Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Elder Statesman is a play in verse by T. S. Eliot first performed in 1958 and published in 1959.

The Elder Statesman Overview
T. S. Eliot once quipped: "A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can't be much good."
It was a self-adopted method for Eliot to start from the known and the familiar and work his way into the unfamiliar and the unknown. Eliot realized that the modern man, in the daily hustle-bustle of his existence, is unknowingly gasping for breath, looking for an escape from the quagmire of daily life, which is devoid of all meaning. Eliot's drawing room drama The Elder Statesman, is the last of his drawing room plays in which he attempts to give a final expression to his vision of life. In many ways, therefore, The Elder Statesman marks the culmination of Eliot's philosophy of life. Murder in the Cathedral deals with the theme of spirituality. The Cocktail Party deals with the theme of misplaced priorities and skewed spiritual visions. The Family Reunion shows us the process by which a man, pre-disposed to sainthood, is made aware of his destiny. In the last drawing room drama, Eliot shows us how no man is rich enough to buy his past, how no one can escape the memories of things gone by. One cannot flee from a guilt-ridden past and can only gain salvation from the same through admittance, contrition and expiation.
The Elder Statesman, as a play, is not particularly poetic or dramatic. But it's written in powerful verse, which is apt for Eliot's theme and expression. What Eliot wishes to tell us is something profoundly true and important: that we cannot flee the past or 'retire‛ from responsibility. At best, we can off-load it by contrition. And that to find 'the truth that shall set you free‛ you must strip yourself of all pretense, all 'acting‛ and become again, a little child. Eliot also shows us that to enter into reality is only possible through others; so that totally shared love is the supreme road to reality, and that as such, love is capable of being self-sufficient, provided it is love which is founded on true confession, resignation and trust.

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