The Cocktail Party

The Cocktail Party Study Guide

Perhaps the most well-received of T.S. Eliot’s seven plays, The Cocktail Party interpolates many essential elements from Alcestis by Euripides into a midcentury British play that takes many genre cues from British "drawing-room comedies." The play was extremely popular in London and New York at the time of its premiere.

The play follows an older couple who are going through some marital issues. They are helped by a mysterious stranger who helps them to put their conundrum into perspective and weigh it against the human desire for independence and solitude. The play becomes a philosophical rumination on the complexities of human relations as well as, perhaps unintentionally, a portrait of British entitlement and colonial racism.

After getting produces at the Edinburgh Festival in 1949, The Cocktail Party played on Broadway in 1950. It won the Tony Award for Best Play. It has since been revived, if infrequently, to mixed reviews.