Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral

Book - 1938 | 4th ed
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T. S. Eliot's verse dramatization of the murder of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

The Archbishop Thomas Becket speaks fatal words before he is martyred in T. S. Eliot's best-known drama, based on the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1170. Praised for its poetically masterful handling of issues of faith, politics, and the common good, T. S. Eliot's play bolstered his reputation as the most significant poet of his time.

Publisher: New York : Harcourt, Brace & World, [1938], c1935
Edition: 4th ed
ISBN: 9780156632775
Branch Call Number: 812 E42m-p
Characteristics: 88 p. ; 21 cm


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A poetic play that dives into the nature of martyrdom in a questioning and thoughtful way. The knights break the fourth wall in a very thought-provoking way, and the author basically lets the audience decide how to interpret Thomas a Becket's motivations. The end of the Chorus' final speech is particularly profound, in which they posit that most ordinary people are afraid of few things more than the love and justice of God. I would enjoy seeing this performed.

Lovestoread5 Jun 22, 2018

Not much for plays(?) didn't care for it and stopped reading after the first few pages. I just couldn't keep up or understand what was going on.

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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