Murder In The Cathedral as A Religious Play

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Religious Themes:-

      A religious theme runs through all of Eliot's works. According to Nicholson: "This theme occurs in three forms, first the need for the purgation of the will; secondly the need for the soul to divest itself of the love of created beings and thirdly, the aim to arrive at the experience of the Divine by the rejection of images, i.e., the negative way."

A religious theme runs through all Eliot's works. According to Nicholson: "This theme occurs in three forms, first the need for the purgation of the will;
Religious play

Mystic Way:-

      The Christian mystics adopted this way of arriving at the experience of God-head: by the rejection of all images, analogies, all human conceptions, and the rejection of the will, even the will to attain to that experience. And this is the way of Eliot's heroes.

Modern religious Play:-

      Murder in the Cathedral is the first successful modern religious play. It constitutes a return to the origin of English drama within the church as an extension of the liturgy and a means of religious instruction. The play has an overtly religious subject.

Theme of Martyrdom:-

      Eliot was always concerned with the theme of the spiritual election and in this play sainthood could be in the foreground itself. T. S. Eliot sought to show the relationship of sainthood and martyrdom to the lives of ordinary men and women of today, this play fulfills this aim in ts deep searching study of the significance of martyrdom.

Instrument of the Community:-

      Drama's original function was to be an extension of the liturgy and an interpretation of God's word in terms of flesh and blood. In these two senses, drama can be an instrument of the community. The audience for this play becomes a congregation to which the significance of martyrdom is interpreted and it is invited to participate in the celebration of martyrdom. Part II has a liturgical quality - it is a ritual presentation of the act of martyrdom and not merely a historical representation.

Universal Quality:-

      Though a religious play, its religious note is to be seen in a narrow aspect, in the practices and beliefs of Christianity alone. There is something universal in the quality of the religious experience that the play conveys. "Becket is the symbol appealing to those who have the mind to conceive, and the sensibility to feel, the disorder, the futility, the meaninglessness, the mystery of life and suffering and who can only find peace through a satisfaction of the whole being." (Louis L. Martz).

Concern with Society:-

      Eliot's concern is not just with the church, the body of believers; it is with the whole of society in which he finds the sickness of spiritual vacuum. Thus religious drama cannot and should not be a separate genre from secular drama. There should be a re-integration of both kinds, just as we need to strive towards a re-integration of life. In this sense, however, Murder in the Cathedral is a very special case.


      Murder in the Cathedral is not religious in the narrow sense. lt is not religious in the sense of being a substitute for the liturgical observance. It is a combination of religious with ordinary dramatic interest. Even when a ritual is used, such as in the procession of the priests in Part II, it serves a dramatic purpose as well, marking the passage of time, while also leading up to the significance of martyrdom.

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