Discuss T. S. Eliot's fusion of Medieval and and Modern elements in Murder in The Cathedral.

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It is very important to remember that Eliot wrote the play to be performed as part of the 1935 Canterbury Festival, and it was actually performed only a very short distance from the actual place where Thomas Becket was assassinated. Eliot therefore used such close proximity to history in order to create a link between past and present, between the medieval and the modern, which was only enhanced by the tangible closeness between history and present highlighted in the play. Because of the setting, therefore, the years between 1170 and 1935 evaporate, and the audience are made to recognise that the issues that haunt Becket and the Chorus are just as relevant in their modern world as they were for him in his medieval world. For example, note how Becket responds to the Second Tempter, who encourages him to become Chancellor again:

Real power

Is purchased at price of a certain submission.

Your spiritual power is earthly perdition.

Power is present, for him who will wield.

Becket realises that true and authentic power is something that can only be taken on alongside "submission," and he also indicates that to possess spiritual power is to condemn yourself to a very difficult life on earth indeed, as captured in the phrase "earthly perdition." Throughout the play, issues of power and how such power should be wielded dominate, and these issues are of course just as relevant for 1935 as they were for 1170, and indeed for our day and age. Medieval and modern therefore fuse in terms of the universal themes that are raised in this play.

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Murder in the Cathedral

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