Ten years after T. S. Eliot presented The Family Reunion (1939) to mixed reviews, he completed his second verse drama, The Cocktail Party, which became more popular. In its first draft, sketched out in June, 1948, the play was in three scenes (or acts) with a projected epilogue and was tentatively titled “One-Eyed Riley.” According to Elliott Martin Browne, producer of all Eliot’s plays except Sweeney Agonistes (1932), the original draft with its revisions was based more closely than the completed work upon Euripides’ Alkstis, 438 b.c.e. (Alcestis, 1781). The “death” of Alcestis was to correspond with Lavinia’s departure from Edward before the party begins in scene 1. The services performed by Heracles, who descends into Hades to restore to Admetus his sacrificing wife, were to parallel to some extent those of Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly, the psychiatrist who later patches together the flawed Chamberlayne marriage. Celia Coplestone, whom Eliot later described as the major character of the play, is only a minor personality in the early drafts, and the roles of Julia Shuttlethwaite, Peter Quilpe, and Alexander MacColgie Gibbs (first called Alexander Farquhar-Gibbs) are unexpanded and mostly comic.
In the preliminary revisions of the manuscript, Alex does not appear between the party scene of the first act and the conclusion of the consulting-room scene, with its elaborate...
(The entire section is 1546 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Cocktail Party Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!