Summer 1959 • Vol. XXI No. 3 Nonfiction |

The Spiritual Center in Eliot’s Plays

The plays of T.S. Eliot remain an enigma in the modern theater. Nearly every critic condemns Eliot's theatrical technique, calls his plays undramatic, and yet finds that when acted they make a very powerful theatrical experience. Paradoxically, dramatic form does not account for the plays, yet the plays are powerful drama. Eric Bentley writes that Sweeney Agonistes "shows how much drama there can be in words alone. This is the only sort of theatricality that any of Eliot's plays have." In the jazz tempo of Sweeney, in the variety of characterizing verse forms of Murder in the Cathedral, and in the subtly re- echoing imagery of The Family Reunion and The Cocktail Party, the emphasis is, for Bentley, on the words themselves. The plays contain a minimum of action, and characterization exists only for purposes of relating the various actors to the protagonist in his struggle toward the realization of his place in the eternal pattern. "I am a very inexpert dramatist," said T. S. Elio

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