Tynan wrote that where Eliot anoints Fry gilds (‘Prose and the Playwright’, Tynan on Theatre, pp. 329–35) and if Fry’s success shows that there was a welcome for verse on the British stage it also shows that Eliot was wise in recognizing the dangers as well as fearing the prejudice. T. S. Eliot wished to say something and it was important that he be listened to rather than that he charmed audiences with pretty words. Tynan was concerned in his review to defend prose from the attack of verse drama which, in 1954, seemed a real attack, but other critics echo his complaints. Eric Bentley, for example, complains that Fry has been constructing a polemic against realism which was seen as an obstacle to beauty, yet Fry’s beauty ‘is too calculated an effect … which the author seems to be forever congratulating himself on’. This comment, significantly, occurs in a review of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters where great beauty is achieved with the least strain and most abundance (What is Theatre?, pp. 221–4). Certainly Fry’s statements do strive to become a theory of drama. In a talk that reads like a manifesto, in The Listener (1950), Fry said:
Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement. It is the language in which he says heaven and earth in one word. It is the language in which he speaks of himself and his predicament as though for the first time … And, if you accept my proposition that reality is altogether different from our stale view of it, we can say that poetry is the language of reality.