Murder in the Cathedral

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The Controversy between Morals and Ethics

In Murder in the Cathedral written by T. S. Eliot in the eleventh century, Thomas Becket, the archbishop and main character, opposes the will of society. Thomas has returned to Canterbury after seven years in France exiled from the world. Thomas' reason for returning is not to stir up trouble as it is perceived, but to see what has changed and if there was anything he could do to make a change. The ethical and moral values of Thomas Becket are in opposition with the chorus (which represents society), the knights (who represent the king), and as well as his own internal conflict represented by the tempters.

The chorus of women was put in the play to represent the voice of all the citizens of Canterbury, the society. Eliot used only women in the chorus because they were emotional which lays their strength and because they were very opinionated. Their lives before Thomas arrived had been undisturbed and complacent. They felt his return would have a terrible outcome. Thomas Becket and the chorus' conflict with one another are shown through their dialogue in the play. Becket is aware that his return to Canterbury is not welcomed and considered suspicious. From Thomas' encounters with the priest and tempters, as well as his unfortunate murder by the knights, the chorus form new perceptions of Thomas Becket. Their views alter from pessimistic, to hopeful, to uncertain.

In the last few pages of the play the knights, or barons, demand justice from the archbishop. They claim they were sent by King Henry. The knights are basically trying to force Thomas to leave Canterbury for ethical reasons, all is well without him. Their accusations of him being a traitor eventually lead to them murdering Thomas Becket in the town cathedral. The Third knight says their action was not because of a personal vendetta, it was just business. The second knight said. "The moment that Becket, at the king's instance, had been made...
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