T.S. Eliot is a towering figure in the field of 20th century literature and criticism, and his influence has been profound and all-pervasive. George Watson says, “Eliot made English criticism look different, though not in a simple sense.” His criticism has been revolutionary; he has turned the critical tradition of the whole English speaking world upside down.
Eliot’s essay on Hamlet is the finest example of what may be called his destructive or iconoclastic criticism. He writes, “The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective co-relative.” He defines ‘objective co-relative’ as ‘a set of objects, situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of the particular emotion, such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”
The phrase ‘objective co-relative’ was first used by Eliot in his essay on Hamlet and His Prob…