Significance of Blood: in Murder in The Cathedral

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      Poetic drama, as Eliot himself said, lends itself to interpretation on more than one level of meaning. This is true of the play, Murder in the Cathedral. On the surface level, the play is a stylized dramatization of the historical situation of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. But below this surface level, there is another level of meaning. The murdered Thomas can be seen as cast in the role of Christ and the ritual sequence of the events have been developed to conform to the Christian interpretation of that pattern in Biblical lore surrounding Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Poetic drama, as Eliot himself said, lends itself to interpretation on more than one level of meaning. This is true of the play, Murder in the Cathedral. On the surface level, the play is a stylized dramatization of the historical situation of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. But below this surface level, there is another level of meaning. The murdered Thomas can be seen as cast in the role of Christ and the ritual sequence of the events have been developed to conform to the Christian interpretation of that pattern in Biblical lore surrounding Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Murder in The Cathedral

      Parallel with Christ. There can easily be traced a close parallel between the temptations and the triumph of Christ and those of Thomas. Of course, this analogy integrates the levels of meaning The play as a whole can be seen to correspond symbolically to the story of Christ. The first part corresponds to the temptation of Christ, while the second part is symbolically an enactment of the Passion (or suffering), the Death and Resurrection of Christ. And this analogy is given further emphasis in the line "Shall the Son of Man be born again in the litters of scorn which the Chorus says as it builds up an atmosphere of foreboding.

      The temptations. The messenger's description of the coming of Thomas into the city has echoes of the arrival of Christ in Jerusalem. The temptations do not correspond exactly to the temptations of Christ, but there is a parallel on the whole. C.H. Smith traces the similarity between the two. He says that there is a close enough correspondence between Thomas's four temptations and Christ's temptation by the Devil in the desert. The Devil's request that Christ turn the stones into bread can be equated with the first Tempters appeal to Thomas's appetites. The Devil's offer of the kingdom of the world can be compared to the second and third Tempters' offers of wordly power. The Devil then asked Christ to prove his divinity by throwing himself from the pinnacle . This last can be compared to the fourth Tempter's appeal to the pride in Thomas's will of martyrdom. The Temptation of Christ is followed by Christ's Sermon on the Mount, so the temptation of Thomas is followed by his Christmas morning sermon.

      Part II; the analogy continues. The martyrdom of Thomas has distinct echoes of the Passion of Christ as given in the Bible. The Archbishop represents the sin-laden God-figure and there is in Part II the drama of the struggle of this figure with his antagonists. Thomas is murdered, as Christ is crucified, by the jealous seekers of Dower in this world. There are some other less obvious similarities too: the mention of supper by the Priests in the beginning of Part II may be meant to represent the Last Supper and the ritual feast. The Knights' accusations against Thomas may be taken to suggest the trial of Christ.

      Blood for Blood. Just before his death, Thomas declares that he as a Christian has reciprocated the death of Christ with his own:

I am a priest,
A Christian, saved by the blood of Christ,
Ready to suffer with my blood.
This is the sign of the Church always
The sign of blood, Blood for Blood.
His blood given to, buy my life.
My blood given to pay for His death,
My death for His death.

      Christ died to redeem mankind; and a martyr, in return, gives his life both to repay and to re-enact the sacrifice of Christ. The blood image is repeatedly used in the play and has a deep significance. To the Chorus the Blood is symbolic of their guilt in the shedding of saint's blood. The lines of the Chorus at the moment of Thomas's death with its rain of blood and Night stay with us.... suggest the darkness and earthquake that occured at the death of Christ. But the Chorus has not yet realised that the blood will bring them to a state of grace. The death of the martyr, like that of Christ, incorporates both good and evil, guilt and glory.

      The resurrection of Christ is paralleled by the entrance of Thomas into the numbers of the saints; now the women can pray to Christ and Thomas in the same prayer:

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Yes th Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon: us
Blessed Thomas, pray for us.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Q. What is the significance of the image of blood in Murder in the Cathedral ?

Or

Q. Trace the analogy between Thomas and Christ as presented in Murder in the Cathedral.

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