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Cocktail Party


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Verse play by T. S. Eliot, produced in 1949, published in 1950.

At his cocktail party, Edward Chamberlayne tries to conceal the fact that his wife Lavinia has left him, but he is found out by his mistress Celia; talented, lonely Peter Quilpe; and a mysterious stranger, the psychiatrist Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly. Harcourt-Reilly arranges Lavinia's return, and although Edward still finds her his “angel of destruction,” Sir Henry makes him see that they are bound together by “the same isolation,” as her former lover Quilpe has now fallen in love with Celia, and if Edward is incapable of giving love, Lavinia cannot be loved. Celia too feels alone, and craving “the intensity of loving in the spirit” refuses to be reconciled to the human condition accepted by the others and chooses to journey in quest of faith. Two years later at a cocktail party given by Edward and Lavinia for the same guests, they learn that Celia, having become a nurse in a heathen country, has been crucified and is now worshipped as a goddess. Harcourt-Reilly tells the Chamberlaynes they should not feel guilt since the saintly way was right for Celia and another way is for them, since “there are two worlds of life and death.”

Subjects: Literature.


Reference entries

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Authors

T. S. Eliot (1888—1965) poet, critic, and publisher


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