Murder in the Cathedral Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

Since the publication of his first book of verse, Pmfrock and Other Observations in 1917 and The Waste Land in 1922, Eliot has been regarded as an important, if not crucial, figure in twentieth-century literature. When Murder in the Cathedral premiered on June 15, 1935, Eliot found yet another of his works greeted with enthusiastic and glowing reviews. Writing in the London Mercury in July of that year, poet Edwin Muir called it a "unified work, and one of great beauty." The Christian Century's Edward Shillito praised the play's force, stating (in the October 2, 1935 issue), "Not since [George Bernard Shaw's] Saint Joan has there been any play on the English stage in which such tremendous issues as this have been treated with such mastery of thought, as well as dramatic power/' Echoing the thoughts of many other critics, the American poet Mark Van Doren, in the October 9, 1935 issue of The Nation, stated that"Mr. Eliot has written no better poem than this."

Many critics were particularly impressed by Eliot's ability to compose a play almost entirely in verse and to make its sound as interesting as its subject. Writing for the July 11,1935 edition of New English Weekly, James Laughlm stated that the play proves Eliot to be "still a great master of metric" and continued his praise with, "Mr, Eliot has been to school and knows his language-tones and sound-lengths as few others do. .. The craftsmanship of the verse is so unostentatious that you must look closely to see all the richness of detail."

Frederick A Pottle concurred with this judgment, writing (in the December, 1935, Yale Review) that the play "shows Eliot's curious and inexhaustible resourcefulness in both rhymed and...

(The entire section is 741 words.)