Speeches of Priests Provide Exposition in Murder in the Catlhedral

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      Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral follows Greek Drama in its strict adherence to the convention that all the parts of a play should be relevant to the whole. Thus all the characters have a function or role; none is superfluous or introduced for mere decoration. The three priests in the play have their specific roles.

      The three priests are Becket's fellow-members in the Church. They are subtly differentiated as their speeches clearly indicate, though not completely individualised. Their speeches, after the Herald has come and gone with the message that Thomas Becket is returning to Canterbury after exile, provide the background and contribute towards the exposition of the play.

Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral follows Greek Drama in its strict adherence to the convention that all the parts of a play should be relevant to the whole. Thus all the characters have a function or role; none is superfluous or introduced for mere decoration. The three priests in the play have their specific roles.
Murder in The Cathedral

      The Exposition is the beginning of the "rising action in the plot. It explains, or rather presents, essential information especially about what has occured before this piece of action. In Murder in the Cathedral, the Herald tells us that the Archbishop is returning to England and to Canterbury. After he has gone, the three Priests help in the exposition.

      The First Priest voices his fears. At the same time, we are given an idea of Thomas's pride in his own virtues. Thomas had been a Chancellor who had been either liked or feared by the courtiers and flattered by the King. Thomas's isolation is referred to - his difference from other human beings is thus emphasised and prepares us for future happenings. We are made aware of Thomas's tendency to ride rough-shod over temporal affairs, "wishing subjection to God alone." The Second Priest, while voicing his optimism that it is all for the good, also explains that the Archbishop is friendly with the Pope and the King of France. The Third Priest hopes for action - something should happen, for the Wheel has been stationary too long - For who knows the end of good or evil ?

      The unities as well as his dramatic purpose demand that Eliot begin the play towards the end of Becket's life. But necessary information about the historical context has to be given. This is done through the speeches of the Priests. On another level, the speeches indicate the different levels of spiritual awareness of the Priests which is necessarily lower than that of Thomas. The speeches also conjure up the atmosphere of tension that had existed before and exists still, at the time of "Thomas's return. The stubborn will and pride of Thomas do not bode good. To the Priests it appears dangerous on a worldly level; in the context of the whole play it is dangerous, on a spiritual level. It is to be seen in the rest of the play how things will turn out - whether good or evil will come out of Thomas's return.

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