T. S. Eliot emphasized that there are certain conditions which must be fulfilled before success can be achieved in this field. First, it must be realised that the difference between prose drama and verse drama is not merely one of medium. The themes of the two are, and must be different. Poetic drama has been thought fit only for such themes as cannot be appropriately dealt with by the naturalistic prose drama T.S. Eliot writes, “…..no play should be written in verse for which prose is dramatically adequate”. The dramatic adequacy then demands a poignant theme, involving symbolic characters with imaginative atmosphere; this means a fall back on the elemental, emotional realities of life in contradistinction to the socio-economic issues which constitute the realm of the naturalistic prose drama.
Through his practice, Eliot solved the thematic problem. His verse-plays are not concerned with socio-economic problems; they are concerned not with the outer, but with the inner emotional and psychic realities. Thus the core of his first play, Murder in the Cathedral, is the psychic struggle of the hero with the temptations offered to him, and that of The Family Reunion the psychological guilt-complex of Harry, the hero of the play; The Cocktail Party is a study in the awareness of personal inadequacies of married life in the modern context. In these plays, he has also demonstrated the relevance of religion to all human activity. They are all Christian plays, the purpose of the dramatist being, “to train people to be able to think in Christian categories.” In this way, “Eliot has been contributing to the creation of the kind of wholeness of outlook without which poetic drama cannot be accepted as the normal mode of drama.” (D.E. Jones)
Eliot distinguishes between false and true rhetoric and says that the employment of false rhetorical utterances is incompatible with the concept of poetry as a medium. The presence of false rhetoric not only brings to consciousness the remoteness of the rhetorical dialogue from the spoken language, but also exploits the sentiments of the auditors, and in this way destroys the dramatic detachment of the audience. The contention that poetry should become a medium, and not a decoration, implies that it should serve the following purposes: first through poetic images as the objective correlatives of the states of mind, poetry should help in the revelation of the personality—pattern of the characters; secondly, through poetic symbolism it should work out the implications of the theme; thirdly, the scenic setting of the play should be revealed through poetic manipulations of references. The fourth and the last condition for the successful revival of poetic drama, according to Eliot, is the re-orientation of the attitude of the audience.
The Elizabethan audience accepted with, “willing suspension of disbelief, the convention of making the high personages speak in verse and the low in prose. No such frame of mind exists today, with the result that the attention of audience is distracted from the play to poetry, the moment any character starts speaking in verse.
The true home of the poetic drama is lreland, which saw a brilliant revival of the dramatic literature. The establishment of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in 1904, through the generosity of Miss Horniman attracted the famous Yeats, Synge, Lady Gregory who became its Directors.
The idea of a national drama, the lrish drama was born in the minds of these famous writers and they wrote plays for this stage. Later on it attracted more playwrights but these three remain the most outstanding figures in the scene.
They looked upon the drama as a thing of the emotions and reacting against the current realism, sought their themes among the legends, folk-lore and peasantry of Ireland. In their drama we have poetry in the truest sense.
W. B. Yeats wrote some twenty plays for this theatre, leaving aside his lyric poetry for the time being, in order to put the Irish drama on a firm footing. Among these poetic dramas, mention may be made of The Shadowy Waters (1900), The Golden Hemet (1910), Deirdre etc.
Lady Gregory had a talent for comedy but her contribution was not much. Spreading the News is probably her best play. Her one-act play, The Rising of the Moon with its intermingling of high patriotic seriousness and Quixotic comedy will always live as literature and drama.
Thus, Poetic Drama is one in which poetry and drama are fused. Since the dialogue between the characters is in verse, the play becomes a combination of music, imagery, and ritual. These factors create high intensity and dramatic effect, making poetic drama an important feature to study.