Eliot must have hated this song so much. It honestly stands for everything he hated in the modern world. It bastardizes past elegance and sticks it into a modern, licentious song played over a gramophone. “The Waste Land” presents this as practically a middle finger to everything decent in this world. It’s closely juxtaposed with Ariel’s song from The Tempest, a play by Shakespeare that Eliot esteems as a return to order. However, “The Waste Land” is not about a return to order. It’s about entropy of values. So instead of a natural and classical (read as good) song, we get a jazzy and syncopated song (read as evil).
The song, presumably played on the paragon of modern evil, the gramophone, is the backdrop for a shell shocked couple’s content-less conversation. It intensifies the frenetic quality of the scene, as the woman frantically attempts to get her husband to speak and then plan the next day. The song encapsulates the woman’s desire to appear as if everything is okay and to ignore horror. “Shakespearian Rag” treats tragedy casually and disrespectfully.