Ideas and the Theatre; T.S. Eliot
The program will be TS Eliot saint or sinner. The series I do use in the theater and. The actual views and voices you will hear drama critics Brooks Atkinson Richard Watson Jr. John Doe forked and Dr Jones Allison nurse scholars Eric Bentley Dr. Robert W. Corrigan and the Martin Brown producer director for TS Eliot's plays. Those who make this series possible. The University of Minnesota radio station KUNM and the Rio Grande from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. And now here is the producer of the ideas and the theater. You were a women's critic at large. Philip Gill. There is probably no man alive who has more college courses given in his name than TS Eliot. Warren the son of the Unitarian and St. Louis Thomas Stearns Elliott
later became a converted Anglican and a naturalized Britain. As such and as a poet scholar critic and playwright T.S. Eliot is both idolized and deprecated not by Bobby Sox's or fanatics but by dignified scholarly intellectuals. And the academic and artistic worlds it seems T.S. Eliot is invariably either a saint or a sinner a farseeing prophet or a limited propagandist. A kind of godfather of the Great or a kind of fraud. Here we can only acknowledge TS Eliot's many impressive an area by contributions to an influence upon poetry and criticism as we intend to take our major look at TS Eliot the playwright particularly the the author of the cocktail party. In analyzing Elliott the playwright and his significant cocktail party perhaps we may be able to determine to why ordinarily moderate intellectuals can and do
take such extreme and often antagonistic views the same man. But first let's start with a more or less middle ground and objective view one that will help refresh your memory of the cocktail party. Here is the dean of America's drama critics Brooks Atkinson reading from his New York Times review written in 1950 immediately following the first performance of the cocktail party in the United States has recorded especially for this program. Here is drama critic Brooks Atkinson. Being a mystic as well as a point TS Eliot has written for a boast and elusive drama that has to be respected for it comes out of the private reverie of a man of pure mind and character. It is the cocktail party in the first act he assembles a group of English people who have lost their way through the labyrinth of polite society. Veni a camera Lane has just left her husband without remembering to cancel a
cocktail party she had arranged her husband is both annoyed and depressed suspecting what has happened. His mistress is elated by the expectation that he will now be free to marry her but he finds that he wants his wife back in the third scene of the first act. She does return. So yes they are ruthless and apparently on the verge of nervous breakdowns. Mr. Elliott sends them all to a psychologist in the second act for the psychiatrist is the father confessor. MARTIN People who have no basic religion as a play moves on Mr. Elliott here is his psychiatrist more and more religious authority and turns over to him the spiritual destiny of his principal characters the psychiatrist restores the husband and wife to each other by removing their illusions are they need a psychic adjustment by the other one he selects for a higher destiny for a life of dedication selflessness and martyrdom. It has been directed by E. Martin
Browne who has long been thoroughly grounded in the Elliott mystique and has acted by some lucid and accomplished actors who know how to speak the language. I love the cocktail party has a worldly title. It is the most unworldly of places and since the characters have no life outside the drama they are hardly more than illustrations from Mr Elliot's ideas. The cocktail party is Mr Elliot's best work so far his earnestness as a man of faith. Sustaining it through three hours of solid thought but it would be hard to overlook the fact that the most essential parts of it are not resolved in terms of theatre and leave a theatre Ghar impressed without being enlightened. That was Brooks Atkinson drama critic for The New York Times. Typical of the more enthusiastic pro Elliot responses was the review of the cocktail party written by Richard Watts Jr. columnist and drama critic for The New York Post. Here is Mr. Watts.
The theatrical season took on statue in TS Eliot's a cocktail party had its first American performance the greatest of living poets has been trying to storm the drama for a long time but at last he has mastered it and the cocktail party would just technically inverters but hardly seems to be an authentic modern masterpiece. One of the two or three finest plays of the post-war English speaking stage since is not only beautifully written but extraordinarily effective dramatically and the acting is nothing short of purr. There is cause for rejoicing. That was a New York Post drama critic Richard Watts Jr.. Now John before drama critic for The Christian Science Monitor will point out a major factor to be considered in any analysis of a T.S. Eliot play. Mr. Beaufort. Elliot he is not with the social aspect of modern society
is probably more concerned with individual destiny. You might say the salvation of the religious viewpoint a theological viewpoint comes into his play. If TS Eliot is writing a kind of religious drama as critic John Beauford points out is Mr Elliot achieving his purpose. For one answer I turn to the drama critic for the Catholic knows Dr Jones Allison nurse. I don't know whether he has any profound spiritual effect I think is from the plays I've seen. Then it's more of a speculative or intellectual effect do you. He makes you think a little bit and you like to discuss the questions he raises but I don't think he gives you a profound experience. Of religion Henri he affects your your whole attitude toward
life because he's he's gotten to your emotions and he makes you feel things. And I want to change your patterns of anything I don't like you as a kind of affected all of these too much up in the head. That was Dr Jones Alice a nurse drama critic for the Catholic nose for another view on the effectiveness of the cocktail party. Here is Eric Bentley professor of dramatic literature at Columbia University and author of many outstanding books on ideas in the theater. Before we hear from Mr. Bentley a brief word about his use of the term Union. Mr. Bentley will be referring to the psychoanalytic school founded by Carl Young in which some emphasis is placed upon the idea of a collective unconscious which may be the closest that any field of psychology has come to considering the spirit or soul. And now here is author scholar Eric Bentley commenting on TS Eliot. This is the Anglo-Catholic playwright who wishes in his plays to
express his view of life. Even to impress its necessity upon the audience. To that extent his plays are propaganda certainly as much as Shaw more than eps and I think it is a more deliberately plays of the author's philosophy calculated to spread that philosophy or strengthen it and those who agree with it already. I think that the cocktail party was in fact there have been a certain sense that Mr Elliot wouldn't respect I wouldn't wish. I think it became quite fashionable I think. In a superficial and modest way that he wouldn't think of any value and it became fashionable to Among the kind of wealthy ladies who are not on lies by Friday and by by young and think that sex has been overrated. Felt of the deceived kind of young in message from the cocktail party. I know that's a travesty of Mr. Solmes wishes and philosophy but I
think that's the way the play worked on Broadway. It seemed like a not because there was some sort of highbrow and supernatural psychoanalysis remember he had the psychoanalyst and the Alec Guinness guy. But it wasn't any recognizable clinical form of analysis it was mystical. That was author critic Eric Bentley of Columbia University. Jeffrey Wagner too was a novelist critic a lecturer in literature at the City College of New York and author of the recent highly acclaimed book Wyndham Lewis a portrait of the artist as the enemy. I asked Mr. Wagner to comment on my personal and I only had feelings that he's essentially a university writer with an inflated reputation. I also asked Mr. Wagner if every its political views might not best be described as aristocratic and right wing. Geoffrey Wagner's reply. Well I think that it probably has got an inflated reputation partly because his work is amenable to
treatment in an academic course. He refers to other writers as and he is accompanied with a vast footnote paraphernalia and so forth. And I yes I think that he is a sort of university writer and as a result his stock is possibly slightly high. Let me qualify that by saying that I would think that on the whole His stock has declined since about nineteen point forty or so I suppose the last of the Four Quartets or rather fine but I wouldn't have thought that this theatrical verse that he's written has really and very strongly to his reputation. Finally to answer your question about his philosophy he has I would have thought today damage his position as a great writer by these books of political theory and notes towards a definition of culture that one about a Christian society. Yes those books which were written just after the
war and any political books as you know very very strange they are. There is to credit as you say. So hey Dean with qualifications that it's almost impossible to put a finger on them for instance he calls himself as you know in a famous statement royalist in politics well a royalist in England today doesn't mean anything at all I mean what we want is a royalist in 20th century England. It doesn't mean anything you can be a royalist and an extreme left wing fellow or an extreme right wing. He's so qualifies his remarks that it's very difficult to find out however you can and I have in my book on Louis thumbed through you know the things in which God is obviously rather more down than it was and it is not now he is the Grand Old Man of English letters with an O M and so forth and he's writes letters to the times when one that mention my book and he completely he feels he's writing from the concrete. Olympus you say. But in the 20s he was not. Haven't got the eyes of the world on him quite
so much. And if you look through the editorials to the criterion of course you find that he was open in support of Mosley that he was not only in support but actually translates and helps and more US who is the leader who is eventually imprisoned by the French for treachery in the war and died in prison and other French writers of the extreme right throughout the 20s. Author scholars Geoffrey Wagner and Eric Bentley have given you only a little idea as to how rough some very real intellectuals can get about the intellectual Mr. Elliott. For other examples the very eminent scholar and poet Robert Graves credits T.S. Eliot with being and I quote the first to apply the art fashion of collage to English verse in order to create a significant composition. What the composition is significant of is never explained. That's the end of the quotation by Mr. Graves author critic Edmund Wilson refers
to Elliot's quote ineffectual fragmentary imagination the impotence and resignation of belief that it would be a good thing to believe rather than a genuine belief. From such a faith an inspired by hope unequipped was zeal or force. What guidance for the future can we expect. And that's the end of the statement by Edmund Wilson. When the cocktail party opened in New York the distinguished drama critic George Jean Nathan wrote and again I quote. Elliot's religious philosophy in so far as one can penetrate its opium smoke here suggests that of a sophomore Methodist boning up for an examination in Catholicism and his sexual philosophy is that of a man whose dalliance with women seems to have been confined to hand-holding and an ivory tower. And so runs the statement by George Jean Nathan in The Nation magazine for February 23rd one thousand fifty seven. In an article entitled Mr. Elliott regrets asker Cargill chairman
of the English Department at New York University writes and again I quote with an immunity unequalled perhaps in any time or place. Mr TS Eliot has abused and insulted a whole peoples and races the most bestial and vulgar Irish Jews in Cockney our maid symbolic of their kind. Elliott and pond while achieving a common brilliance and a very wide reputation were sunk. And a common depravity. Unquote. Professor Cargill here associates T.S. Eliot with his acknowledged friend and fellow artist as repond who is possibly equally well-known as an outstanding poet a propagandist for fascism. And I can find psychotic. Well I don't think there can be much doubt that some intellectuals do depreciate T.S. Eliot. As to the intellectual idealization. Of. The scholarly effort on Matthias and refers to Elliot's work as quote great poetry and the finest philosophic
prose style in which acute intellect and passionate feeling preserve a classic balance unquote. I am Parsons writing in The Spectator in one thousand thirty two alone among contemporary critics Mr Elliott has maintained a consistent standard of judgement and preserved an authentic scale of values. The poet has repond cites Elliot's quote deserved position as arbiter of British opinion unquote critique evil writers has stated. TS Eliot is probably the most widely respected figure of our time. And don't forget Mr. Watts earlier reference to Elliot as the greatest of living poets. Well what can one conclude from all this. That TS Eliot really is a kind of artistic Jekyll and Hyde an academic saint or a sinner. Not at all. If there is any conclusion that can be drawn from the quotations you have heard
it is that an artist must be judged primarily by his work. Now on this program we are most concerned with one particular play by Mr alley at a cocktail party. So far you have heard a variety of reactions to it. Ranging from authentic modern masterpiece to travesty. No one Oliver is stated that he really understands the play. Here then I think is the real basic problem in terms of Mr Elliot. Can he be understood. And in being understood. Is he important. Well for an analytical answer to these two vital questions I turn to a man who is uniquely qualified to interpret TS Eliot. Dr. Robert W. Corrigan. Dr. Corrigan is an Episcopalian a classical scholar and a professor in the theater arts. At present he is in the drama department at Tulane University where he also edits Tulane's exciting drama revealed. Before we hear Dr. Corbin's detailed analysis of the
cocktail party and I sincerely believe Elliot often necessitates and merits a detailed analysis. And again might be a good idea for me to fill in with a bit of background. Dr Corrigan compares Elliot's cocktail party with Alice sesterces by Europe at ease. A play written over 2000 years ago. How sesterces is the name and story of a woman who has pledged herself to die for her husband and medius she is literally brought back from the dead by the heroic intervention of a guest who was none other than Hercules or Herrick please. That's the general story of Al sesterces And now Dr. Robert Corrigan. But the fact that Elliot has imaginatively worked with the SS The story is obvious when we note the many parallels that exist in his play. The SS This takes place on the day in which L. sesterces dies for Ed meet us. The action of the cocktail party begins on the day Lavinia leaves Edward
admits his grief stricken. Edward is chagrined and even seriously disturbed and yet Edward carries on with the cocktail party being the good host in the same way the dead meat is his hospitable to the visiting Herrick please. And furthermore they both minimize their sense of loss both physical and psychic. RILEY The unidentified guest at the party is like Eric Lee's in that he too probes drinks sings and finally promises to bring back his host's wife from the dead physical or spiritual. We see the same kind of parallels in Eliot's use of air your repartees character's he spits out sesterces into two characters the ordinary woman and the saint in his working of Lavinia and Celia. Edward is related to admit this and finally in Dr. Riley we see repartee and boots. The parallel is of Riley to Herrick please. Some even fine phonetic comm connection and Herrick Lee's and Harcourt Riley. I not only strongly evident but
give us a clue how Eliot as a modern artist can make use of his classical theme. And the most obvious level they both exhibit a kind of conviviality in the midst of distress. They both enter the situation at the right time both show great power and both effect rescues the one from death the other from the death of spirit. On a more subtle level however Elliott captured the classical ambivalent sea of Hercules in his characterization of Riley. We tend to forget that Herrick Lees was both a boisterous strong man and a devoted servant of duty. Just as Harry Cleese as the son of Alcmene and Zeus is half human and half divine so to him Riley is there that ambiguity which makes a limited naturalistic view of his character continually in adequate to be sure he is not totally trance humanized like Eric Lee's he makes mistakes and he is not omniscient. But he has remarkable insight and he
exercises a special power of affecting human destiny. And how does the play progress is we are given continual impressions that in Riley mysterious forces are in action with his benedictions Riley is the priest with his continual references to free will that uncompiled choice which has consequences. He is a theologian but when he dismisses suited to go on her journey a journey remarkably like that of L. sesterces with the words it is finished. We recall the words of the cross. What is the strategy of such a suggestion. They enlarge the play's possibilities for us for the man who died on the cross was the Son of God but born of a mortal mother just like Eric Lees and the deaf on the cross was a mode of bringing life to others just as Hercules brought back Al sesterces from death. And as Riley rescues his patients from something which both they and we see as a kind of death. It is in this parallel
relationship that we see the great potential of Eliot's use of classical mythology. Your buddy's story is virtually made for Christian Riyad optician. That's because Elliott's play comes to a close. We find that out of a couple of interlocking triangles in which the participants are at best half alive come for new lives grounded in the recognition and choice of destiny. That of the artist out of the ordinary imperfect but tolerable and even saving marriage and that of the saint. These transformations appear as the product of great labors by a bringer of life. In Elliot's the cocktail party because men can have quote the kind of faith that issues from despair. Because he can admit his own inadequacy and have faith that God will save him. It is possible for him not just to be a saint but to make
the best of a bad job. The image of man and his play is one of affirmation. A man can nod in his acceptance of this life for it is not put his trust in himself but does in fact accept the reality of Easter that I am the resurrection and the life. That was Dr. Robert W. Corrigan of the theater arts department at Tulane University. I think Dr. Corrigan ably pointed out how the various elements of a T.S. Eliot the scholar the poet and the Christian can combine to bring forth an impressive play. Instead of our usual program summary today we're going to hear a special interview with Professor in Martin Brown. Professor Brown was the original director and producer of the cocktail party and other plays by T.S. Eliot and Alice recorded especially for ideas in the theater. Here is an interview with the Martin Brown.
Do you actually sit down with Mr. Elliot and discuss the religious symbolism and as to how to bring it out to is this part of what is taken into consideration in producing a play of that kind. Well in all these cases I have been involved in the creation of the potatoes that extent I mean I've discussed it with him and draw FTW and this aspect of the subject in every case of course as being among the best important we've discussed. Never to the exclusion of his attempt to be completely honest and to go right to the heart of the individual character and his problem. But always seeing those in the light. That Christianity throws out. How much you feel these personal beliefs and opinions of Mr Crowley had to motivate him and so far as his work as a playwright.
I'm sorry that seems a good difficult question to. I'm sad not because I didn't think it. It does affect his thinking but because. The jump from the general ideas of this kind to the actual creation of an individual character is a big big job. The characters in the play like the cocktail party for instance are drawn. Very largely from his. Feeling of the way in which the present state of society reacts on the most sensitive type of individual. And he finds it extremely hard to create a character fully in the raw and this is always the great struggle for him. And you see he moved from writing lyric poetry to writing drama
just because he wanted to get away from his own view of the world and try to see it from the point of view of other people. And the relationship between other people. This is where he has found the drama a valuable extension of his work I was fortunate enough to meet him just a time when this was beginning to be a need for him and to help him into the film. It is the type of poetry used by T.S. Eliot and CHRISTOPHER FRY and I say you directed their plays. Do you feel that this form just the form of the words in the sentence is a natural part or a help to the total content. Yes an essential part. It is. Through the rhythm was through the use of words the use of sounds. Over and above
the meaning. Of what is said. That the content is conveyed. Here are the overtones. Which are. Really the most important. I think many of our listeners would be interested to know what it is like to produce and direct a plays Mr Elliot of TS Eliot. And you also worked with CHRISTOPHER FRY. How could you tell us first just a little bit about the two of them as people. They're both very quiet people and runs great difficulty in working with them is to get them to speak. It would all have a typewriter. Yes and they would hesitate very much at rehearsal. To express opinions. About when one gets them they are. Of course extremely valuable and penetrating opinion was. That was a Martin Brown the original director producer of the cocktail party
- Ideas and the Theatre
- T.S. Eliot
- Producing Organization
- University of Minnesota
- KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on the dramatic works of T.S. Eliot.
- Other Description
- The series presents a discussion of the current American theatre; its values, beliefs, patterns, and problems. Participants include Arthur Miller, Eric Bentley, Gore Vidal, Brooks Atkinson, Cyril Ritchard, Clinton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and others.
- Broadcast Date
- Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965
- Media type
Guest: Bentley, Eric, 1916-
Guest: Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984
Guest: Watts, Richard, Jr.
Guest: Beaufort, John
Guest: Browne, E. Martin (Elliott Martin), 1900-1980
Guest: Corrigan, Robert W. (Robert Willoughby), 1927-1993
Host: Kerwin, Jonathan W.
Producer: Gelb, Philip
Producing Organization: University of Minnesota
Producing Organization: KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
Speaker: Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-7-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Ideas and the Theatre; T.S. Eliot.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-319s5f90>.
- APA: Ideas and the Theatre; T.S. Eliot. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-319s5f90