Nancy Gish wrote:
NG> I'm astonished and offended at this notion that a horror story
NG> about death, a corpse in lysol, and terror can be treated
NG> "lightly" because it is just about a murdered woman.
As Ken wrote earlier, it was you who added the bit about "just about a
I'll let the playright speak to this:
For to those who have experienced the full horror of life, tragedy is
still inadequate. […] In the end, horror and laughter may be one —
only when horror and laughter have become as horrible and laughable
as they can be; and […] you may laugh or shudder over Oedipus or
Hamlet or King Lear--or both at once: then only do you perceive that
the aim of the comic and the tragic dramatist is the same: they are
equally serious. […] There is potential comedy in Sophocles and
potential tragedy in Aristophanes, and otherwise they would not be
such good tragedians or comedians as they are.
The citation given for the above was:
T. S. Eliot, "Shakespearian Criticism: From Dryden to Coleridge,"
in 'A Companion to Shakespeare Studies', ed. by H. Granville-Barker
and G.B. Harrison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977),
although I saw a 1934 date given also.
Note that Eliot is identifying Aristophanes as a writer of comedys and
also that Sweeney Agonistes" is sub-titled "Fragments of an Aristopanic
Melodrama" (where melodrama means a play with music.) So it doesn't seem
inconcievable that Eliot might have included both comedy and drama in
NG> "Light," "playful," where?
I had already written:
Still, there is a lighter tone throughout the play. There are
the names, repetition and rhythm leading to that.
Yes, there is the dark side of the murdered woman but then there is also
the lighter side of a Greek chorus made of white minstrels (and then
that made up with Swarts (black) and Snow (white,) Snow on bones
(white).) And let's add Sweeney as the King of clubs. Oh, yes, the
completed play apparently was to be entitled "Wanna Go Home, Baby?" (a
hint that a tradegy was to follow?)
NG> What does the fact that a woman's college performed it have to do
NG> with seeing it as horrific or not? Women are the ones who are most
NG> danger from such men. Of course they would put it on. What does
NG> one expect? Light comedy and cheerleading?
Okay, that was not one of my better moments but I did not expect a 1933
Vassar production to put on a play then as dark as you imagine. While
I'm a bit more unsure of that now I still doubt that they would. I'll
appreciate some proof before changing my mind. In the meantime this is
what I have to go on besides my belief:
May 6, 1933
The Experimental Theatre presented a mime sequence, Now I Know Love,
which included the world premiere of T.S. Eliot's first play, Sweeney
Agonistes. The other plays were three by Theocritus, translated by
Professor Philip H. Davis, Penthouse by Mary Morley Crapo, '34, and
Telephone by Dorothy Parker. The music was composed by Associate
Professor Quincy Porter. Mr. Eliot was present and gave a poetry
reading on the following day.
Also, the director wrote Eliot about the play beforehand and he wrote
Haille Flanagan that F.M. Cornford's "The Origin of Attic Comedy" (1912)
was essential to understanding his goals in that play. I'll just let it
go at that for now except for acknowledging that there could be a lot of
discussion on that in itself.
And now, off topic for a bit.
*POSSIBLY* Dorothy Parker's "Telephone" at Vassar was a performance of
her short work "A Telephone Call." The text of that is at:
A MP3 file of a reading can be gotten via page (I haven't downloaded it):
To get me into more hot water, here are some short items my searches
have picked up:
A quip on Vassar by Dorothy Parker:
If all the girls at Vassar were laid end to end, I wouldn't be
This one is unattributed. I picture it said with a Yiddish accent:
You can lead a whore to Vassar, but you can't make her think.
One more thing. At a question and answer session at Vassar Eliot
mentioned that his poetry was simple and [something]. That prompted
laughter from the audience.