Murder in the Cathedral

by T. S. Eliot

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Write a critical note on Murder in The Cathedral as a Christian play.

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Christianity is clearly at the very forefront of this play as Thomas in his position as Archbishop of Canterbury is forced to choose between devotion to God and his understanding of spirituality and devotion to his king and liege and earthly pleasures. He is forced into deciding whether to ignore his conscience and to stop protesting against Henry or to continue to follow his principles, even if it takes him to the grave. Christianity is something that is therefore explicitly refered to throughout the play, with it becoming particularly relevant in the Tempters and what they say to Thomas. Note the following example, when this Tempter tries to win Thomas over by elaborating on the power that his position as Archbishop of Canterbury gives him:

Man oppressed by sin, since Adam fell--

You hold the keys of heaven and hell,

Power to bind and loose: bind, Thomas, bind,

King and bishop under your heel.

The Tempter makes explicit reference to the Christian understanding of sin with reference to Adam and the power that is invested in the person of the Archbishop that is presented as spiritual power. Throughout the play, therefore, Christianity in its purest form is seen as being presented in the character of Thomas, who ultimately, willingly gives his life in obedience to his God rather than go against what he believes God is calling him to do.

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