The career of T. S. Eliot in the theatre has been well documented and nowhere better than in E. Martin Browne, The Making of T. S. Eliot’s Plays (London, 1969) and D. E. Jones, The Plays of T, S. Eliot (London, 1960), to both of which all subsequent writers, including myself, owe a great debt. If it were not for Eliot’s ‘success’ in the commercial theatre it would not be necessary to treat the subject of verse drama in our modern period seriously. Here, however, is a great poet and critic whose mature work is in drama and who has confessed that he has had before him for many years ‘the mirage of the perfection of verse drama’ (On Poetry and Poets, p. 87) and if the image of a mirage is unfortunately suggestive Mr Eliot nevertheless had ‘an incentive towards further experiment and exploration, beyond any goal which there is prospect of attaining’ (ibid., p. 86). Denis Donoghue, in The Third Voice, devotes chapters 5 to 10 (out of sixteen) to the plays of T. S. Eliot but it is difficult to judge how far his praise is consciously ambivalent. Murder in the Cathedral is an act of piety before it is a work of art (p. 92), The Family Reunion shows Eliot yielding to the temptation of being poetical, indulging in purely verbal activity at the expense of dramatic relevance and propriety (p. 98) and even The Confidential Clerk, which Donoghue admires, shows how Eliot ‘ingratiates’ himself with the audience by introducing them to two worlds they know or can imagine, Art and Commerce, arousing no doctrinal suspicions. The Elder Statesman, we are told, works like all his plays, ‘tricking’ audiences into analogues of worship (p. 158). Such comments raise questions. They certainly suggest the social purpose of the plays for it is almost as if Eliot were following Ibsen’s dictum that people went to the theatre to be amused but their eyes could be opened as well from the stage as from a pulpit, ‘especially as so many people no longer go to church’ (quoted Meyer, p. 659). But the problem with Eliot is not simply a distinction between theory and practice, it is rather the failure of nerve on the poet’s part paralleled only by the example of Henry James who was also willing to jettison anything for the unholy trade of the theatre.