T.S. Eliot as a Dramatist: A View of the 1960s


  • Robert Speaight


My subject tonight is the difficult birth of a dramatist; and I think I can already hear someone in the audience murmur to himself or to his neighbour: "The best he can do is to compose a delicate obituary." Indeed it may well be that the moment of obituary has come, and that after the tired cadences of The Elder Statesman the aged eagle will stretch its wings no longer. But obituaries tend to be either summary in their judgments or facile in their praise; only the best of them have the virtue of a revaluation. And there is evidently a feeling abroad, notably in the United States where they take nothing for granted except themselves, that the reputation of T. S. Eliot is ripe for overhauling. If the esoteric pundits of the Higher Literary Criticism had watched the people of Adelaide queuing up all night for the chance of getting a ticket for Murder in the Cathedral, they would have averted their steel-rimmed spectacles from the sight of so sinister a popularity, and mustered all their powers of analysis into a single, overwhelming question: "What, in the name of Heaven, has happened to J. Alfred Prufrock?"