Discuss the use of history by Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral.

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What is significant about the way in which Eliot uses history in this play is that he takes a historical event about which little is known and fleshes it out into a spiritual drama that symbolically can be seen as the conflict between the desire in man to follow God and be faithful to his conscience and also the desire to protect himself from harm whatever the cost. Eliot takes a real life historical event and turns it into a kind of modern-day allegory about the conflict between following the spirit and following the flesh. Throughout the play, the historical figure of Thomas ignores the various temptations that he faces and the warnings of the priests who try to save him. He repeatedly affirms his belief in God's providence and control over his life and willingly submits himself to the fate of death in order to be true to God's calling of his life. Note what he says when his death becomes inevitable:

I have had a tremor of bliss, a wink of heaven, a whisper,

And I would no longer be denied; all things

Proceed to a joyful consummation.

To Thomas, secure faith in God gives him absolute peace about dying for following God, allowing him to view death as a "joyful consummation," because it only means his arrival in heaven. Eliot thus allows Thomas to stand as a hero of the faith and a symbol of a man who managed to resist temptation and follow God whatever the cost, making him a figure whose importance transcends his historical context.

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Murder in the Cathedral

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