Murder in the Cathedral as a Poetic Drama

Topics: Poetry, Drama, Verse drama and dramatic verse Pages: 3 (842 words) Published: January 14, 2011
English poetic drama in the twentieth century arose as a reaction to the deteriorating naturalistic prose plays of Ibsen, Shaw and Galsworthy. Its photographic realism failed to convey the tension and complexity of contemporary life. Stephen Phillips perhaps initiated the revival of poetic drama with Herod (1901), with great Irish writers like Yeats, Synge and O'Casey later reinforcing the movement. Eliot took to writing plays late while already enjoying colossal poetic fame. Also a mature critic, he was well acquainted with the nature of poetic drama, its failure in the nineteenth century, and the problems, technical or otherwise, that a verse dramatist might face in his time. Through his criticisms, he frequently advocated for the poetic drama and crossed the misconceptions about it. In Matthew Arnold's words, he created "a current of fresh ideas" to help it flourish. "The craving for poetic drama is permanent in human nature", Eliot once remarked. He knew that it was still possible in the twentieth century, only "it cannot be the work of one generation working together, but has to evolve by the small contributions of a number of people in succession, each contributing a little." He placed a high ideal of poetic plays before his age, beginning with Murder in the Cathedral, for which he did a lot of experimentation. First, he asserted that "no play should be written in verse for which prose is dramatically adequate." Clearly, the poetic drama needed to symbolise the emotional realities, in contrary to the socioeconomic issues that constituted the naturalistic plays. In Murder in the Cathedral, he chose to retell the inner conflict of Becket to win over temptations and be a martyr by losing "his will in the will of God". The Family Reunion, on the other hand, deals with the guilt complex of the protagonist, while The Cocktail Party examines personal inadequacies of married life in the modern context. These plays demonstrate religion as the ultimate meaning of...
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