The Info List - The Cocktail Party

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The Cocktail Party
The Cocktail Party
is a play by T. S. Eliot. Elements of the play are based on Alcestis, by the Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
playwright Euripides. The play was the most popular of Eliot's seven plays in his lifetime, although his 1935 play, Murder in the Cathedral, is better remembered today. It was written while Eliot was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1948.[1] The Cocktail Party
The Cocktail Party
was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival
Edinburgh Festival
in 1949. In 1950 the play had successful runs in London
and New York theaters (the Broadway production received the 1950 Tony Award
Tony Award
for Best Play.) It focuses on a troubled married couple who, through the intervention of a mysterious stranger, settle their problems and move on with their lives. The play starts out seeming to be a light satire of the traditional British drawing room comedy. As it progresses, however, the work becomes a darker philosophical treatment of human relations. As in many of Eliot's works, the play uses absurdist elements to expose the isolation of the human condition. In another recurring theme of Eliot's plays, the Christian martyrdom of the mistress character is seen as a sacrifice that permits the predominantly secular life of the community to continue. In 1951, in the first Theodore Spencer Memorial Lecture at Harvard University Eliot criticized his own plays in the second half of the lecture, explicitly the plays Murder in the Cathedral, The Family Reunion, and The Cocktail Party. The lecture was published as "Poetry and Drama" and later included in Eliot's 1957 collection On Poetry and Poets.


1 Synopsis 2 Characters 3 Productions 4 References 5 Further reading 6 External links

Synopsis[edit] Edward and Lavinia Chamberlayne are separated after five years of marriage. She leaves Edward just as they are about to host a cocktail party at their London
home, and he has to come up with an explanation for why Lavinia is not present, in order to keep up social appearances. Lavinia is brought back by a mysterious Unidentified Guest at the party, who turns out to be a psychologist whom Edward and Lavinia both consult. They each learn that they have been deceiving themselves and must face life's realities. They learn that their life together, though hollow and superficial, is preferable to life apart. This message is difficult for the play's third main character, Edward's mistress, to accept. She, with the psychiatrist's urging, also moves on towards a life of greater honesty and salvation and becomes a Christian martyr in Africa. Two years later, Edward and Lavinia, now better adjusted, host another cocktail party. Characters[edit]

Edward Chamberlayne Lavinia Chamberlayne Celia Coplestone, Edward's mistress Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly, the mysterious stranger/psychiatrist Miss Barraway, Sir Henry's secretary The couple's friends:

Peter Quilpe, with whom Lavinia has an affair, but who yearns for Celia Julia Shuttlethwaite Alexander MacColgie Gibbs

Productions[edit] After its debut at the Edinburgh Festival
Edinburgh Festival
in 1949 with Alec Guinness in the role of the unidentified guest, produced by Henry Sherek and directed by E. Martin Browne,[2] The Cocktail Party
The Cocktail Party
premiered on Broadway on January 21, 1950, at the Henry Miller's Theatre
Henry Miller's Theatre
and ran for 409 performances. Produced by Gilbert Miller[3][4][dubious – discuss] and directed by E. Martin Browne, the production starred Guinness as the mysterious stranger. It received the 1950 Tony Award for Best Play.[4] The play also ran in London
with Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison
as the uninvited guest. A revival opened on October 7, 1968, at the Lyceum Theatre and ran for 44 performances. The Chamberlaynes were played by Brian Bedford
Brian Bedford
and Frances Sternhagen, with Sydney Walker as the mysterious stranger. Guinness returned to the role of the uninvited guest at the Chichester Festival Theatre under his own direction in 1968, taking the production to London
later in the year. In the spring of 2010, the New York-based Off-Broadway company The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) presented the play. References[edit]

^ Institute For Advanced Study Frees Scholar From Class, Tests, Students The Harvard Crimson, November 7, 1953 ^ Darlington, W. A. (2004). "Henry Sherek". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 July 2014.  ^ "New Plays in Manhattan". Time. 30 January 1950. Retrieved 2008-06-15.  ^ a b "Search Past Tony Award
Tony Award
Winners (Gilbert Miller)". Tony Awards. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays Grover Smith, T.S. Eliot's Poetry and Plays: A Study in Sources and Meaning E. Martin Browne, The Making of T.S. Eliot's Plays.

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Cocktail Party

The Cocktail Party
The Cocktail Party
at the Internet Broadway Database The T.S. Eliot Page

v t e

T. S. Eliot


Early poems

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Portrait of a Lady" "Preludes" "Whispers of Immortality" "Gerontion" The Waste Land "The Hollow Men" Ash Wednesday Ariel Poems Journey of the Magi A Song for Simeon

Later poems

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats "Bustopher Jones" "Gus: The Theatre Cat" "Growltiger's Last Stand" Burnt Norton East Coker The Dry Salvages Little Gidding Four Quartets


Sweeney Agonistes The Rock Murder in the Cathedral The Family Reunion The Cocktail Party The Confidential Clerk The Elder Statesman


Selected Essays, 1917-1932 "Hamlet and His Problems" "Tradition and the Individual Talent" The Sacred Wood A Choice of Kipling's Verse
A Choice of Kipling's Verse
(1941) "The Frontiers of Criticism"


CATS (1981 musical, 1998 film)


The Criterion Faber and Faber T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Prize T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Prize (Truman State University)


Tom & Viv (1994 film)


Eliot family Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot
Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot
(first wife) Valerie Eliot
Valerie Eliot
(second wife) Henry Ware Eliot
Henry Ware Eliot
(father) Charlotte Champe Stearns
Charlotte Champe Stearns
(mother) William Greenleaf Eliot
William Greenleaf Eliot
(grandfather) E. Martin Browne John Davy Hayward Ezra Pound Jean Jules Verdenal William Butler Yeats

Commons Wikibooks Wikiquote Wikisource texts

v t e

by Euripides


Apollo Thanatos
/ Death Maidservant Alcestis Admetus Eumelus Heracles Pheres


The Cocktail Party


Alceste (1674) Admeto
(1727) Alceste (1767)


Alcmaeon in Psophis

v t e

Tony Award
Tony Award
for Best Play


Mister Roberts (1948) Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman
(1949) The Cocktail Party
The Cocktail Party
(1950) The Rose Tattoo
The Rose Tattoo
(1951) The Fourposter
The Fourposter
(1952) The Crucible
The Crucible
(1953) The Teahouse of the August
Moon (1954) The Desperate Hours (1955) The Diary of Anne Frank (1956) Long Day's Journey into Night
Long Day's Journey into Night
(1957) Sunrise at Campobello (1958) J.B. (1959) The Miracle Worker (1960) Becket (1961) A Man for All Seasons
A Man for All Seasons
(1962) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
(1963) Luther (1964) The Subject Was Roses (1965) Marat/Sade
(1966) The Homecoming
The Homecoming
(1967) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1968) The Great White Hope
The Great White Hope
(1969) Borstal Boy (1970) Sleuth (1971) Sticks and Bones (1972) That Championship Season (1973) The River Niger (1974) Equus (1975)


(1976) The Shadow Box (1977) Da (1978) The Elephant Man (1979) Children of a Lesser God (1980) Amadeus (1981) The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982) Torch Song Trilogy (1983) The Real Thing (1984) Biloxi Blues (1985) I'm Not Rappaport (1986) Fences (1987) M. Butterfly (1988) The Heidi Chronicles
The Heidi Chronicles
(1989) The Grapes of Wrath (1990) Lost in Yonkers
Lost in Yonkers
(1991) Dancing at Lughnasa
Dancing at Lughnasa
(1992) Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (1993) Angels in America: Perestroika (1994) Love! Valour! Compassion! (1995) Master Class (1996) The Last Night of Ballyhoo (1997) 'Art' (1998) Side Man (1999) Copenhagen (2000)


Proof (2001) The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?
(2002) Take Me Out (2003) I Am My Own Wife
I Am My Own Wife
(2004) Doubt: A Parable (2005) The History Boys
The History Boys
(2006) The Coast of Utopia (2007) August: Osage County (2008) God of Carnage
God of Carnage
(2009) Red (2010) War Horse (2011) Clybourne Park (2012) Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
(2013) All the Way (2014) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2015) The Humans