Ralph's Reviews > Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
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Oct 05, 14

bookshelves: classics-read
Read in March, 2009

"Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." ~Helen Keller

I first heard of Archbishop Thomas Becket of Canterbury last month while reading The Pillars of the Earth . I decided to do a little research on him and noticed that there was a book about him on my classic to-read list. Perfect, I thought now I can learn more about the martydom of Becket and mark off one of the classic plays on my list at the same time.

The book is a play and a poem. At first, I found it difficult to get into. I found it easier to focus by reading aloud and imagining that I was watching it acted out in a play. It was pretty easy to read and understand once you got into it, although I would hate to try reading this without any prior knowledge of Becket's life. The only sections that I found annoying were the parts voiced by the chorus. They seemed to be repetitious and rambled on; however, I could still appreciate the poetic prose.

Here are a couple parts that I enjoyed:

- I really liked when the priests tried to convince Becket to run away and hide and he responded, "Peace! Be quiet! Remember where you are, and what is happening; no life here is sought for but mine, and I am not in danger: only near to death."
- I also liked the end when the knights turn to the crowd representing England after murdering Becket. They each give a reason for murdering him. I appreciate how the book is about the martyrdom of Becket, yet Eliot wanted people to understand both sides of the story. I didn't previously feel like I understood completely why King Henry II wanted him dead but these supplications by the knights helped make sense of things.

This book is not for everyone (not everyone enjoys poetry); however, it is short and informative and is worth reading. T.S. Eliot wrote the entire play in verse and it needs to be read aloud to be fully appreciated. I am glad the book was short because I am not sure how much poetry I can handle at once (and I don't know if I want to find out); however, I would like to see the play performed some day.
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