Lectures on Some Modern Poets

By Margaret Foster Leclair; Beekman W. Cottrell et al. | Go to book overview

THE USE OF VERSE IN THE DRAMA OF T. S. ELIOT

A. FRED SOCHATOFF

WHEN T. S. ELIOT WROTE his first full-length play in 1935, he brought to the activity, first, a considerable and universally acclaimed experience in the composition of poetry; second, clear-cut concepts of the place of verse in drama as well as equally clear notions of how to put those concepts into practice, many of his printed utterances having been devoted to the expression of his theories on both points; and, third, some practical precepts in the writing of poetic drama, as acquired by the penning of Sweeney Agonistes in 1924 and of The Rock ten years later. In the twenty years that have passed since the appearance of Murder in the Cathedral, Eliot has had three more plays professionally produced, and, in addition, he has continued to be highly vocal concerning the rationale underlying verse drama and the composition of it, most conspicuously perhaps in the Theodore Spencer Memorial Lecture delivered at Harvard University on November 21, 1950. The remarks he made at that time draw added attention because he saw fit to illumine his exposition by reference to the three plays which he had had presented by that date. One is thus in the position to evaluate Eliot's basic tenets in themselves, to appraise them in the light of the dramatist's own comments concerning their application in three plays, and to view by any critical criteria he chooses to establish those three plays and a fourth which has been on the stage since then.

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