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date: 16 June 2019

Murder in the Cathedral, 

The Concise Oxford Companion to American Literature

James D. Hart

verse drama by T. S. Eliot, produced and published in 1935.Archbishop Thomas Becket returns in a.d. 1170 to Canterbury from his seven-year exile in France. A women’s chorus represents the helpless attitude of the common people toward the schism between church and state, while the ecclesiastical party is represented by Becket’s priests, and the royal party by the officers of Henry II. The archbishop, having established relations with the Pope and the king of France, is determined to bring the argument to a crisis, even though he realizes that his life is at stake. Four Tempters show the inner conflict involved in his decision: his youthful love of pleasure, his later ambition for power, the demands of the feudal barons, and the desire for martyrdom. Rejecting all four, he is certain that he must give his life “to the Law of God above the Law of Man,” and on Christmas morning delivers a sermon defending this position. Four days later the king’s knights arrive, insolent and self-assured, to murder him by royal command, and he refuses to attempt escape. After they stab him to death, the knights address the audience with a pompous, foolish defense of their deed. They withdraw, leaving the stage to the priests, who thank God for having “given us another Saint in Canterbury,” and the chorus, which supplicates divine mercy.... ...

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