What is the significance of Murder in the Cathedral as a play?    

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the really interesting aspects of this play is the way in which history is shown to merge with the present in a very real and tangible way. The play was originally written for performance as part of the Canterbury Festival of 1935, and was performed in the cathedral only fifty yards away from the precise location of Beckett's assassination.  Clearly, the way in which Eliot wrote this play to be performed in such an unconventional location indicates that he was attempting to do something very different with the play.

When we bear this in mind, there is therefore a merging between the distance that normally separates the audience from the action. Any member of the original audience would have been very aware that he was seeing history re-enacted in a very real and meaningful fashion. Eliot uses this to emphasise the links between history and the present. Although Beckett was killed in 1170, any audience would be very aware of how the issues in the play, as one man seeks to be obedient to his notion of what he feels God wants him to do in conflict with what his state wants him to do, remained just as relevant then in the 1930s as they do in today's world. What is special about this play is therefore the way in which the past and present are blended through setting.

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Murder in the Cathedral

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