Murder in the Cathedral

by T. S. Eliot

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What is the role of the chorus in Murder in the Cathedral?

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The chorus in Murder in the Cathedral functions like a chorus in a Greek drama, commenting on the play's unfolding action. The women who comprise the chorus voice the thoughts of the average person. They provide a contrast to the moral struggles of Becket, who is concerned with issues of right and wrong. The members of the chorus simply want to get along in daily life and survive as they always have. 

Eliot uses the chorus, which harkens back to Ancient Greece, to emphasize the timeless aspects of his theme. Sacrificing oneself to oppose tyranny is not simply an issue for an archbishop in the 12th century, but for all people in all times and all places. In dangerous times, people everywhere have an urge to be complacent and ignore injustice, to simply go on with their lives rather than risk action. However, Eliot shows that when the common people witness the example of a person able to transcend the ordinary, they can be influenced by that witness. At the end of the play, the chorus says of Becket:

"We thank thee for Thy mercies of blood, for Thy redemption by blood . . ."

"The blood of Thy martyrs and saints shall enrich the earth, shall create holy places."

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