Unlike those artists who maintain an unchanged view of the world and of the development of their art, T. S. Eliot’s life was one of growth. In his youth, he was primarily a satirist, mocking the conventions of society in poems such as “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” or “Portrait of a Lady.” Later, he became a mosaic artist of exquisite sensibility when, fragment by fragment, he pieced together his damning portrait of post-World War I civilization in The Waste Land (1922). Still later, finding his ethical pessimism essentially sterile, he climaxed his long interest in philosophy, theology, literary history, and government by becoming a royalist in politics, a classicist in literature, and an Anglo-Catholic in religion.
Born in the United States and educated at Harvard, Eliot early settled in England. Throughout his early career he had developed more than a casual interest in the drama, not merely as an art form in and of itself, but in the theater as a means of instruction. Such early fragments as Sweeney Agonistes (1932) tantalize by their incompleteness, but Murder in the Cathedral demonstrates Eliot’s mastery of the classic tragic form.
In this remarkably effective play, Eliot links devices derived from the Greeks—the chorus, static action, and Aristotelian purgation—with his profound commitment to the Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Murder in the Cathedral in many ways resembles a medieval...
(The entire section is 936 words.)
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