, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 97–113 | Cite as

Sweeney Agonistes in noh mask: T. S. Eliot, Japanese noh, and the fragments of world drama

  • Carrie J. PrestonEmail author


The expansive reach of the ancient Japanese noh theater as it influenced modernist performance and poetics took in T. S. Eliot as well as Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats, the more commonly recognized noh aficionados. Pound and Eliot attended the premiere of Yeats’s noh-inspired retelling of Irish legend, At the Hawk’s Well, in 1916. This essay considers the influence of that production on Eliot’s later work, discussing his review of Pound’s translations of noh plays based on drafts by Ernest Fenollosa and focusing on two productions of Eliot’s dramatic fragment Sweeney Agonistes. Incorporating influences from noh, classical tragedy, and American minstrel performance, among others, Sweeney Agonistes is an example of world drama. But, Eliot’s play is best served by a definition of world drama that does not oppose national theatrical traditions, one that recognizes the emergence of world drama from a critical practice that focuses on global allusion and inspirations and the transnational exchange of performance ideas and techniques.


Ezra Pound W. B. Yeats noh translation Group Theatre Global turn 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

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