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If you look at Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as representing the individual, and King Henry II as representing the state, Murder in the Cathedral may be read as the dramatization of a conflict between the individual and the state. But Eliot's play, commissioned by the Anglo-Catholic Church for the Canterbury festival in 1935, was intended to be a play on Christian martyrdom, the Archbishop surrendering his individual will and self at the altar of Divine Will to welcome the Pre-ordained death of a martyr, a champion of God.
Eliot's play, divided in two parts with an intermediate section in which the Archbishop sermonizes on the subject of Cristian martyrdom, deals with the spiritual self-abnegation of an individual, an individual sacrificing his own will to embrace the transcendental Will of God. In my view, the political acrimony between an individual leader and the despotic supremacy of the state has been transcended by Eliot into an allegory of the cessation of the individual self and the Dantesque sublimation in which the political is superseded by the spiritual or the Divine.
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