Wednesday, 17 January 2001

T.S. Eliot: The Elder Statesman (1958)

Edition: Faber & Faber, 1969 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 719

Eliot's final play has much the same intellectual tone as the others, and is particularly like The Confidential Clerk in tone. Its central character is a politician who has been successful without ever rising as high as he once expected himself to. Forced to retire for medical reasons, he is hounded by revelations from his past - a man who as a student he led into bad company, a singer with whom he had an affair and who was bought off by his father. These people, well enough off on their own account, are not blackmailing him for money; they want to spend their time reminding him of his guilt, of how his public image does not match the real man underneath it.

It is strange that for such a wonderful poet, Eliot wrote plays which are mostly neither particularly poetic or dramatic. They are not as allusive as the poems, but they tackle similar intellectual and philosophical issues; Eliot's preoccupations remain the same whatever the genre in which he is writing. All the plays are interesting to read, but don't impress as being likely to be gripping on stage.

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