Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral

Book - 1968
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Murder in the Cathedral, written for the Canterbury Festival on 1935, was the first high point on T. S. Eliot's dramatic achievement. It remains one of the great plays of the century. Like Greek drama, its theme and form are rooted in religion and ritual purgation and renewal, and it was this return to the earliest sources of drama that brought poetry triumphantly back to the English stage.
Publisher: London : Faber and Faber , 1968
ISBN: 9780571086115
057108611X
Branch Call Number: 822.912 ELI

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dennismmiller
Jun 02, 2017

Murder in the Cathedral is TS Eliot's dramatic retelling of the return of St Thomas Becket to Canterbury and his subsequent murder at the behest of King Henry II. In examining its protagonist and his struggles with enemies both physical and spiritual, Eliot questions the relationship between Church and state, but also and more importantly, between God and man, for "the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, and who no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of being a martyr."

Murder in the Cathedral is perhaps the best example of a modern play in the classical style, which is to say a play which uses some of the elements and techniques of classical drama without attempting to be a classical drama. This only heightens the effect when the knights break the fourth wall to appeal to, and implicate, the audience. This is, in turn, no postmodern gimmick, but the consummation of the play as liturgical drama, existing in a no-time which is neither present nor past.

Eliot powerfully makes the audience (or reader) and St Thomas into contemporaries - or reveals that we already were. His struggles are our struggles, his temptations our temptations, and his fate our fate, even if we are sometimes lulled by superficialities and distracted by the illusion of the merely visible.

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