exception, by the press” (Bunn 215). That “one exception” was the reviewer in the Morning Chronicle (October 30, 1834).
28. Denvil was dwarfed by the grand backdrops painted by the Grieves, and the reviewer of the Morning Chronicle said so. Bunn expressed his anger over this review in his correspondence with J. P. Collier, proprietor of the Morning Chronicle. Bunn accused Collier’s newspaper with having “belaboured the production of Manfred (as it had done all the preceding efforts of the season) unmercifully.” Among the “preceding efforts,” Bunn referred particularly to the vilification of Joseph and Mary Anne Wood (Memoir 15-8), whom Bunn had engaged for their performance in Rossini’s Cinderella (Covent Garden, October 1834). Bunn made it clear that he blamed the “theatrical reporter, and believed by me to be my theatrical opponent.” He wrote,
29. Surviving in the performance script were Manfred’s lines repeating Satan’s declaration in Paradise Lost (1664) that “The mind is its own place, and it itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” (PL I.254-5), lines already echoed in the incantation, “Thyself to be thy proper hell!” In the scenes with the Chamois Hunter, Byron defines the Swiss sense of liberty with allusions to Wilhelm Tell (Giddey 179-90; Piccitto 168-82). For the scene with the Witch of the Alps Byron drew from the legend of Tannhäuser, the celebrated medieval minnesinger who was captivated by the Venus of the Mountain (Grimm 246-7). For the scene in the Hall of Arimanes Byron may again have drawn from Milton’s description of Satan with the fallen angels in Pandemonium, but Milton introduced no mortal interloper defying Satan’s reign.
30. Until Bunn decided to trim the monologues, half the lines in Manfred belonged to Manfred himself. The other characters, including Astarte, had no abiding presence in the plot, appear only in one or two scenes, and function to reveal aspects of Manfred’s character. Each scene thus functioned separately from the others, a division that was rendered more emphatic by the gallery-like exhibition of the massive canvases painted by the Greives. The Chamois-Hunter, living at one with the sublimity of Alpine nature, represents the Swiss spirit liberty and independence and the ethos of patience in adversity. At a distance he perceives in Manfred one who is “Proud as a free-born peasant,” but on closer approach recognizes a “madman” about to leap from the cliff. Aggressive intervention is necessary to halt the suicidal leap of Manfred, whom the Chamois-Hunter seizes with the chastising words, “Stain not our pure vales with thy guilty blood” (I.ii.111). Manfred confesses, as he will again and again, the origin of that guilt:
31. Confessing his fatal embrace and the injuries that befell those who loved him (I.i.84-7), Manfred departs from the Chamois Hunter and descends to the foot of an Alpine waterfall. Beneath the sunbow hovering in the mists of the cataract arises the Witch of the Alps, to whom he again confesses the loss of Astarte, and from whom he once more requests forgetfulness. John Martin’s painting, Manfred and the Witch of the Alps (1837), is a painting of a painting, preserving the appearance of Denvil and Ellen Tree in the scene painted by the Grieves. In relating his love for Astarte, Manfred reveals a narcissistic fascination with the mirrored image he perceives in the traits and features of his female companion. Astarte, Manfred declares, “was like me in lineaments—her eyes, / Her hair, her features, all, to the very tone / Even of her voice . . . were like to mine.” She had the “same lone thoughts and wanderings, / The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind / To comprehend the universe” (II.ii.105-11). This most harmonious of all possible heterosexual relationships is undermined by cultural taboos and familial or social opposition: “I loved her, and destroy’d her! / Not with my hand, but heart—which broke her heart” (II.ii.111-21).
32. The rumored incest seemed to be confirmed in Manfred (published June 16, 1817) in the implied incestuous relationship between the Count and Astarte (Glass 211-26). The titillating gossip was repeatedly revived. Just as Childe Harold and Don Juan attracted attention for their presumed autobiographical revelations, the character of Manfred was deemed to be a thinly disguised dramatization of a forbidden love between Byron and his half-sister.
33. Reiterating his need for spectator participation in his suffering, Manfred tells the Witch of the Alps to “look on me in my sleep, / Or watch my watching” (II.ii.129-30). She assures him that she can secure the forgetfulness that he desires, but it will require “obedience to my will” and a surrender to her bidding. Manfred scorns the offer. In his soliloquy that closes the scene, Manfred declares his intention to call the dead, as David had the Witch of Endor summon the ghost of Samuel or Pausanias had his priests call the spirit of Cleonice so that he could ask her forgiveness. The reviewer for the Observer (November 2, 1834) wrote that Denvil lost his dramatic leverage in these scenes. Instead of the living interrogating the spirits, Denvil presented the dead shuffling among the dead. In the brief scene on the summit of the Jungfrau Mountain, the Destinies and Nemesis anticipate the night of “our great festival” (II.iii.15), an event that suggests a parallel to the Walpurgis Night in Goethe’s Faust (Chew 174-8). Nemesis was played by Miss Taylor, who had previously performed as Rebecca in Thomas John Dibdin’s Ivanhoe and as Zapolya, in Dibdin’s adaptation of Coleridge’s play. Tree’s best moment was her dynamic speech, “Son of Earth! I know thee.” Following Denvil’s moving rendition of the monologue, “We are fools of time and terror” (II.ii.165), the scene closed with “The Witches Carnival,” in which Bishop developed Byron’s lyric as a Walpurgis-like revel.
34. Bishop was ingenious in rescuing the song from the canceled version of Act III and placing it at the end of the scene with the Witch of the Alps. The comic grotesque of Byron’s lyrics and Bishop’s melodic shifts effectively prepare for the arrival at the Hall of Arimanes, yet it is also worthwhile to recall the satirical charge of the original context. In the first version, Byron exposes the Abbot’s piety as a mask for greed. “Charity, most reverend father,” Manfred tells him, “Becomes thy lips so much more than this menace.” The Abbot promises to refrain from malediction, unless Manfred “dost not all devote thyself / To penance, and with gift of all thy lands / To the Monastery.” In response, Manfred offers a gift to the Abbot—a demonic jack-in-the box. “There is a gift for thee within this casket,” he says, and opening it, out pops the demon Ashtaroth, singing the song of the raven and the Witches’ Carnival.
35. The realm of evil into which Manfred intrudes, as already noted, borrows indirectly from Milton’s Pandemonium. As observed by two reviewers (Times and Morning Chronicle, October 30, 1834), the setting replicates John Martin’s Satan Presiding at the Infernal Council (1823-27). Martin’s later version, Pandemonium (1841), bears the influence of the Grieves. The emphasis is rather on the bold defiance of the presumed sovereignty of Arimanes. Manfred, like Prometheus defying Jupiter, refuses to “Bow down and worship” (II.iv.29-49). Arimanes, who speaks but one word, grants the request to call up the dead. Nemesis calls forth the spirit of Astarte. “Look on me,” he tells her, but thrice repeats his more urgent plea, “Speak to me!” (II.iv.117-50). Like Pausanias calling the spirit of Cleonice, Manfred wants Astarte’s forgiveness, and like Cleonice, Astarte replies with the revelation of his impending death. Thrice she utters his name; thrice she bids him farewell. Her sole message: “Tomorrow ends thine earthly ills” (II.iv.150-7). In the songs of Nemesis, the Destinies, and the Spirits (II.iii and iv), Bishop sought to fulfill his operatic aspirations with compositional hints of the aria sung by the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
36. Byron adhered to the three-act format that distinguished melodrama from the traditional five-act structure of comedy and tragedy. Bishop further reduced the structure by combining Acts II and III. Act I, scene v presented Manfred’s reflection on the kalon as transitory illusion. He is visited by the Abbot of St. Maurice, who comes to save Manfred’s soul. This is a very different Abbot than the one in the manuscript version who represented the corruption of the Catholic Church. As staged at Covent Garden in 1834, the Abbot was played by James Prescott Warde, known for his role as Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and as Mortimer in The Iron Chest, adapted from William Godwin’s Caleb Williams by George Colman the Younger. This revised Abbot is free of greed and corruption but still constrained by dogma. Manfred tells him that there is no charm in prayer, no purification in penitence. As Milton’s Satan declared, the mind can “make a hell of heaven.” His fate, Manfred insists, is a matter exclusively between himself and heaven, and he wants neither church nor priest as his mediator. To behold one who has aged more than a mortal life time, he instructs the Abbot, “Look on me!” And to observe one who has experienced a full range of the maladies of fate. “Look on me!” (III.i.138, 149).
37. In the next short scene, Manfred watches the sinking sun and declares himself ready to follow. Then in the third scene, the servants Herbert and Manuel recall former days --Manfred’s youth and his devotion to Astarte:
38. In the final scene, the Abbot returns, but again his offer of prayer is spurned. When the spirits come to claim Manfred’s immortal soul, the Abbot makes a futile effort to exorcise them. Manfred, however, rejects their claim. His power, he tells them, “Was purchased by no compact with thy crew,” rather by his own “length of watching, strength of mind, and skill” (III.iv.114-6). “Back to thy hell!” he commands them, “Thou hast no power upon me.” Just as he rejected the mediation of church and priest, he denies the claims of hell’s minions. The declaration of Milton’s Satan that “The mind is its own place, and it itself / Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” (PLI.254-5), as I have previously observed, has already been echoed in the lines, “I call upon thee! and compel / Thyself to be thy proper hell!” (I.i.252), and again in the lines, “The innate tortures of that deep Despair, / Which is Remorse without the fear of hell, / But all in all sufficient to itself / Would make a hell of Heaven (III.i.70-3). The words of Milton’s Satan are repeated for the third time:
39. Although Manfred declares himself ready to kneel with Arimanes to “The overruling Infinite—the Maker” (II.iv.48), and the Abbot expresses his faith in Heaven, Byron’s Manfred offers no further confirmation of a divine paradise. The existence of Hell is sustained by the reign of Arimanes and by the demons who seek to take possession of Manfred’s soul. From beginning to end the play never questions a spiritual afterlife. With the song of the Witch’s Carnival revived and reinserted at the end of the scene with the Witch of the Alps, Bishop recognized that another song was needed for the finale following Manfred’s death.
40. Following the witches’ song at the end of Act I, Bunn’s altered Act II opens with the Manfred atop the Jungfrau, where the spirits and destinies sing prior to Manfred entrance into the Hall of Arimanes. The spirits’ song of “The Captive Usurper” was the most political of the play, and its account of the fall and resurrection of Napoleon had a powerful resonance when Manfred was published in 1817.
41. Starting with the overthrow of the conservative government of Charles X and the House of Bourbon, this was supposed to be a liberal constitutional monarchy under Louis Philippe I. Calling himself King of the French, rather than King of France, he proclaimed himself a populist and leader of the people’s party. He promised to follow the juste milieu, the middle way between radical liberalism and arch-conservatism, the stream and the ocean. It soon became clear, however, that his government was supported by wealthy bourgeoisie and many of those who had been prominent in the conservative court of Charles X. The prophecy of a re-emergence of a “Captive Usurper” is realized when the stream and Ocean greet, / With waves that madden as they meet.” The “groan of war,” as the song predicts, would be heard again in the revolution of 1848.
42. The supernatural scenes dealt with an order of demonic spiritualism that had little in common with the ghosts and demons in the Gothic melodrama of the times. The visual dominance of the paintings may have been at fault, but so too was Denvil’s Manfred as a resuscitated Byron, an entity of a physical afterlife. Bishop’s music may have been more disruptive than conducive to the competing notions of time. Seventeen years after it was written, ten years after the poet’s death, Bunn’s production of Manfred was self-disrupting, omitting much of the dialogue crucial to developing Manfred’s character (Programme).
43. Bishop’s music may have complemented, or even enhanced, the sublime settings by the Grieves, but they also created obstacles for Denvil’s role. Byron’s Manfred challenged the eternal time of heaven, hell, and mythic realms as well as the personal time of suffering or merciful forgetting. Bunn’s production further required that the actor conjure the phantom of the poet in a sequence of moods and tempers. Neither Bunn, nor the Grieves, nor Bishop made Denvil’s task easier. In spite of Planché’s dire pronouncement of Denvil’s “melancholy exit from the stage of life,” Denvil continued to find success, even in his troubled performances with Macready, whose career was damaged by ill-temper. Denvil at the Pavilion Theatre maintained a far more successful career than he had in the years before taking on the title role in Manfred.
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