Category Archives: play

Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

(Finished July 31, 2011)

I should have finished this book more quickly than I did – it was only 90 pages – but for some reason I couldn’t get into it. Nothing against T.S. It’s me – I couldn’t seem to get into the whole play/poetry thing. I’ve been reading too many novels lately. The form threw me.

Not to say it wasn’t interesting. It was. If I SAW it instead of reading it, I would probably be way interested.

The play is about the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. Becket was killed on December 29, 1170 in the Canterbury Cathedral. The play explains the circumstances of his death.

My favorite part of the play was, ironically, not the poetry but the prose. After Thomas is killed, the knights who were sent by the king explain why they killed Thomas. They talk directly to the audience in a matter-of-fact way. They explain that Thomas had turned on the king. Before becoming archbishop, he had worked for Henry II and been a loyal subject. After joining the ranks of the clergy, Thomas had worked counter to the king’s wishes. He had then fled forFranceand to the Holy See, leaving his parish. (Throughout most of the play, his parishioners serve as the choir, admonishing Thomas upon his return for leaving them for seven years to fend for themselves.)

The controversial part of the play is whether or not Thomas meant to be martyred. T.S. makes it pretty clear that Thomas knew his death was imminent and did nothing to stop it. In the play, Thomas tells the other priests to open the doors and let his killers come to him. Earlier in the play, tempters talked to Thomas about the advantages of being a martyr, something that T.S. believes played a major part in his death/martyrdom.

As I said, even though this play didn’t grab my attention while reading, I would like to see it on the stage. Well done, T.S.

Murder in the CathedralMurder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

My rating: 3 of 5 stars…

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Filed under historical fiction, play