Places: The Elder Statesman

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1959

First produced: 1958

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Allegory

Time of work: Mid-twentieth century

Places DiscussedClaverton town house

Claverton Elder Statesman, Thetown house. Stately London home with a generous library, drawing room, and at least one servant, Mr. Lambert. This house is strangely empty since Lord Claverton’s wife has died some time ago and this retired elder statesman has few visitors. His daughter, Monica Claverton-Ferry, acts as his nurse and spends only a few hours at a time with her fiancé, Charles Hemington. For all of their care, they cannot keep away the ghosts of Lord Claverton’s past, as Señor Gomez demonstrates when he pushes his way into this private home and reminds his host of his past failings and tendency to corrupt others at Oxford.

Badgley Court

Badgley Court. Convalescent home near London that is designed to look like a hotel to give its patients a positive attitude about their treatment center. Only the rich can afford to stay here, and they must be curable. When Claverton is sent here, his doctors do not expect him to live long, so his promised privacy is quickly lost. Mrs. John Carghill, his first lover, confronts him with his moral lapses and insensitivity in the distant past. Then his son, Michael, shows up with numerous problems, followed closely by Gomez, who seizes the opportunity to corrupt Lord Claverton’s son as Claverton had supposedly done to Fred Culverwell during their Oxford days together. These ghosts function like vultures preying on Lord Claverton’s flagging sense of self worth. In the end, he confesses his sins to Monica and Charles and faces his accusers. In a sense, Claverton finally dies to his pretended self once he has learned not to fear life. Badgley Court thus serves as a place of trial where Lord Claverton pleads guilty, gives up his son, and finally moves beyond his past mistakes with the help of Monica and her fiancé, who is a lawyer.

BibliographyChiari, Joseph. T. S. Eliot: Poet and Dramatist. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1972. Sees The Elder Statesman as a fitting culmination of Eliot’s verse dramas and offers a positive interpretation of its accomplishments.Hinchliffe, Arnold P., ed. T. S. Eliot, Plays: “Sweeney Agonistes,” “The Rock,” “Murder in the Cathedral,” “The Family Reunion,” “The Cocktail Party,” “The Confidential Clerk,” “The Elder Statesman”: A Casebook. New York: Macmillan, 1985. A concise selection of critical reviews by prominent critics. Many insights.Jones, David E. The Plays of T. S. Eliot. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960. Chapter 7 concludes that in this play Eliot has complemented the motifs in The Family Reunion (1939) and resolved his dramas into a naturalistic surface. Discusses the Greek model for this play.Kari, Daven Michael. T. S. Eliot’s Dramatic Pilgrimage: A Progress in Craft as an Expression of Christian Perspective. Studies in Art and Religious Interpretation 13. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990. Finds the play a fitting completion of Eliot’s Christian and artistic ideals. Addresses the criticism that Eliot’s poetic skills waned in this work, and instead finds the play a model for future religious verse dramas.Smith, Carol H. T. S. Eliot’s Dramatic Theory and Practice: From “Sweeney Agonistes” to “The Elder Statesman.” Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963. Chapter 7 provides a useful summary of the play’s main characteristics and concludes that the play succeeds as a theatrical fable designed to project religious insights.
Categories: Places