Eliot’s Genius: Essentially Dramatic
Eliot’s genius was essentially dramatic and there is a strong element of drama even in his poetry. With the passing of time, the dramatic bent of his genius led him to concentrate all his attention on poetic drama. The greatness of Eliot as a dramatist may be questioned, but there can be no denying the significance and value of his dramatic criticism. His dramatic criticism is contained largely in essays like, The Four Elizabethan Dramatists, A Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry, Rhetoric and Poetic Drama and Poetry and Drama. In order to understand his attitude towards Poetic Drama, it is essential to examine critically the views expressed by him in these essays.
1. A DIALOGUE ON DRAMATIC POETRY
Its Tentative Nature
A Dialogue on Dramatic Poetry was written in 1928, when Eliot was still feeling his way. So the views expressed are only tentative; nothing is asserted with any finality. In his later essays, Eliot is more sure of himself and views are expressed with greater self-confidence.
The Problem of Poetic Drama: Its Discussion from Various Angles
The Dialogue was written as a Preface to Dryden’s discussion of the subject in his Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and its form was suggested by Dryden’s Essay. It is in the nature of a discussion between six persons from A to G, E being Eliot himself. The form of the dialogue enables Eliot to discuss the problem of poetic drama from different angles. Different points of view are given, discussed, and ultimately some sort of consensus is arrival at.
The Complexity of the Problem
First, it is agreed that in the modem age the problems connected with drama have become very complex and so it is not possible today to frame and discuss laws of drama, as it could be done by Aristotle and Dryden. In their age, the problems were not so complex and varied. They had not to consider the relation of drama to politics, and to religion and ethics. But in the modern age they must examine such relationships.
Moral Attitude Necessary
Secondly, after much discussion it is agreed that the aim of drama is not merely to provide amusement. Different dramatists may have different aims, but no dramatist can do without a moral attitude.
The Need of Form
Next, the problem of form in drama comes in for discussion. If there is to be a future for Poetic drama, some suitable form must be evolved. The case of a Russian ballet is cited. The ballet imposes order and pattern on the movements of the dancer. The ballet has a permanent form, and this form arises out of a system of physical training, and highly skilled movements. In other words, it is a kind of liturgy. The drama had its origin in the liturgy of the church. The Mass is a small drama, having all the unities, and a Mass well-performed gives great dramatic satisfaction. The drama had its origin in the Mass, and it cannot afford to cut itself from the ritual and liturgy of the church. It can gain strength and vitality by a return to its source. No drama can be a substitute for religion, but its religious origin indicates the supreme importance of the moral or religious aim of the drama, and of a suitable form.
The Use of Verse Justified
The form of modern drama can be either prose or verse. It is generally supposed that verse is artificial, and that the emotional range and realistic truth are circumscribed by verse. Such notions are wrong. The human soul at moments of intense emotion expresses itself in verse. Prose drama merely emphasises the ephemeral and the superficial; if we want the permanent and the universal we must express ourselves in verse. Hence arises the need of poetic drama.
The Identity of Poetry and Drama
This leads to a discussion of the relation of poetry and drama. William Archer in his book on the Elizabethan dramatists separated poetry and drama. He condemned the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists for mixing poetry and drama. This is wrong. Verse and drama are not two separate things. Verse is not something added to drama: “All poetry tends towards drama and all drama towards poetry”. In a really creative work, poetry and drama are fused together. In moments of dramatic tension, poetry becomes dramatic. The poetic pattern and the dramatic pattern are indistinguishable. The greatest drama is poetic drama, and dramatic defects can be compensated for by poetic excellence. Poetry is not mere embellishment of drama; poetry and drama are the two aspects of one and the same creative activity. Shakespeare’s play represent the complete fusion of the two. His finest poetry is to be met with in his most dramatic scenes.
Difficulties in the Way of Poetic Drama: Lack of Convention
The real defect of the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists is the absence of suitable dramatic conventions, and it is also the absence of artistic convention that comes in the way of poetic drama in the modern age. The modern world is chaotic and its lack of moral, social, and artistic convention make the revival of poetic-drama difficult. Another difficulty is the common belief that a nation cannot have two great periods of drama. The Elizabethan age was the great period of English drama, and so to expect greatness in the modern age is futile. However, Eliot does not agree with such fatalistic views. The craving for poetic drama is permanent in human nature, and so its revival is possible in the modern age. The attempts made so far to revive poetic drama have failed either because the plays were written by poets who had no knowledge of the stage, or by those who knew the stage, but were not poets.
The Need of a Suitable Verse Form
Poetic drama is possible; but it can be revived only when suitable dramatic conventions are evolved. First, they must find a new form of verse which will be as suitable for them as blank verse was for the Elizabethans. The dramatic convention of the three unities is highly desirable for it makes for concentration and intensity. The unities do make for intensity, as does verse rhythm.
Poetic Drama Possible
Thus in The Dialogue, the poet rejects the view that verse drama is artificial, and that it limits the free expression of emotion. Rather, it expresses the permanent and the universal. Poetic drama is possible in the modern age only if we evolve suitable artistic conventions.
2. RHETORIC AND POETIC DRAMA
Rhetoric: Its Exact Meaning
In this short essay, written in 1919, Eliot examines the nature of ‘Rhetoric’ and its place in poetic drama.
In the modern age, rhetoric is out of fashion. It is used as synonymous with bad writing. The Elizabethan and Jacobean plays are condemned as rhetorical. This is a mistake. We should first try to understand the exact meaning of the word rhetoric. The assumption that rhetoric is only a fault of manner, a kind of mannerism, should be avoided. As a matter of fact, there is rhetoric of substance as well, and such rhetoric is not bad.
True and False Rhetoric
True rhetoric arises when there is an adaptation of our manner to the infinite variety of our thoughts and feelings on a variety of subjects. We find such an adaptation in Shakespeare, and hence we can say that he used rhetorical expression in the right way. On the other hand, Kyd and Marlowe are merely bombastic and dull, for they lack the ability to make such adaptation. The really fine rhetoric occurs in situations in which a character in the play sees himself in a dramatic light, or when some character in the play sees another character in a dramatic light. False rhetoric arises when a character in a play makes a direct appeal to us. A speech in a play must never appear to be intended to move us, the spectators. We should preserve our position as spectators, and observe always from outside, though with complete understanding.
The Conversational Style: Its Artificiality
In the modern age there is a marked preference for the ‘conversational’ style, for the style of direct speech, as opposed to the rhetorical style. But even this conversation style does often become rhetorical, and is as remote from conversational style or direct to the infinite emotions and feelings he has to express, otherwise even the so-called conversational style becomes rhetorical. Such dramatic sense is rare in modern drama.
Dramatic Use of Language
To write a successful poetic drama, it is necessary that the dramatist should take only the typical and universal human emotions, and give them artistic form. Poetic sense and dramatic perception must be fused, and the language varied according to emotion and feeling. In poetic drama, rhetoric is any inflation or adornment of speech which is not done for a particular effect but for general impressiveness. Rhetoric has a significant place in poetic drama, but it must be used artistically and dramatically.
Thus Eliot opposes excessive emphasis on realism in language. He favours a dramatic use of language.
3. FOUR ELIZABETHAN DRAMATISTS
The Essay: Its Significance
The essay Four Elizabethan Dramatists was written in 1924, to form the Preface to a projected book on the four Elizabethan dramatists, Webster, Tourneur, Middleton and Chapman. However, the book was never written. But the essay is significant, for in it we find the main tendencies of Eliot’s dramatic criticism.
The Separation of Poetry and Drama Unfortunate
Eliot points out that in Charles Lamb’s dramatic criticism we have the origin of the deplorable separation of drama from poetry or literature. Lamb praised the poetic qualities of Elizabethan plays, but criticised them for their failure on the stage. Thus arose the opinion that drama and poetry are two separate things, while in reality they are the two aspects of one and the same thing. As he tells us elsewhere, at its highest moments all drama tends to be poetic and all poetry dramatic.
Drama, a Branch of Literature
Similarly, William Archer and Swinburne have given currency to the view that drama and literature are two separate things. In the opinion of Eliot, the dramatic element and the literary element are integral to a play and cannot be separated.
The Need of Suitable Conventions
William Archer further points out that the great fault of Elizabethan drama is its lack of realism. In this respect, modern drama is far superior to the Elizabethan. Eliot does not agree with this view. In his opinion, the one great fault of Elizabethan drama is its lack of suitable artistic conventions. This is also the fault of modern drama.
It is essential that there should be suitable dramatic conventions, and the playwrights should work within those conventions. The Greek drama had such conventions and hence its superiority. The great weakness of Elizabethan drama, “is not its lack of realism, but its attempt at realism; not its conventions, but its lack of conventions”. The Elizabethans had no firm idea of what they aimed at. They had certain unrealistic conventions as, for example, the soliloquy, the aside and the ghost. Such conventions are neither ridiculous nor bad in themselves; they become bad, when, working within those conventions, the dramatist aims at realism.
Eliot’s Artistic Ideals
It is this attempt at realism which spoils many a good Elizabethan play. As a matter of fact, there has been too much of realism in the English drama. There is no doubt that for a work of art, on the one hand, “actual life is the material, and on the other hand, an abstraction from actual life is a necessary condition to the creation of a work of art”. There can be no photographic realism in a play, no complete and faithful mirroring of life. A great work of art arises only when the artist consciously sets a limit to realism. Art imposes form and pattern upon reality, and this means withdrawal from life. Art has its own laws and limitations of art. Only poetic drama can be artistic; realistic prose drama is bad art. In other words, Eliot is opposed to realism in drama. Drama must take its themes from life, but they must be artistically treated. There should be an artistic ordering and selecting of material. Thus the essay gives a full and clear exposition of Eliot’s artistic principles.
4. THE POSSIBILITY OF POETIC DRAMA
The Failure of Poetic Drama in the Modern Age: Eliot’s View
There is no poetic drama in the modern age. Even when poetic plays are written, they are not successful on the stage. They can be read, but they cannot be acted. They are insipid and academic. When people are asked the reason for the failure of poetic drama in the modern age, it is pointed out that conditions are not favourable for the flourishing of poetic drama. Conditions of life have changed, and there are other forms of literature to divert the attention of the people. But T.S. Eliot does not agree with these views. In his opinion, poetic drama is possible in the modern age.
Drama, a Form of Poetry
Charles Lamb separated drama from poetry, and pointed out that the poetic plays of Shakespeare cannot be staged. Such separation of poetry and drama is wrong and unhealthy in its influence. In Eliot’s opinion, there can be no separation of poetry and drama, for drama is only one among several forms of poetry. Drama is simply a form of poetry and not a separate genre. It is the most permanent form of poetry. It is capable of greater variety than any other poetic kind.
Dramatic Verse: Echo of Shakespeare Must be Avoided
It was entirely because of the immense expressive powers of dramatic poetry, that the Elizabethans could express such varied and novel thoughts and images. “Consequently, the blank verse of their plays accomplished a subtlety and consciousness, even an intellectual power, that no blank verse since has developed or repeated.” Attempts were made by Wordsworth and Browning to hammer out new forms for themselves, but they were not successful. Shakespeare developed the blank verse to the maximum possible extent, and so, to be successful, a modern dramatist must avoid echoing Shakespeare in his dramatic verse.
Suitable Themes of Poetic Drama
Permanent literature, according to Eliot, is always a presentation, either a presentation of thought, or a presentation of feeling, through events, actions, and objects of the external world. In the greatest literature, as in The Dialogues of Plato, there is a representation both of thought and feeling. But such fusion is very difficult. That is why, Eliot points out, modern poetic drama must avoid the propagation of any philosophy; it must concentrate on feeling. It may deal with contemporary problems, but this should be done in an unobtrusive manner.
The Real Aim of Poetic Drama: Entertainment
Drama is primarily an entertainment, and the poetic drama can become popular only if it aims at entertaining the people. Until now the majority of attempts at poetic drama have begun at the wrong end. The dramatists have aimed at the small audience which wants poetry. Poetic drama can be possible in the modern age, only if the dramatists take it as a form of entertainment, and subject it to the process which would leave it a form of art. If the drama really entertains, the audience will stand a lot of poetry. That may have been put in it.
5. POETRY AND DRAMA
A Complete Exposition of Eliot’s Theory
Poetry and Drama is a lecture delivered by the poet in 1950, at Harvard University. Not only is it a complete statement of Eliot’s Theory of Poetic Drama, it also throws valuable light on his own dramatic practice. He has constantly talked and written about drama and dramatists, and in this lecture he reviews, expounds and analyses his earlier opinions.
Functional Use of Poetry
Eliot always advocated a revival of poetic drama in the modern age, for he was convinced that poetic drama can offer much more to the play-goers than prose drama. Poetry should not be used as a mere decoration to the drama; it should justify itself dramatically. No play should be written in verse for which prose is dramatically adequate; it should not merely be fine poetry shaped into a dramatic form. Poetry which merely gives pleasure to a cultured few a superfluous and is to be avoided.
The Use of Verse: Its Justification
It is generally objected that the use of verse in drama is artificial. But prose used on the stage is equally artificial. The prose which the characters on the stage speak is as remote in vocabulary, syntax, and rhythm, from ordinary speech as verse is. Eliot distinguishes between prose, verse, and ordinary speech, and points out that daily speech is much below the level of either verse or prose. Dramatic prose is as artificial as verse, and, conversely, verse can be as natural as prose.
The Medium of Communication: Mixture of Prose and Verse Undesirable
The audience, when it hears prose spoken on the stage, does not regard it as different from ordinary speech; on the contrary, when verse is used, it approaches the play with a consciousness of such difference. In other words, it is prepared to enjoy the play and the language of the play as two separate things. This is deplorable, for the effect and enjoyment of dramatic speech should be unconscious. It is for this reason that the mixture of prose and verse in the same play must be avoided. “The transition makes the auditor aware, with a jolt, of the medium.” Such a mixture might have been acceptable in the Elizabethan age, but it must be avoided in the modern age. Today, there is a prejudice against poetic drama, and so prose should be used very sparingly. Verse should be made sufficiently elastic to express every situation and every scene, “and if there prove to be scenes which cannot be put in verse, we must either develop our verse, or avoid having to introduce such senses.” Prose should be avoided so that the audience may grow accustomed to verse, and cease to be conscious of it. Verse which is sufficiently elastic will not be poetry all the time. “It will be poetry only when the dramatic situation has reached such a point of intensity that poetry becomes the natural utterance, because then it is the only language in which the emotions can be expressed at all.”
The Right Use of Verse: Its Advantages
There is another reason also why prose should not be used in the modern poetic drama. Verse should be used throughout, so that the verse-rhythm should have its effect upon the hearers, without their being conscious of it. The opening scene of Hamlet is the perfect example of the use of verse in drama. Nothing is superfluous, and there is no line of poetry which is not justified by its dramatic value. The use of verse here has dramatic inevitability. Moreover, the audience is not conscious throughout the scene of the medium—whether it is listening to prose or verse. Thirdly, the verse is transparent; the audience is consciously attending, “not to the poetry, but to the meaning of the poetry”. It is great poetry, it is dramatic, and it also has a musical design which intensifies the emotional effect of the scene.
The use of verse in drama is not a mere decoration; it intensifies drama. The effect of such verse is unconscious and it effects even those who do not like poetry.
Poetic Play in Prose
Eliot then refers to plays which are in reality poetic, even though they are written in prose. The plays of Synge and Maeterlinck are such plays. But the scope of poetic plays in prose is a limited one. “The poetic drama in prose is more limited by poetic convention or by our conventions as to what subject matter is poetic, than is the poetic drama in verse.” A really dramatic verse can be employed to say the most matter-of-fact things.
Eliot’s Practice of Poetic Drama: “Murder in the Cathedral”
In the second part of the lecture, Eliot examines his own practice of poetic drama. When he took to writing plays, he realised that the experience he had gained in writing poetry will not be of much help to him. The problem of communication is not so urgent in poetry as it is in poetic drama. The dramatist writes with the immediate object of influencing an unknown and unprepared audience, and what he writes would be interpreted by unknown actors guided by known producers. Therefore, the artist has to practice great self-control and always keep in mind the law of dramatic effectiveness. Murder in the Cathedral was his first play, and in this he had the advantage of having a subject from a remote period of history. This remoteness in time, and picturesque costumes of another age, make verse easily acceptable. Moreover, it was a religious play, and to a religious play only those selected few come who can put up with verse. The play was a success, but in writing this play he did not solve any general problem. For example, he had not solved the problem of language. The vocabulary and style could not be modern, for he was writing of a remote period. Neither could he afford to be archaic, for he wanted to emphasise the contemporary significance of his theme. So he used a neutral style, neither of the present nor of the past. As for versification, his one great care was to avoid any echo of Shakespeare, for, after being used for non-dramatic purpose over, a long period of time, the blank verse of Shakespeare had lost its flexibility and so had become unfit for dramatic dialogue. The 19th century dramatists failed only because they tried to imitate Shakespeare. Therefore, he kept in mind the versification of Everyman. “An avoidance of too much Iambic, some use of alliteration, and an occasional, unexpected rhyme, helped to distinguish the versification from that of the 19th century.”
Thus in his versification he succeeded in avoiding the echo of Shakespeare, but he could not develop a verse which could be of general use. Then in this play he had made extensive use of chorus, for choral verse is easy to write, and in this way he could hide the faults of his dramatic technique. Moreover, he used prose for the sermons of the Archbishop as well as for the speeches of the knights. In a way, by choosing a mythological subject, by using the chorus, and by avoiding traditional blank verse; he had avoided competition with the realistic play. But, if the poetic drama is to reconquer its place, it must, in my opinion, enter into overt competition with prose drama. Therefore, for his next play he decided to choose his theme and characters from the contemporary world, and not to transport his audience to an unreal, artificial world.
“The Family Reunion”: A play in Contemporary Setting
The Family Reunion is a play of modern life. For this play, he worked out a versification close to the rhythm of modern life, and this very versification he has continued to use ever since. It is a line of varying length with varying number of syllables, with a caesura and three stresses. Thus he developed a suitable versification, but it was done at the cost of plot and character. He had dispensed with the chorus, but he had used four minor characters collectively as chorus, and this was a device unfit for general use. The speeches of these characters were not related to the action, while in drama the poetry should not interrupt action, but should be related in some mysterious way both to character and action. Shakespeare had such skill. True dramatic poetry is that which, “does not interrupt but intensifies the dramatic situation”. The Family Reunion is defective because it has poetic passages which are not justified dramatically and secondly, there is no proper adjustment between the Greek story and the modern situation. The appearance of the Furies is ridiculous and unfortunate.
“The Cocktail Party”: Its Significance
In his third play, The Cocktail Party, he sought to avoid these faults. There is no chorus, and no ghost, and the Greek origin of the story is so well concealed that nobody could identify it until the dramatist himself pointed it out. Besides this, he practised full artistic self-restraint, and avoided using poetry which was not dramatically justified with such success that it has been doubted whether there is any poetry at all. He used in it the dramatic device of suspense: it is the unexpected which frequently happens. He had already worked out a proper idiom and a proper versification which could serve all purposes without recourse to prose. He had subjected himself to a long period of self-education, and in this play he put his poetry on a very thin diet in order to adapt it to all needs of the stage.
Poetic Drama: An Unattainable Ideal: Themes Proper to It
His own practice as a verse dramatist has convinced him that good poetic plays come from poets learning to write plays, rather than from prose-dramatists learning to write poetry. In the modern age, verse drama will become acceptable only when it comes from the pen of those who have already acquired a reputation as poets. Poetic drama is an ideal, an ideal which is unattainable. Constant exploration and experimentation is necessary for closer and closer approximation to this ideal. There is a fringe of indefinite feelings, feelings which cannot be expressed by a prose dramatist. These feelings can be expressed only in poetic drama, at its moments of greatest intensity. At such moments, dramatic poetry approximates to music, it imposes order on human actions and feelings, and this design or order is both of poetry and music. Poetic drama, “brings us to a condition of serenity, stillness, and reconciliation”, by imposing order upon reality in such a way that we are aware of an order in reality.
6. A CRITICAL REVIEW OF ELIOT’S VIEWS ON
Eliot’s Dramatic Criticism: Negative and Positive Aspects
Since the very beginning of his literary career, Eliot evinced a keen interest in the problems that face a verse dramatist and the need and possibility of poetic drama in the modern age. His dramatic criticism has both a negative and a positive aspect. Negatively, he seeks to demolish the concept of the superiority of naturalistic prose drama which held the day, and positively he asserts the need and the possibility of poetic drama in the modern age.
The Use of Verse in Drama: Its Value and Significance
In his view the real opposition or antithesis is not between poetic drama and prose drama, for there can be poetic drama written in prose. The real antithesis is between poetic drama and realistic drama. It is erroneous to separate poetry and drama, as has been done by Charles Lamb in his criticism of the Elizabethan dramatists. As a matter of fact poetry and drama are inseparable. Poetry is the natural language of men in moments of highest emotional excitement, and, therefore, at its highest moments drama would grow poetic. It does so in the hands of skilled dramatists like Shakespeare. The poetry used in drama must be dramatically inevitable. It must seem to flow out of character and action, and should intensify both character and action. No poetry should be introduced which is not dramatically justified. Verse should not be a mere embellishment, a mere superfluity. Such fusion of poetry and drama must be the ideal which the verse dramatist should constantly keep before him.
Superiority of Verse Over Prose
It has been said that prose is the natural medium of expression, and poetry is artificial and unnatural. But the use of prose for dramatic dialogue is also artificial; it is as much removed from the language of daily use as verse. Moreover, the use of a colloquial style and idiom is likely to grow monotonous, for it can never express the variety of emotions and situations which a dramatist has to depict. Rhetoric for these reasons has its place in poetic drama. Moreover, the naturalistic prose deals with the superficial and the ephemeral in situation and emotion; verse drama, on the other hand, expresses the permanent and the universal. It is also wrong to say that verse tends to limit the range of emotions. As a matter of fact, the emotional range is increased by the use of verse.
Eliot’s Artistic Ideals
Just as Eliot opposes realism in the language and diction of drama, so also he opposes realism in its theme. He lays down the sound artistic principle that though, “on the one hand, actual life is always the material, on the other hand, an abstraction from actual life is a necessary condition to the creation of a work of art.” The artist must order and select his material; he must impose from and order upon reality to make apparent its hidden meaning and significance. There can be no photographic realism in art; the drama which seeks to portray the problems of real life cannot be regarded as a great work of art. Poetic drama may use contemporary material, but in so doing it must order and sift its material. It should deal with those vague and indefinite feelings which cannot be expressed by prose drama, but which are real and actual all the same.
The Need of Suitable Conventions and Objectives
Eliot asserts that poetic drama is possible in the modern age, but the age is complex, and the verse-dramatist will have to face complex problems before he can succeed. The one crucial problem is that of a suitable dramatic convention. The real defect of the Elizabethan dramatists is not that they lacked realism, but that there was too much realism. Their conventions were poetic and unreal; the ghost, the soliloquy, the aside, etc. But they had by definite conventions regarding the aims of drama. Their fault was that working within their poetic conventions, they aimed at realism, and the result was fantastic and absurd. So, in the modern age suitable conventions must be developed. The verse dramatists must be clear about their aims. It must be remembered that drama had its origin in church liturgy. The Mass is the most perfect kind of drama. This should never be forgotten; the aims of poetic drama can never be purely secular. They must be ethical and religious as well. Eliot commands the artistic convention of the three unities, for they impose form and order, and result in greater intensity. Similarly, the use of verse imparts intensity, as well as imposes form and order on chaotic reality.
The Need of a Suitable Diction and Versification
Besides developing suitable artistic and religious and ethical conventions, the dramatist must also develop a suitable verse-form. The problem of a suitable medium of communication is a difficult one, for the dramatist has to communicate to one unknown audience and is interpreted by an unknown actor. The use of the traditional blank verse should be avoided as it has grown rigid after its long use for non-dramatic purposes. A more flexible verse-form, capable of expressing a wide range of emotions, must be developed. Themes and characters must be contemporary, and colloquial idiom and style, the language of daily life, with proper selection and modifications, must be used. It is a wrong notion that only mythological subjects and a remote, archaic style are suited to poetic drama. The style must preserve an illusion of natural speech, but in fact it should be heightened and remote. There is a fringe of vague, indefinite feelings which cannot be expressed by the prose-dramatists, but which are real and actual. They are expressed by the verse dramatists, at moments of highest dramatic intensity. As the contemporary audiences have been conditioned to prose drama, poetic drama would become acceptable only when it comes from the pen of those who have already made their mark as poets.
Poetic Drama, an Unattainable Ideal
Poetic drama imposes form and order on human action and feelings, and makes us conscious of an order in reality. In other words, at moments of highest intensity it makes us see into the heart of things, and so results in serenity and spiritual calm. Poetic drama is an ideal and an unattainable ideal. But greater and greater approximation to this ideal is possible, and with this end in view the dramatist must carry on constant experimentation and exploration.
Assessment of Eliot’s Theory
Thus Eliot has a well-reasoned theory regarding the nature, function, and possibility of poetic drama in the modern age. His own effort as a dramatist was to put his theory into practice and thus to bring about a revival of poetic drama. He may not be a great dramatist, but his dramatic theory and practice corrected many a wrong notion about poetic drama, exercised a wide influence, and did much to stimulate interest in poetic drama.
Eliot’s Genius: Essentially Dramatic