The essay consists of a dialogue between two speakers in which the first speaker espouses the views of Diderot on acting. The first speaker argues that the great actor is characterized by a complete absence of any feeling; and that the art of the great actor consists of displaying the illusion of feeling. The reason is that if the great actor were to become emotional he would not be able to play the same part in the theater in repeat performances with the same success. Also, those actors who depend on feeling when performing usually give unpredictable or uneven performances. The great actor is thus guided by his intelligence, and not by his emotion. Once the great actor has studied and conceptualized his part through intelligence, he will be able to give repeat performances successfully irrespective of what is going on in his personal life.
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Denis Diderot was a French philosopher and critic during the Age of Enlightenment. From to he served as editor of L'Encyclopedie, which he fashioned as a journal of radical revolutionary opinion. He was a leader in the movement to challenge both church and state by furthering knowledge. Diderot also wrote several critical and philosophical works including Pensees sur l'interpretation de la nature Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature, In addition, he published essays based on personal experience, as well as several plays.
As a philosopher, Diderot speculated on free will and held a completely materialistic view of the universe; he suggested all human behavior is determined by heredity.
He is recognized now as an art critic of the first rank. His Essai sur la peinture Essay on Painting, won him posthumous praise as a critic of painting technique and aesthetics. Paradoxe sur le Comedien. Denis Diderot.
The essay is presented in French, with an editorial introduction and details on actors and actresses mentioned given in English. Paradoxe sur le Comedien Cambridge Plain Texts.
Paradox of Acting