The Personalization of History in "Murder in the Cathedral"
T. S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He went to school at Harvard and, after graduating, lived in England. It was here that he was employed as a schoolmaster, a bank clerk, and a literary editor for a publishing house called Faber & Faber. After working there for a number of years he became a director.
Eliot's poetry shows the growth of a poet with devout religious views, but Eliot was always careful not to become a religious poet. He believed that the power of poetry as a "religious force" was limited (Nobel 1). However, the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Family Reunion are viewed as Christian apologies. History is based on fact. Fact is often regarded with indifference; it is not bound by any moral code. In his play, Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot explores the morality and emotions that took place in a historical occurrence. He elaborates on personal responsibility in the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. In a battle between church and state, Eliot describes a spiritual battle, and the courage it takes to fulfill the will of God.
Archbishop Thomas Becket is the protagonist in this play. At one point, Becket was loyal only to the crown. He served King Henry faithfully as a chancellor, and participated in a close friendship with the monarch. However, this friendship is the source of Becket's struggle in the play. As chancellor, Becket regards the church harshly and
with a stern hand; as a result, King Henry names Becket Archbishop when his predecessor dies. Henry feels that it is an excellent strategy to keep a friend in the church and, in so doing, maintaining some control. To the king's dismay, Thomas undergoes a drastic change almost immediately after assuming the office. Becket turns to service, and begins to put his spirituality before his faithful devotion to the crown. Becket's conversion became an immediate annoyance to King...
Cited: 1. Eliot, T.S. Murder in the Cathedral, Harcourt, Inc.
San Diego, Ca 1963©
2. Frenz, Horst Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Elsevier Publishing Company Amsterdam 1969©
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