Canterbury Cathedral ion 26th of December in 1170 and he was the only eyewitness of the murder of Thomas Becket. The play was written in 1935 and in the same year, it was performed in the Federal Theatre Project in America. The Murder in the Cathedral was written for Canterbury Festivals and performed in that festivals, and the play is not only famous with its poetic language, but also it was written for political and religious aspects, now I will discuss and compare the religious and the political aspects of the play with historical event that play is based on.
First of all, Murder in the Cathedral is not only historical play but also religious play. The play gives details of political in that time and also gives moral lessons about religion and faith. According to real history, Thomas Becket came from very poor family and he was born in his father Gilbert Becket house in Capsized. It’s not absolutely known, but it’s believed that, he was born in between the years 1115 and 1120.
Thomas studied law and he was supported by Debatable who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, because Thomas was very clever man, and later Thomas became the Archbishop of Canterbury. The next year, the King Henry II became King and he publicized the Thomas as a chancellor of England. Thomas was both Archbishop and Chancellor of England. Thomas was best friend of the Henry II, and he gave ideas to King. For instance it’s believed that, Thomas helped Henry to rebel in Enjoy in France.
He was next to Henry every time, and Thomas had not only religious power but also political power as well. After Debatable died the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket began to control Canterbury completely. After that, King Henry wanted to control Canterbury, because at that time church was as powerful as the King, so King anted to unite religious power and political power, however conflicts came our between them.
Firstly, Henry II wanted to control Church but Thomas didn’t accept it, and then second one is the financial one, Henry II prevented the financial support of the Canterbury and the last one is; King Henry wanted guilty priest in public court but Thomas didn’t want, because he was very clever and he could create a border between religious events and political ones, so the old two friends became two enemies, so Archbishop Thomas had to move France because he would be killed by King Henry. He could survive and but he was not happy, because he was not in his motherland, so he missed England.
As we know that, Elite’s play based on that event, and we can see it in the play clearly, because play began with the Archbishop Thomas returning back to Canterbury. We know that, politics is one of the important themes of the play, and King Henry II was the power thirst King, so he wanted to be controller of everything and he wanted to direct church for his own benefits. According to me, it’s same everywhere, it was same in sass and it is also same today, everybody and every politicians wants to use religion and beliefs for their own benefits.
As we know, King Henry II tried to use religious power of Archbishop Thomas in order to make his own state more powerful, because of that reason he chose Thomas Becket as chancellor. We read same thing in the George Rowel’s novel Animal Farm, which is also about politics and power thirst leaders. In my opinion, Eliot tried to show us the corruption of King Henry II, like Orwell because Orwell showed us the corruption of Communism of Russia and power thirst leader.
In real story, we could easy see the greediness of the King Henry II because he wanted to kill his friend and Archbishop of Canterbury for his own benefits, we can see that, if one person is power thirst and greedy, friendship, religion do not make any sense for them, so corruption comes out. In the history, after seven years, Archbishop Thomas returned back to Canterbury, and we can see that, play of Eliot began with same events. At the beginning of the play, there is a chorus which was very common in Greek tragedies and Eliot influenced Greek drama, he used it in order to explain and interpret the events to audiences.
Chorus explained everything they knew the death of the Archbishop Thomas beforehand and they warned us and also Thomas. Tempters come and try to tempt Archbishop Thomas, because they believed that, political power is more important than the religious power, and also all tempters believed that, Archbishop Thomas came, because he wanted to continue his old Job, but Thomas didn’t want to continue it, because he learned the religious power is more important than temporal power. For instance; Remembering all the good time past.
First tempter tries to remind him to old days because he believed that, Thomas will e reunion with the King, we can see that, he tries to show him the political power. After that, the second priest also fallowed same way and he said; Real power Is purchased at price of certain submission. Your spiritual power is earthly perdition. Power is present, for him who will wield. In those lines, second tempter wanted to make him to apologies to King and he mocked his spiritual power because political power control everything.
I agree to him, in this world, if you have political power, you can control everything, even religion. After that, third tempter wants him to become picker, they wanted him to destroy the heron of the King Henry II, but Thomas said that, If Archbishop cannot trust the King, How can he trust those who work for Kings undoing? In those lines, he didn’t accept to harm the King, because he learned that, political power is only temporal. In there, we can see the criticism, because everybody thinks for their own benefits and they wants to control each other for their own benefits, like that tempter.
The play is completely criticism of the political power, people who has political power can sacrifice their own friend for their future. As we know that, deep inside, Eliot wrote this play in order to criticism fascism of Hitler and fascism in the central Europe. At the time of sass there were fascism, and Hitler killed so much people in order to make powerful his own state and country. King Henry II did almost same thing, because he killed Thomas for his own benefits.
In real history, Archbishop Thomas said to his fellow; “May they be all damned by Jesus Christ” , after King Henry heart it, he said, “will no one rid me of this turbulent priest”, he wanted to get rid of priest, and even he didn’t order his knights went and killed him, cause they were also under throne of the political power, they wanted to become upper level knight, and also wanted to be awarded, we can see that, even knights have the power thirst and they killed the Archbishop Thomas. I think, nothing changed, because it’s similar today, people killed each other in order to reach political power, or citing each other.
For instance, in Turkey, Prime Minister uses religion to reach political power. Apart from that, in Tarsus’s party, they trapped the leader of Chip. In history, King Henry II tries to use religion to become more powerful ND also he trapped his bet friend. At the time of fascism, Eliot criticized that, because Hitler and fascist people did same things in order to reach power. In my opinion, the play of the Eliot isn’t only religious and political or historical play; it’s poetically criticism of the politician and power thirst people. He showed us that, suddenly people can turn in to monster, when they want to reach power.
Apart from that, the play is the mirror of the history; Eliot showed us everything clearly in poetic language. After that, the play is also criticism of the religious beliefs and people who lives Church. As we know that, Thomas seeks martyrdom, and he came back Canterbury in order to die, so now we need to question the religious beliefs, and distinguishes that whether Thomas committed suicide or became martyr. In the history, I mean at the time of the Archbishop Thomas, Church was very powerful and most of the people believed Church more than the King.
The religious play of the Eliot clearly and directly gives us the traditions of the Church. We can see in the play obedience of the Archbishop Thomas, even if every tempter try to persuade him bout temporal power, he says, he is happy under throne of the God, and he believes that, he is the only envoy of the God in this world, and he is carrying the key of the heaven and hell, so he believes God and he didn’t do same mistake again, because he says that, “l was part of that power”, of course he was the part of the that power and he doesn’t want that power any more.
The return of the Archbishop Thomas is a symbol of the Jesus who returned back to Jerusalem and when he was coming back, everybody applause him like Archbishop Thomas. Everybody was happy because of turning of the Jesus, and it’s same in the Canterbury, everybody is happy. After that, those tempters in the play are the symbol of the devil who tried to temp Jesus on his forty days on desert, but the devil couldn’t achieved like tempters in the play.
After that, Eliot says about his play; “Literature can be no substitute for religion, not merely because we need religion, but because we need literature as well as religion”. We need both of them, so he wrote such a play, because in those days no one goes to Church. In the play, Archbishop Thomas seeks martyrdom, he wanted to be like Jesus ho was killed, and became martyr, but in the play and history, he came even if he would be killed, because of that reason he is not martyr, he Just committed suicide and his death is sinful.
Apart from that, Eliot criticizes the Thomas, in real history, Archbishop Thomas killed and people called him as a martyr, because even King Henry II asked whether he dressed with the clothes of priest or not, when he learned that, he was in the religious clothes, he called him as a martyr and he fasted three years because of his death, but he knew he would be killed, so he committed suicide, ND he also didn’t try to escape, because he wanted to purify his soul, but in my opinion he couldn’t because only God decide who can be martyr, but in the play and the history, Archbishop Thomas decided his faith, he chose to die, but no one can choose to become martyr. If it is like that, every sinful people go to war when they are old, and they are killed so they can purify their soul.
In my opinion, play criticizes it, because people have believed that, Thomas is the martyr, but he’s not, he chose to die, even though other priest wanted him to hide, he didn’t leave anywhere and killed. Now we cannot say he is martyr. Apart from that, in religious aspects, Henry II was also sinful because he killed the Archbishop, for his own benefits. Moreover, also knights killed him fro their own benefits. After that, we know that, Thomas Becket was sinful and prideful man; in order to purify his soul he tried to become martyr. Finally, the perfect play of the Eliot is the powerful criticism of the religion and politics. His historical play criticizes power thirst people.
In my opinion, Eliot shows us to martyrdom and religious beliefs. People don’t know anything about martyrdom and hey wanted to be killed because they believe that, they can purify their soul and then they will go to heaven, but who knows. Apart from that, people know that, no one can choose martyrdom, only God decide who can be martyr, but in the play Thomas decided to die and became martyr. After that, Eliot shows us, people can do whatever they want in order to reach temporal power, like Hitler. He wrote this play to criticize the fascism. Now we can say that, Charles II was fascist, because in my opinion, if you kill one or millions for your benefits, both of them are fascism.
According to me, there is also criticism for religious people, because they Just believe and they are never questioning, but sometimes questioning is better than the only belief. In history, people accepted Archbishop Thomas as a martyr but how he can be martyr and how he can be put himself next to Jesus, he can’t be martyr and he can never be like Jesus. In my opinion, the play is a kind of fragment and it tells one part of the history, but deep in side, this religious and historical poetic play is more than play, because Eliot criticizes Charles II, Archbishop Thomas, people, and his own time ageism. At the end, play is completely based on the historical event, and also Eliot said himself he read the Edward Grim and than he wrote the play.