The Elder Statesman: Eliot’s Ultimate Modernity
Prepared by the researcher : Dr. Yahya Saleh Hasan Dahami (Associate Professor) Currently: English Department – Faculty of Science and Arts AL BAHA UNIVERSITY – KSA – Previously at Faculty of Languages and Human Sciences, Future University – Sana’a – Yemen
Democratic Arab Center
Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies : Twenty Issue – September 2021
A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin
Journal of cultural linguistic and artistic studies
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In his critical essays and reviews, T. S. Eliot was preoccupied with the possibility of writing poetic plays for contemporary audiences. This study is an attempt to disclose, to what extent, Eliot succeeded in using modern language and style in The Elder Statesman to contemporary readers and audiences. The study touches on the ability of Eliot in manipulating techniques necessary for modern theatre and modern spectators/readers with reference to The Elder Statesman. Because this play is the last one that Eliot produced, the researcher tries to shed light on the ability of Eliot in creating a style and profuse speech, making the play spontaneous to the contemporary people. It begins with a brief general introduction about T. S. Eliot, to be followed by a descriptive-critical analysis of the play focusing mostly on the modern style the dramatist adopted particularly the language, and then a brief discussion follows. The study is concluded with a critical-analytical conclusion.
Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888 – 1965) is a pioneer dramatist, critic, and inventor poet who substantially influenced English literature and contributed mainly to the revival of English poetry and drama in the twentieth century. He is distinguished for being attracted by ancient themes in his plays. He is interested in language that can be understood without great consciousness and more interested in making the language modern for contemporary people. Eliot was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in the United States of America in 1888 and died in 1965 at the age of seventy-seven in Britain. He was occupied with writing drama, poetry, and literary criticism in the modern age. In his mission searching for a new style for verse drama appropriate to modern spectators of the modern age, Eliot covets to produce a new practice for a new stage that can be used as a medium for increasing new spectators. He struggled that such modern literary writing ought to use a contemporary language as its device and mode.
One of the most famous and noteworthy poet-dramatists in the twentieth century is Thomas Stearns Eliot, who significantly contributed to establishing an excellent reputation as a dramatist, poet, and theorist. He started his literary career as a poet where he produced some of the most beautiful and greatest poems such as The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Gerontion, but the last masterpiece he wrote before turning to poetic drama is The Waste Land, as well as many other poems.
Drama, for Eliot, could enlarge and broaden the range and power of the meaning. It articulates patterns of action, particularly the active language that creates touchable interaction between the actors and the audiences. Eliot wanted to develop in his plays a kind of writing that echoes the conventional twentieth-century speech. His interest in drama is almost co-extensive with his interest in poetry and criticism, the only difference being that during the early phase of his literary career he was preoccupied with the dramatic elements in poetry, while in later years he became more concerned with drama and theatre as a ‘medium of a mass appeal.’ He also found this medium to be the best suited to the propagation of certain spiritual themes and ideas. Eliot was very well aware of the necessity of discovering a new milieu suitable and convenient for modern drama, which he strove for and was eager to create for his age. A unique style of language, where terminology should be flexible enough to correspond with the tone and tenor of dialogue, preoccupied him.
The Elder Statesman presents several characters such as the father, Lord Claverton, two children Monica and Michael, two ghosts of his past Mrs. Carghill and Fredrico Gomez, and Charles the fiancé of Monica. It is the last poetic play of Eliot which tells the description of the newly pensioned off Lord Claverton who comes upon with two characters he knew in the past. He prevails over them by his revelation to his daughter Monica about his past. Lord Claverton is convoyed by his daughter to a relaxation nursing home called Badgley Court. Mrs. Carghill and Fredrico Gomez, the two persons of his past emerge and blame him for destroying their lives. The main character, Lord Claverton believes that his life has been a distraction from reality and also from himself. These two people signify his concern for time. He is frightened that others realize him as he actually was and for that motive, he made a retreat to Badgley Court. The issue starts here.
The Elder Statesman (1958) is the last modern poetic play of Eliot. It is the last of five well-to-do plays of Eliot after more than ten years of experimenting with poetic drama.
Yeats’ adoption of a different form prevented the possibility of its naturalization in the English theatre and its symbolic and allusive nature placed it beyond the comprehension of the popular audience. In this respect, Yeats presents an interesting contrast to T. S. Eliot, who firmly endeavored to make poetic drama a source of the secular audience’s moral and spiritual uplifting. He devoted his remaining days to his passion for poetry until his passing away in 1939 (Dahami, 2020a).
The play came into existence as a result of suitable experience, know-how, and training. It shows his knowledge, resourcefulness and creativity in merging ancient Greek drama with rituals, contemporary society, and contemporaneousness. The play was first recommended to be named The Rest Cure, then the title changed into The Man Who Changed His Name, but as a final point, it was settled as The Elder Statesman. It deals with the issue of self-detection and recognition. As in the preceding four successful plays, again T. S. Eliot needs to resort to olden Greek drama. In The Elder Statesman, Eliot uses the theme of Oedipus at Colonus for Sophocles. The character Lord Claverton “has been a failure as a friend, lover, husband, and father” (Unger, 1970: 13). He is a modernized sort of Oedipus whose withdrawal corresponds to the self-imposed banishment of the latter. Claverton’s son Michael and his daughter Monica are the matching part of Polyneices and Antigone in Oedipus. Besides, the passed on the man whom the elder statesman crushes resemble the father whom Oedipus had murdered without knowing. Oedipus at Colonus provides The Elder Statesman with an appropriate shape and silhouette. The central point of both plays is the bond between the father and the daughter. According to Smith (2015), Eliot, in a letter to his producer, E Martin Browne, affirms that “Harry’s career needs to be completed by an Orestes or an Oedipus at Colonus” (228-229).
The Elder Statesman “is not just a love story: it is the story also of deception and confession, separation and atonement, sin and forgiveness” (Douglass, 2011: 193). It is a modern development of Eliot’s preceding social play, The Family Reunion that deals with family relationships, especially sons and parents. According to the Anglo-Catholic Eliot, the main character Harry Monchensey, is obsessed with ghosts because of a past sin committed by his father and Agatha, a younger aunt. For such a sin, Harry has to atone for them. He stands against the wishes of his mother who tries to make him inhabit Wishwood because Harry is obsessed with the indiscernible furies for past family profligacy. It appears that Harry’s father was upset in his marriage with his wife; Similarly, Claverton was not content in his life.
Harry in The Family Reunion, disagrees with his mother’s notion to live with her and lead Wishwood. Equally, the son of Claverton Michael disagrees with his father to live carrying the name of his father. Michael insists on traveling out of home and altering his name. “He wants to be something on his own account” (Grant, 1997: 703). “Lord Claverton (a man who knows something of metaphysical stage makeup and multiple identities voices the ambiguous line: ‘I, who recognize myself as a ghost” (Kennedy, 2018: 195). The Lord’s apparitions are personalized. “Two unwelcome visitors from the past destroy the sand castle of his memories—precarious memories of what was essentially bogus success” (Brooker, 2004: 567). The ghosts “join forces against him at Badgley Court” (Kirk, 2008: 345) and pursue Claverton for his past private sins.
Furthermore, “Eliot commenced in writing his complete successful first play Murder in the Cathedral, which opened the way to fulfil his career as a dramatist” (Dahami, 2018a). The heart of the play is a social set of characters. Jones (1960), suggests that the obvious variance between this play and the earlier ones is that there is no insinuation that the central character has an unexpected spiritual destiny. In The Elder Statesman, there is no single character to compensate for the wrongs of others. All characters do penance for their own sins. The inclination in the course of The Elder Statesman for a unique person is pushed more remote from the center of the events to share the heroism equally with others.
Eliot in this final dramatic work uses upper-middle-class conversational language. The play begins with badinage changing into an affection scene. It summarizes all his preceding investigations for an extended period of time with a drama about a contemporary setting.
In his last play, The Elder Statesman (1958) Eliot fused contemporary settings, situations, and dialogue with classical forms and allusion with the hope that his elite audience would at last grant philosophical depth and tragic grandeur to his dignified public-man hero, matured and mellowed by experience (Manimozhi, 2015: 16-17).
Two apparitions he remembers from his past trouble Lord Claverton. The apparitions appear to him as human beings. Because of his maturity and augmented experience, Eliot makes the ghosts as real people who have the ability to converse, listen, and are seen differently from those of The Family Reunion. Through this play, the dramatist intends to deliver a moral lesson. According to Eliot, if a person desires to live and die well, he must be truthful and frank with himself. The principal character, Claverton, lives a life that leads to fleeting success. “So far people had seen him in his garb of authority but now being shorn of all his former plumes he is scared of the vacuum he feels in his own life” (Tiwari, and Maneesha, 2007: 152). When he was young, in Oxford, he squashed a dead old man but did not stop. Claverton was afraid to be noticed with two girls. After leaving Oxford, he was involved in breaking a promise suit with a famous actress, Maise Montjoy who is later known as Mrs. Carghill. He truthfully loved her, but the relationship did not finish with marriage. Remembrance of past misdemeanors like these have aggravated him and prevented him from attaining any tangible achievement. This play is more humane than the previous ones in which the elder statesman and his daughter partake in the real human realm in their pursuit of ultimate satisfaction.
The poet-dramatist produces The Elder Statesman as a transparent cover intended to be looked through for a religious insinuation that is positioned behind the dramatic dealings. Eliot uses his Christian mind in order to move his desire of creating a modern play and have religious appeal but incidentally. With a desire, Eliot in The Elder Statesman shows marks of religious predisposition in contemporary society in which spectators are not watching religious drama directly. Via this play and the previous three, Eliot has the ability to satisfy his goal of making the social drama as religious and amply supplements them with Christian doctrine. The whole method of redemption is presented via the identification of love of human beings as a secular portray of the heavenly love of The Creator. Furthermore, according to Christianity, the main character Claverton is released from the specters by his confession. “The Elder Statesman tells the story of the newly retired Lord Claverton who encounters two characters of his past. He prevails over them by his confession to his daughter about his past. Lord Claverton is accompanied by his daughter Monica to Badgley Court, a relaxation nursing home” (Dahami, 2017b, p. 9). Claverton finds his confession to his daughter, Monica, a means of liberation and tranquil death that is an unblemished indication of Christianity despite the fact that the expression ‘The Creator’ has not been mentioned in the play. Claverton “confesses that he has shed his external self— his mask of pretensions” (Bardoli, 1997: 140).
Eliot has given significance to the names of his characters in an attempt to make them well recognized, contemporary, and unique. The characters are rhythmical and in concord with the poetry in which the majority of the names consist of three syllables to be dactylic for instance ‘Claverton,’ ‘Monica’ ‘Hemington,’ and ‘Fredrico.’ In this final drama, Eliot makes the characters entirely human and modern without the interference of any inhuman or supernatural agency.
Eliot in writing The Elder Statesman comes nearer to the conventions, which he desired to bring to life. He sought the play to be entirely in verse and to make spectators used to verse to the extent that they are not conscious of hearing it. Our dramatist wanted contemporary spectators to listen to the poetic rhythm and appreciate it unconsciously.
Eliot appeared as a major supporter of poetic plays for which he made satisfactory argument[s] at several places in his criticism. He, therefore, started attempting to generate a new kind of theatre. Through his criticism on poetic drama and his plays, Eliot has provided evidence that poetic drama is both possible and useful in the modern age (Dahami, 2017a, p. 89).
Eliot thrived in his aim in this poetic play where the contemporary and current language is converted to music but modern. Hewes, in The Critical Heritage, (1982), perceives that the poetic language of this play is naturally spoken to the degree that it is hard to discriminate between verse and prose. The point is clear in the opening conversation between Monica and Charles about restaurants, shopping, and tea. However, a deep feeling appears of it, as undetectable as the love that Monica defines in her conversation with Charles. Monica says:
It crept so softly
On silent feet, and stood behind my back (Ayaz, 2004: 130)
The Elder Statesman is considered by alteration of names. The elder statesman and Gomez Federico together have altered their names for the value of the social benefit or concealing something from the early days.
Lord Claverton. Why do you come back with another name?
Gomez. You’ve changed your name too, since I knew you.
When we were up at Oxford, you were plain Dick Ferry (Eliot, 1969: 532-3).
In addition, Michael, son of Lord Claverton, when he decided to travel out of England, shows that he needs to leave home and to make himself a name different from the name of his family. He wants to start his new life in his own independent approach.
Eliot, in this play as well as in the earlier ones, devoted himself to the social problems of the community that overwhelms families. The western families in the twentieth century challenged social problems arising from sundry classes, specifically the titled upper middle class. The century is viewed as an epoch of rapid political, social, and economic alterations. This play “may be Eliot’s most successful commentary on the age-old conflict between individual choice and social responsibility” (Manimozhi, 2015: 195). The age was an age of moral confusion and doubt. This atmosphere of confusion and nervousness has been further confirmed by the spiritual studies from the time of Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939). Freud, in his theories, highlights the influence of the unconscious that influences the performance of people. He specifies that human beings are not sensible, rational, or normal as they are anticipated to be. The performance of people is not controlled merely by the conscious. The performance of people, according to Freud, is guided by the hidden influences of the unconscious.
Consequently, a new element is added to the valuation of human performance, and more considerable highlighting is laid on the education of the unconscious. This has a profound weight on twentieth-century moral attitude, and the learning of the unconscious became the chief subject of modern literature. Because of the rapid alterations in all spheres of life in contemporary society, family relationships have significantly become transformed. There is a disintegration of the old dominant responsibility in the family connections. The assessment of the relative responsibility of the sexes has transformed, the male advantage over female has faded. Females have had an obvious deal of autonomy. The encounter of the old-young generations has resulted in a replacement between parents and youngsters. This twentieth century was an apposite period for the advent of the drama of ideas owing to the social difficulties that conquered the time. The glitches of religion, labor, and funds, youth, and age turned out to be the themes of contemporary drama.
Eliot wrote The Elder Statesman in a changing time in which the man of yesterday is not the same man of today; the chief person is a hollow man. This character wears a public cover-up and fears for his personality. The challenge of the play is how to remove the mask with the purpose of finding the identity. This play is of three distinct acts. It starts at four o’clock in the room of the elder statesman. The play opens with an affection scene between Monica and Charles. Charles seems to be her suitor. He has gone with Monica for a shopping tour and lunch. He endeavors to get some free time alone with her but in vain. He grumbles against the unusual fostering of her father. He shows obliquely his jealousy of her father. The dialogue between the two turns more solemn to serve the magnification of the dramatic situation, and to present an unblemished picture of the various sorts of love; a love between friends and daughter-father love. The dialogue between the two lovers affirms “the theme which is developed throughout the stages of Lord Claverton’s spiritual re-education” (Smith, 2015: 218).
Lord Claverton is guided by the doctor to take a prolonged period of recovery tour in the luxurious convalescent home called Badgley Court. He has sacrificed his extraordinary life of private association for his public responsibility in addition to losing control of both worlds. Claverton is accompanied by his daughter, who increases the dissent of Charles.
Charles contends to know why Monica has to go with her father to Badgley Court; she clarifies that there are three essential reasons; the first is being afraid of loneliness. The second; he is frightened to be exposed to foreigners, and the third reason is that her father is too ailing than he is aware of. Likewise, she tells him that the doctor makes certain the possibility of his demise being close owing to these reasons. She guesses that he probably will not leave Badgley Court. For such purposes, Monica must stay with her father until the end to embody the divine affection of a young to a parent.
The dilemma of Lord Claverton begins with his inspection of nothingness. He apprehends the meaninglessness of the community attainments he had done with his working life. “In The Elder Statesman, there is an echo of The Waste Land: the reminiscences of the meaninglessness, dryness, and insanity of modern life” (Sarker, 2008: 202). At this time, Claverton has nothing to do but to put in mind the ‘empty pages’ of his actuality. He enlightens Monica and Charles:
Fear of the vacuum, and no desire to fill it.
It’s just like sitting in an empty waiting room
In a railway station on a branch line,
After the last train, after all the passengers
Have left, and the booking office is closed
And the porters have gone (Eliot, 1969: 530).
As a modern behavior, Lord Claverton, in his preoccupation with loneliness, announces his spiritual situation before demise in the portrait of a traveler who is waiting with little hope for a train that never comes. “One of the chief themes in Eliot’s poetry, as well as his plays, is the topic
of isolation, which is sensed by a soul in loneliness” (Dahami, 2018c). Eliot fashions the two apparitions of Claverton’s past come consecutively. Fred Culverwell called Fredrico Gomez the first unappreciated guest to call on Lord Claverton. Gomez was jailed in England for forgery, left England and got involved in trading duplicities in an invented Central American state named Santa Marco.
The lately named Gomez believes Claverton responsible for his boyish wrongdoing and the subsequent loss of his personality and country. Gomez comes back after virtually thirty-five years of banishment from his own country. Both Gomez and Claverton possess the same spiritual illness that leads both of them to encounter in Badgley Court for repose cure. Claverton, On the one hand, has experienced spiritual loneliness from his wife, his children and even from himself. Gomez, On the other hand, has lived the same loneliness but in tangible terms. He has lived for thirty-five years in banishment from his country as well as his past. Gomez similarly lived with a family that did not share his belief and mind.
Gomez clarifies that he wishes a friend to trust, a friend who returns him to his past reality. Gomez, who was once the ex-scholarship boy in Oxford University, has not flooded back to blackmail Claverton; however, he wishes to recapture a feeling of the self via speaking to the only remaining of his memory. He is in need of somebody who accepts both the young Culverwell as well as the new Gomez. He states:
I’ve been trying to make clear that I only want your friendship!
Just as it used to be in the old days (Eliot, 1967: 314).
Fredrico Gomez believes that he has the capability to force the elder statesman to accept the new friendship and relationship because he evokes his old secrets. “Two secrets, major and minor, lurk in his past: the minor is an instance of breach of promise; the major is the fact that driving a car many years before, he ran over an old man in the road” (Simpson, 2010: 512). When, on a definite night, Claverton had run over a man on an uninhabited road and did not stop. Gomez believes that it is a better chance for him to get revenge against Claverton and what he has done to him.
The second act smoothly begins on a sunny day on the veranda of Badgley Court a few days later. Mrs. Piggott The matron-manageress, a somewhat comic character, receives Lord Claverton with his daughter. It starts with a nimble sarcastic comic atmosphere owing to Mrs. Piggott. The elder statesman ironically comments on Mrs. Piggott’s opposing conduct saying:
She’ll come back to tell us more about the peace and quiet (Sarkar, 2006: 269).
Modernism is the ultimate aim for Eliot to make his last successful play even by inserting touches of the Greek elements such as ghosts. As a modern dramatist, he ingeniously uses ghosts not a mere imitation but developing the usage of the ghost with a modern style of real names of the contemporary age. The first one was Gomez and the second is Carghill.
Mrs. Carghill is the second apparition encounters Lord Claverton. Her demand is revenge in which, as her first lover, he had advanced to his father for compensation in an attempt to avoid parting of a ‘promised suit.’ She believes him blamable for humiliating her future and disturbing their love. She attempts a sort of real blackmail. Mrs. Carghill, like Fredrico Gomez, wants his gathering now for concealing the old secrets of his real personality since childhood. She reminds the elder statesman of their love affair as well as old messages he sent to her the time she was identified as Maisie Batterson. She hopes that she has the ability to use them as a caution to make him near her once again.
Lord Claverton: If you had really been broken-hearted
I can’t see how you could have acted as you did.
Mrs. Carghill: Who can say whether a heart’s been broken
Once it’s been repaired? But I know what you mean.
You mean that I would never have started an action
For breach of promise, if I’d really cared for you.
What sentimental nonsense! One starts an action
Simply because one must do something.
Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have settled out of court.
My lawyer said: ‘I advise you to accept,
Because Mr. Ferry will be standing for Parliament:
His father has political ambitions for him (Eliot, 1959: 67).
It is the recurrent obsession of Lord Claverton to perceive in Michael, his son. He assumes that, like himself, his son has run over a person or at least has got involved with an immoral woman and untrue friends. However, Michael desires to abscond from his family legacy because he believes that he has been obliged to live, as he, himself indicates in a false realm of his father’s civic roles. Michael wishes to:
lead a life of my own,
According to my own ideas of good and bad,
Of right and wrong. I want to go far away
To some country where no one has heard the name of Claverton (Eliot, 1959: 67).
With such insurgency, Michael does not possess a plan leading his aim to discover himself via the influence of the past of the family. He wishes only to lead a personal life, not the same which his father had taken. Claverton makes notes on Michael’s talks grasping his own involvement, saying:
Those who flee from their past will always lose the race.
I know this from experience. (Eliot, 1959: 86-87).
He adds that when a person reaches his goal and imagines the ecstasy of success and splendor, he will surely find his failures ahead of him there to greet him. The selection that Michael tracks might not lead him to the deliverance or relief, which he wishes, but it leads him to an imitation of his father’s miscarriage.
The main character, Claverton, apprehends the power of his false private ways in the reply of Michael, and this shows the understanding of the duty he is indebted to the boy. He recognizes that he himself wishes to face his past. Abruptly, in a new humbleness, he commences starting knowledge of the lesson of his past if he is helped by time. His character and sentiment go in a unique positioning. The elder statesman closes the act declaring:
What I want to escape from
is myself is the past. But what a coward I am,
To talk of escaping! And what a hypocrite!
A few minutes ago I was pleading with Michael
Not to try to escape from his own past failures:
I said I know from experience. Do I understand the meaning
Of the lesson I would teach? Come, I’ll start to learn again. (Eliot, 1959: 96-97).
If the reader contemplates the speeches of the characters, he/she will find a modern style of language.
Act III takes place in the same place but the next day, late afternoon. The section begins with the same argument of Monica and Charles in the first act but with a profound understanding of the denotation of real love. They thankfully assure their engagement. In a modern language and style, they both hope to help Lord Claverton by letting him state his past secrets. He “has dwindled to a clutch of guilty secrets” (Jones, 2006: 152).
The main character realizes that the behavior of his imaginary illness is to declare to Monica whom he loves; however, his most significant weakness is that he is scared that Monica is not going to love him anymore as the man she accustomed to seeing in his complexion and habit. Quite the reverse, she affectionately encourages him and is certain that both Gomez and Mrs. Carghill are merely apparitions and can be eliminated. Lord Claverton decides then to face his apparitions. He informs his sister that he cannot discharge from himself at that point, he decides to take the right choice by facing such specters by revealing to her his past confidences.
After confession, Lord Claverton feels that he is no more anxious about his past. He will not abscond from it but will challenge it. This confession is a pace in the direction of his freedom. At present, he is ready to withstand the inheritance of his sins as an indication of his consciousness of responsibility.
As a symbol of patience and penance, the elder statesman realizes that his young son goes to Gomez for guidance on a business project in the pretend country, San Marco. He witnesses Michael tempted by Gomez, his enemy-apparition who offers Michael a new life and a job in San Marco together with a significant inducement from Mrs. Carghill. Regardless of the warning of the father and the imploring of Monica, her brother is firm not altering his verdict. The sister realizes that Michael looks as if he is lost.
Despite the fact that he loses his child, Claverton finds contentment in consenting to his own self, which leads him to the feeling of real love. It is a sort of love that results from repentance. Claverton, with a sign of his demise at the end of the play, ensures that such shadows might be banished by his steady acknowledgment of factual loving and its corrective influence on the personality. “It is a remarkable thing that Eliot concludes his last play, The Elder Statesman, with a garden-scene in which the protagonist secures his ‘peace of mind, all passion spent” (Dwivedi, 2003: 44). Lord Claverton says:
I feel at peace now.
It is the peace that ensues upon contrition
When contrition ensues upon knowledge of the truth (Eliot, 1959: 127).
In a righteous attitude, Claverton passes away in peacefulness under the beech shrub. He lastly, has found reconciliation and free will in Badgley Court. It is the intention of Eliot to show the love of the couple, Monica and Charles at the beginning of the play as poor, but now it looks to be a perpetual love. It is incessant love to amalgamate both of them into one. Charles says:
Oh my dear,
I love you to the limits of speech, and beyond.
It’s strange that words are so inadequate.
Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath,
So the lover must struggle for words (Eliot, 1959: 131).
And Monica reveals her love expressing:
Before you and I were born, the love was always there (Eliot, 1959: 131).
The play finishes, as it starts, with the modern sight of love between the couples in which both tackle the deep meaning of Claverton’s death. They recognize that their passion is their recovery. As it is one of Eliot’s intentions, The Elder Statesman ends in tranquility. Tranquility is a skilled difference in disposition and atmosphere.
The Elder Statesman is Eliot’s last play. He wrote it after obtaining sufficient expertise and skill to help him achieve his objective of writing a graceful contemporary drama and to proliferate through it his views. “He was occupied with writing poetic plays in the modern age, but such drama had better use a contemporary language as its means” (Dahami, 2020b). In a mature juncture of life, Eliot comes close to modern watchers by fluctuating the theatrical tone of his voice from farce to fervent comedy with the aim of making the mood of the shallow structure well-suited with the spiritual theme of the play. The association between human love and that of the divine. Eliot was significantly concerned with the divine life of great strength. It is his high power because he wrote passages of transcendent consideration and communion that are hardly found in any other modern English play.
Eliot, in this play, succeeded in clearly integrating the tragic and comic features together, an amalgamation that he has strived to achieve since his early plays. There is an immense deal of peripheral humor that appears with characters like Gomez, Mrs. Piggott, and Mrs. Cargill creating a kind of amusement that Eliot was in search of in his critical essays. The comic aspect of The Elder Statesman does not threaten to devastate the insightful spiritual denotation but in a modern pattern. A clear instance is the manner of the language of the elder statesman, with its thoughtful choice of common saying and its steady pulse, in comparison with the sort of communication of the two comic characters, Gomez and Mrs. Carghill. The speech of Gomez, with its sneaky, elastic, and insinuating pulse, is measured by the strong taste of idiom.
Gomez: We’re as thick as thieves, you might almost say.
Don’t you know me, Dick (Eliot, 1959: 29)?
Mrs. Carghill: Oh, Richard, you’re only saying that to tease me.
You know I meant my stage name. The name by which you knew me. (Eliot, 1959: 64)?
The Elder Statesman is a modern play that does not depend on a solitary hero as Eliot’s earlier plays especially Murder in the Cathedral. The dramatist moves entirely from the ancient style and technique to a modern one. The play shows that there is no single actor to bear the wrongs of his ancestors. The characters atone for their own sins. The slope in the course of The Elder Statesman for an exceptional individual is pushed more remote from the center of the actions to apportion the heroism correspondingly with others. Eliot in this final drama, remarkably uses upper-middle-class spoken language to achieve his aspiration making it modern. In addition to that, Eliot could fuse contemporary settings, circumstances, and dialogue with classical methods and suggestions with the hope that his best spectators would at last grant logical profundity and tragic magnificence to his stately public-man hero, matured and relaxed by experience.
Another point of Eliot’s objective making the play modern is the utility of the ghosts. He, in a skillfully masterful manner, made them real people who have the ability to converse. They are seen unlike those of The Family Reunion. The Elder Statesman is more empathic than the previous ones where the elder statesman and his daughter participate in real human land in their search for decisive gratification. In this final play, Eliot succeeds in formulating the characters totally modern without the meddling of any inhuman or supernatural intervention. It is Eliot’s most fruitful commentary on the age-old skirmish between individual selection and communal responsibility.
The Elder Statesman signifies Eliot’s career as an inspired modern dramatist and a social interpreter. This play, as well as several of his critical essays on drama, offers the readers with an appreciated record of the competing burdens of techniques on contemporary theatres. His modern play brings to an end his constant preoccupation with the issue of writing a contemporary play. Years of efforts in practice as well as in accumulation of skill congregate in this last play to form a background of art that has the ability to work as a suitable medium to make The Elder Statesman modern.
Eliot deals with everyday dialogue that is, for many people, monotonous, insipid, and fruitless. Most of the discussions of the play remain unique, and he fortifies it with his traditional cynical hilarity with a special pithiness. However, there are certain passages, which come extremely close to a trite speech at moments when the dramatic condition necessitates something additional.
In The Elder Statesman, the dramatist has the ability to apprehend the techniques needed for modern theatre; he had the audacity to create a style and speech liberal as well as making it spontaneous as close as probable to modern conversational speech. The speech is intuitive, natural, and noticeable to spectators and readers who do not possess enough awareness or skill to understand mental thought. T. S. Eliot, in this play, could achieve a contemporary poetic play using modern natural language similar to the language of his period. It can be said that this play – as a final successful one of him – is the modernist of his modern early plays.
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Dahami, Y. S. H. (2020a). Considerations on W. B. Yeats’s Sailing to Byzantium, Journal of Cultural Linguistic and Artistic Studies, 4(16); pp. 480-497.
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Dahami, Y. S. H. (2018a). Murder in the Cathedral: Ancient Theme in Modern Garb, Journal of Taibah University for Arts & Humanities, 7th Year, Issue (14), pp. 927-958.
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