Ragtime

The first thing that I noticed about That Shakespearian Rag is that it uses the same technique that Eliot is very fond of: melding the ancient with the modern.  In the case of the song, Shakespeare’s tales are applied to a modern form of music (ragtime).  The song  transfers the great passions of the ancients into cheap entertainment.Though I could not find That Shakespearian Rag online, I listened to some other ragtime songs to get a better idea of where Gene Buck and Herman Ruby were coming from.  I liked that the song referred to itself in the lyrics (“That Shakespearian rag, most intelligent, very elegant, that old classical drag” (52)), words that Eliot later uses in The Waste Land.  It is very interesting to me that Eliot used the song in the conversation between the shell-shocked man and his wife.  Though the book does not say when the song was first published, I am assuming that it was popular in the post-war era that most people would have known it.  Therefore, the use of the song essentially implies that the couple can stand for any other couple suffering from PTSD.

Also, the man is obsessed with noise.  He repeatedly asks, “what is that noise?” (9), and after many responses of “nothing” (9) eventually, the song serves as something to fill the emptiness in his mind. After he sings the song, he is at least able to speak in complete sentences, even if they don’t quite make sense.

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