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Murder in the Cathedral

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  5,798 Ratings  ·  228 Reviews
Professor Coghill was invited to prepare this annotated edition of Murder in the Cathedral by Eliot himself, and he approved his introduction. Coghill discusses Eliot’s subject matter, and the play’s importance in his oeuvre. Forty pages of notes elucidate textual difficulties, and include a valuable discussion of some wider issues. The references to the production of the ...more
Paperback, 157 pages
Published January 1st 1973 by Faber Faber (first published January 1st 1930)
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John Sproule
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A fabulous verse-drama about the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. Most of the action is in Thomas's head, as he rejects the easy solutions presented by his Tempters, and decides to stick to the course which inevitably leads to his death. My favorite lines are the following:
The last temptation is the greatest treason
To do the right deed for the wrong reason
It sounds convincing, but I've never been able to decide if I agree. Given how uncertain people generally are about their motives, isn't what you
David Withun
Dec 21, 2014 David Withun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, literature
One of T.S. Eliot's masterpieces, Murder in the Cathedral is a drama of the return to England and martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket. From the historical events, Eliot creates a piece of writing that is simultaneously, and in equal proportions, a prayer, a study in the psychology of both the murderer and the martyr, and a meditation upon the proper relationship between church and state. The result is one of the greatest works of 20th century literature in the English language.

Eliot begins shortly be
Petruccio Hambasket IV
Wonderful writing, deals with the thoughts of Thomas Becket before he is confronted with his royal assassins. I don't have the slightest idea how this could ever be performed as a play however: the lines are too personal, too absorbed in the folds of their own meaning to be neatly expressed to a large group of festival onlookers (the original design of the work).

Eliot's writing is weighty as per usual and does not lose it's touch from being written into theater. The strangest part of this entir
The Basics

An historical play written in verse that tells of the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1170.

My Thoughts

Talk about going outside of your comfort zone. I don't read a lot of poetry. I don't read a lot of plays. And I don't read a lot of historical fiction. That title, though. I couldn't resist that title. Also, T.S. Eliot is a famous poet, and I've read some of his more famous works, enough to make me intrigued when I see his name. In the end, what can I say? I enjoyed it.

I never liked T.S. Eliot. When I was a teenager, “The Waste Land” was agony. Now that I’m an adult, I see the truth in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” but that’s another review altogether. Nevertheless, I was weary of “Murder in the Cathedral.”
But I have a soft spot in my heart for Thomas Becket. Thomas worked for his education. While studying law, he was mocked by his peers because he didn’t come from a wealthy family and didn’t have the same experiences that they had. But then, he rose
Robert Clay
I enjoyed this read, in large part because I just happened to read it in a cold and icy late December, which is the setting of the play. It's good winter fare; I particularly enjoyed the chorus of the Women of Canterbury; lots about the cyclical, mundane, and hard life of the common people, at the mercy of events swirling around them as they go about their daily labors. "For us, the poor, there is no action, But only to wait and to witness."

This is a verse play, and the first I've read of Eliot
Jul 30, 2013 Zanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, philosophy, drama
I read this because I had heard it drew on the tradition of Greek drama when I was revising the source history with a student, and spotted it in my local charity bookshop.

The Greek drama aspects give the best scope for Eliot to experiment with Christian theology and imagery, which he does in quite a fresh and original way - to me though (I'm an atheist) this just emphasised how unappealing Catholic philosophy and oratory can be, full of references to violence, purity and corruption, the denigrat
Oct 27, 2016 Ariya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
Meanwhile in Thailand, where the law is violating the human's right and twisting the martyrdom into the sacred sacrifice, this book is a parallel for what surrealistically happened in country. It is exploring the execution of a person that is worthwhile for the so-called social justice, and the exhibit institution is maltreating people's belief.
I do much better when I can see a play rather than read it, and Murder in the Cathedral is one I definitely needed to see. In fact, Murder in the Cathedral was one of the harder plays for me to read, and I think it would have helped if I had at least listened to it on tape because then I could hear the different voices.

As is it, Murder in the Cathedral was hard to visualize, and I spent most of my time being lost in the language rather than the plot. I finished it and immediately asked, “okay…wh
Aug 12, 2012 Cbj rated it liked it
Shelves: british-classics
Murder in the Cathedral was first staged in the 1930’s when the importance of the church in the individual’s life was on the decline. Moreover, the religious order and the Catholic Church were being persecuted in many countries across Europe, especially in Germany, Spain and Mexico. Writers such as James Joyce had already begun to express dissent against the Catholic Church through novels like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In the novel, a young Stephen Dedalus begins to struggle with ...more
Jun 02, 2010 Σς rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
Completely unstageable, unperformable, but amazing. Reminds me a lot of Samson Agonistes--not very much happens except talking, but the poetry is just exquisite. It takes a TS Eliot to be compared to a Milton.

Much like stained-glass window artists, tapestry-weavers, and Milton, Eliot takes a historic event of religious significance and uses it as material for a work of art. Eliot was the greatest and most influential poet of the Twentieth Century, and he wrote the best Christian poetry of the ce
Defying D
Dec 20, 2012 Defying D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Murder in the Cathedral brings into the account the life of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1100's who was eventually dedicated to his service-dedicated enough to refuse to pardon Henry II, the monarch who ruled during that era. King Henry and Thomas Beckett are good friends then, enough reason to appoint Beckett one of the highest position- as Archbishop of Canterbury. Beckett and the King had gone into several misunderstandings mostly about the king's failure to rule his kingdom ...more
Aug 09, 2009 Mazel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: théatre
prix nobel de littérature 1948

Meurtre dans la cathédrale est une pièce de théâtre en vers et en prose de T. S. Eliot, consacrée au meurtre de l'archevêque de Cantorbéry Thomas Becket en 1170.

Créée le 15 juin 1935 dans le chapitre de la cathédrale de Cantorbéry, elle fait ressortir les impératifs contradictoires du spirituel et du temporel grâce à sa construction très symétrique (première partie, interlude, seconde partie ; correspondance entre quatre tentateurs spirituels et quatre chevaliers
Oct 22, 2011 Misha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not for me and was only read as an English assignment for school. The whole thing was difficult to follow. I felt like there was something I should have known before beginning the book. The only thing I could comprehend from the plot was that the King thought Thomas the Archbishop had betrayed him in some way so now he wants him put to death and sent knights to do it. Blah. Blah. Blah. Boooorrriiiinggg. Next.
One of my biggest complaints about the way history is taught is that it doesn't leave much room for the human aspect of monumental goings-on of the past. Leave it to T.S. Eliot to rectify that problem.

Using a Greek theatrical method as the vehicle for an American emigrant's retelling of 12th-century English martyrdom satisfied so many of my geekier interests. As did Eliot's breathtaking way with words.
Melissa Ski
Feb 24, 2009 Melissa Ski rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics

"I have tasted the savour of putrid flesh in the spoon"

"I have eaten smooth creatures still living...they live and spawn in my bowels, and my bowels dissolve in the light of dawn"

"I have lain in the soil and criticized the worm"

"I have smelt corruption in the dish, incense in the latrine, the sewer in the incense"

"rings of light coiling downwards, descending to the horror of the ape"
Jan 03, 2017 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is the just man who
Like a bold lion, should be without fear.
I am here.

An interestingly complex historical meditation on a number of themes including church and state, morality and duty, and the many interpretations that can result from a single event. The majority of the play is written as verse drama, with T.S. Eliot's prose style, which makes it something to slowly parse through, simmering on the tones and meaning of each word choice. Given the presentation as a stage play, and with the dem
First sentence: (Chorus) Here let us stand, close by the cathedral. Here let us wait. Are we drawn by danger?

Premise/plot: Murder in the Cathedral is a drama written mostly in verse, with some prose as well. It's a historical play about Thomas Becket, about the murder of Thomas Becket. It's a play with two parts. The first part has him arriving back in England, returning to the cathedral, being welcomed by the (women) chorus of Canterbury and the priests. This section also has Thomas Becket bei
Swarnadeep Banik
"Endurance of friendship does not depend
Upon ourselves, but upon circumstance.
But circumstance is not undetermined.
Unreal friendship may turn to real
But real friendship, once ended, cannot be mended.
Sooner shall enmity turn to alliance.
The enmity that never knew friendship
Can sooner know accord."

what a great piece of verse-drama! kudos, eliot! it was like his philosophy, earlier seen in his poems, reflected heavily on his other forms of artistic creation. i was so enriched that this play actuall
I really love T. S. Eliot's writing - his lyricism is beautiful and the way he makes words flow is beyond belief. When you've got things like

"Yet we have gone on living,
Living and partly living."


"The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

or even

"King, emperor, bishop, baron, king:
Uncertain mastery of melting armies,
War, plague, and revolution,
New conspiracies, broken pacts;
To be master or servant within an hour,
This is the course of temporal power
Jul 28, 2011 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Eliot's play just seemed a bit too awkwardly poetic to be put on stage. I mean, many of the chorus' parts (especially, though some other characters are equally confusing) sound more like Eliot's densely allusive poetry than ike the kind of speech meant to convery meaning to a hearer in the theatre. However, I did like what the play did with Becket's moral conundrum--the notion that his pride and desire to be martyred might be the very sin that would prevent him from becoming a saint. But my favo ...more
Matt Ambs
Of love and madness, of silence and shouting, of action and imprisonment. T.S. Eliot screams from the Heavens and the very pit of Hell as he tells the story of Thomas Becket, the doomed Archbishop of Canterbury who battles his own transient rationality with spiritually filial submission. This is magnified with a battle of ethics between the politics of this world and the code of the Martyr which burdens the mind of the one whose eyes are drawn to the heavens but whose feet are planted firmly on ...more
Oct 14, 2013 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Murder in the Cathedral is not an easy book to understand. It is short but still takes a deep amount of thinking and interpreting, especially being written in prose. For anyone that likes Church history, this is a great book. It deals with a significant figure in history when it comes to Church and government affairs, Thomas Becket. T.S. Eliot is a great writer and keeps you engaged with a subject from hundreds of years ago. Overall, the play is a good historical read but is not the most enterta ...more
Eliot's prose is on-point, but this is mostly in verse and I couldn't stand it. I do believe I might come to feel differently if I saw this performed, but no, let's all just be forced to READ plays meant to be WATCHED.

I'm not bitter.
Aug 27, 2009 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A play based on the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. I saw the movie "Becket" with Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton, so when I saw the book I thought it would be interesting, and it was was. It was a nice blend of literature and politics.
Norman Styers
Jul 11, 2016 Norman Styers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true classic. Becket gets the best lines, but who would begrudge him that?
Jun 13, 2012 Tessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arrestingly brilliant.
Nov 18, 2013 Correen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

After reading Hilary Mantel's books, this play became appealing. It is a complicated piece of work filled with symbolism and thoughtful writing.
John Pistelli
I should not like to close without attempting to set before you, though only in dim outline, the ideal towards which poetic drama should strive. It is an unattainable ideal: and that is why it interests me, for it provides an incentive towards further experiment and exploration, beyond any goal which there is prospect of attaining. It is a function of all art to give us some perception of an order in life, by imposing an order upon it. The painter works by selection, combination and emphasis amo ...more
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Thomas Stearns Eliot was a poet, dramatist and literary critic. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry." He wrote the poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets; the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party; and the essay Tradition and the Individ ...more
More about T.S. Eliot...

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“Unreal friendship may turn to real
But real friendship, once ended, cannot be mended”
“The last act is the greatest treason. To do the right deed for the wrong reason.” 87 likes
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