Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot

By Raymond Williams | Go to book overview

2
T. S. Eliot

(i)

MR. ELIOT'S creative work in the drama is small in quantity; it is also, one hopes, unfinished. As yet, there are the three major plays--Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, and The Cocktail Party; the important fragments of Sweeney Agonistes; and, though it cannot really be said to count, The Rock. On these few works a radical innovation in the European drama has been based, and recognition of their quality and influence is general. Assertion of the importance of Eliot's dramatic experiments, which for some people and in several places and not so long ago was a minor crusade, is now an established and metalled road of pilgrimage. The change is partly due to a recognition of the achievement itself; it is perhaps even more due to "the susurrus of popular repetition", and to the perhaps final act of contemporary literary faith, commercial success. In any case, strict critical assessment of the achievement, in the context of modern dramatic development as a whole, is particularly necessary. The plays are no longer isolated successes, but the beginning of a movement; we must try to see Eliot's influence is taking the drama. Moreover, even the small body of the work contains a wide variety, both of method and of success; the time for proclamation of the work as a manifesto is past; we must be concerned now with precise distinctions and discriminations. The present essay is concerned to review Eliot's plays as experiments in a new dramatic form; to offer some conclusions as to relative success and failure, with regard to performances as well as to texts; and to estimate the degree of gain and its relation to modern drama as a whole.


(ii)

The essentially dramatic nature of Eliot's early verse has been sufficiently demonstrated in the criticism of F. R. Leavis

-223-

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Drama: From Ibsen to Eliot
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 11
  • Part I 39
  • I - Henrik Ibsen 41
  • 2 - August Strindberg 98
  • 3 - Anton Chekhov 126
  • 4 - Bernard Shaw 138
  • 5 - J. M. Synge 154
  • 6- Two Social Plays 175
  • 7 - Luigi Pirandello 185
  • 8 - Jean Anouilh: a Comment 196
  • Part II 203
  • I - W. B. Yeats 205
  • 2 - T. S. Eliot 223
  • 3 - Some Verse Dramatists 247
  • 4 - Criticism into Drama 269
  • Index 279
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