Poetic Drama: A Note
Introduction: The poetic drama is a great achievement of the modern age. It is a mixture of high seriousness and colloquial element. It is the combination of the tradition and the experiment and of the ancient and the new. It is symbolic and difficult. Its verse form is blank verse or free verse. In short, its vehicle is verse, its mechanism is imagery, its substance is myth and its binding force is musical pattern.
Beginning: The 18th and the 19th century contributed little to the development of poetic drama due to the unfavourable conditions. There were signs of rebirth of this drama by 1920. But it could not gain much ground. The reason was that most of the dramatists of this period were interested in realistic drama. A change was noticed with the passage of time. The disciples of Ibsen began to be overshadowed.
At the abbey theatre Yeats tried to revive poetic drama. But he could not succeed. It was T.S. Eliot who firmly established it. He prepared the concrete ground for it by saying that the craving for poetic drama is permanent in human nature. He added that poetry was the complete medium for drama.
Beginners: Before T.S. Eliot some dramatists tried to create a taste for poetic drama. This attempt helped Eliot in making his valuable experiments in poetic drama. Among these dramatists Stephen Phillis, John Masefield, Gordon Bottomley, Flecker and John Drinkwater are important. They all experimented in poetic Drama and prepared ground for Eliot. Their plays vitalised the course of poetic drama.
W.B. Yeats: W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and J.M. Synge established the Abbey theatre in Dublin to encourage the poet - playwrights. At this theatre Yeats endeavoured to revive poetic drama. He wrote about twenty-six plays in verse but Yeats was more of a poet than dramatist. His plays are rich in poetical intensity. Eliot has praised his contribution to poetic drama.
T.S. Eliot: Eliot propounded the theory of the poetic drama. It was he who established its tradition in 20th century. The Murder in the Cathedral is his first full-length poetic play. The Family Reunion, The Cocktail Party, The Confidential Clerk and the Elder Statesman are his other important poetic plays. Through these plays he evolved a befitting poetic mode of expression for the poetic drama. He discarded the use of traditional blank verse. He carefully avoided any echo of Shakespeare. He explored the dramatic possibility of verse and extended the scope of poetic drama.
Auden and Isherwood: W.H. Auden wrote two plays alone and three plays in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood. Audern's The Dance of Death is an important poetic drama. Isherwood's Ascent of F6 and Across the Frontiers are important plays. His plays deal with symbolic situation and cartoon characters.
Stephen Spender: He wrote Trial of a Judge. But it can't be considered to be a poetic play of permanent value. John Masefield, John Drinkwater, Frederic Louis MacNeice, Ronald Duncan, and Anne Ridler are the other dramatists that have enriched the field of the poetic drama.
Christopher Fry: His The Lady is not for Burning is an important experiment in verse and technique. In Venus Observed Fry uses simple poetic language.