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Murder in the Cathedral

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1 Murder in the Cathedral
By: T.S. Eliot

2 Canterbury Cathedral

3 Characters Chorus of women of Canterbury
Three Priests of the Cathedral A Messenger Archbishop Thomas Becket Four Tempters Four Knights Attendants

4 Brief Conflict Overview
Archbishop Thomas Beckett is to return to the Canterbury Cathedral after being away for seven years. Three tempters arrive to bribe Thomas with friendship with the king, wealth/fame, coalition against the King. A fourth, unexpected tempter arrives and provokes Thomas with martyrdom. The Archbishop must struggle with his own selfishness. Four Knights come from the king. Having misinterpreted the king’s frustration as an order to kill the Archbishop. They accuse him of betrayal and kill him. The conflict in part one is emotional and moral while conflict in part two is physical.

5 Chorus of Women of Canterbury

6 Key Terms to Remember Duplicity Circumlocution Incredulity Prognostic
Temporal Laity Skein Venial Martyr Endued Dominion Transgression Brevity Fluting Cloister Refute

7 Discussion Questions If the first three tempters represent the temptations of Christ then what does the Archbishop represent? The fourth tempter was unexpected, what does he symbolize? How does the Chorus foreshadow the events to come? What is significant about the three priests reaction to the Chorus? What does the Archbishop’s conversation with the four tempters reveal about his character? What is significant about the Archbishop challenging the knights to accuse him in public? Why would the Archbishop refuse to protect himself by leaving? What is significant about the fact that there are four tempters and four knights? What is important about the fact that the Knights were drunk when they murder Archbishop Thomas Becket What is significant about the chorus’ description of their simple lives in the very beginning?

8 Discussion Questions The Knights speak as if they are part of a collective consciousness, finishing the sentences of the others, is there anything significant about this? If so, why is it significant? In Macbeth the three witches spoke in a different pattern than the other characters. Similarly, the knights speak often in a couplet rhyme, is there anything important to say about how their rhyme scheme differs from the other characters? Why would the knights have to justify their reasoning for killing the Archbishop at the end of the play?

9 Comprehension ACT ONE What is the chorus so worried about?
How do each of the priests react to Thomas’ imminent return. What does each of the four tempters use to tempt the Archbishop? What do the first three tempters represent? How does the Archbishop react to the temptations offered?

10 Comprehension INTERLUDE
What is the overall topic of the interlude? What is the Archbishop’s opinion about Martyrdom in his sermon? How does the Archbishop distinguish martyrdom from a Christian simply dying because he’s a Christian?

11 Comprehension ACT TWO How do the priests treat the Knights in the beginning? What is the Archbishop accused of and how does he react to the accusation? What is the Archbishop’s attitude towards his approaching demise? What do the Knights claim to have killed the Archbishop for?


13 IF you enjoyed this… Canterbury Tales : Geoffery Chaucer
Murder in the Cathedral: The sequel! Becket : Jean Anouilh Deals with the same event. “The Waste Land” : T.S. Eliot Possesses similar themes Dr. Faustus : Christopher Marlowe Deals with temptation

14 Redemption of the seasons.

15 Temptation of the riteous

16 Fate / Time

17 Martyrdom for a religious cause

18 Submission to God’s Will

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