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Sweeney Agonistes


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AT: Wanna Go Home, Baby? A: T. S. Eliot Pf: 1933, Poughkeepsie, New York Pb: 1931 G: Drama in 1 act; free verse S: London flat, 1930s C: 7m, 2fFlatmates Dusty and Doris discuss Pereira, who seems to be an unpleasant pimp but at least pays the rent. When they cut cards, they draw the two of spades – a coffin. They have visitors: Sam, a crook, his sidekick Horsfall, and two American friends from the war. Sweeney, a gangster figure, suggests leaving for a cannibal island where there is only ‘Birth, and copulation, and death’. Songs about life on the island are sung, and Sweeney tells of the brutal murder of a young woman. Then there is an ominous knock on the door.

AT: Wanna Go Home, Baby? A: T. S. Eliot Pf: 1933, Poughkeepsie, New York Pb: 1931 G: Drama in 1 act; free verse S: London flat, 1930s C: 7m, 2f

This fragment of a verse drama, its title satirically referring to Milton's Samson Agonistes (1671), is included in the 1969 Complete Poems and Plays not as a play but as an ‘Unfinished Poem’. It is an irony that it is the most innovative and potentially the most theatrical of all Eliot's dramatic writing, like a bizarre piece of film noir with songs. However, the English stage, unlike the American and Irish, was hesitant to embrace the Expressionistic impulses coming from continental Europe, and Eliot's playwriting led him instead to the somewhat desiccated verse dramas for which he is now better known.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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


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