T. S. Eliot Drama Analysis
T. S. Eliot’s conservative dramaturgy is clearly expressed in his 1928 essay “Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry” in which, as C. L. Barber notes, he suggests that “genuine drama” displays “a tension between liturgy and realism.” To be sure, Eliot differed sharply from the advocates of Ibsenite realism, maintaining throughout his career that untrammeled realism operating outside the limitations of art did not produce classic harmony. In consequence, Eliot relied on a number of traditional forms, including the Mass and Greek drama. On the other hand, he created new verse forms, convinced that traditional forms such as Shakespearean blank verse would be inadequate to express modern experience. In Sweeney Agonistes, he made use of the rhythms of vaudeville, believing that such robust entertainment contained the seeds of a popular drama of high artistic quality, comparable to the achievements of the great Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights.
Modern religious drama, Eliot believed, “should be able to hold the interest, to arouse the excitement, of people who are not religious.” Redemption is the theme of all of his plays, a theme explored on different levels. For example, Becket’s understanding, in Murder in the Cathedral, that salvation is a willing submission to a larger pattern is developed and tempered in the later social comedies.
In almost all of his plays, Eliot presents characters on a continuum of spiritual...
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