Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray

CHAPTER 7 (continued)

Yet she was curiously listless. She showed no sign of joy when her eyes rested on Romeo. The few words she had to speak--

     Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
         Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
     For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
         And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss--

with the brief dialogue that follows, were spoken in a thoroughly artificial manner. The voice was exquisite, but from the point of view of tone it was absolutely false. It was wrong in colour. It took away all the life from the verse. It made the passion unreal.

Dorian Gray grew pale as he watched her. He was puzzled and anxious. Neither of his friends dared to say anything to him. She seemed to them to be absolutely incompetent. They were horribly disappointed.

Yet they felt that the true test of any Juliet is the balcony scene of the second act. They waited for that. If she failed there, there was nothing in her.

She looked charming as she came out in the moonlight. That could not be denied. But the staginess of her acting was unbearable, and grew worse as she went on. Her gestures became absurdly artificial. She overemphasized everything that she had to say. The beautiful passage--

     Thou knowest the mask of night is on my face,
     Else would a maiden blush bepaint my cheek
     For that which thou hast heard me speak to-night--

was declaimed with the painful precision of a schoolgirl who has been taught to recite by some second-rate professor of elocution. When she leaned over the balcony and came to those wonderful lines--

         Although I joy in thee,
     I have no joy of this contract to-night:
     It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
     Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
     Ere one can say, "It lightens."  Sweet, good-night!
     This bud of love by summer's ripening breath
     May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet--

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