Book Reviews: Murder in the Cathedral

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Murder in the Cathedral
by T.S. Eliot

I’d heard the story of the troublesome Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, from a variety of sources. My first introduction to it was from a guide while visiting the Canterbury cathedral, where Becket was murdered. Later I read a slightly fictionalized version of the event in Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. So, before I picked up Eliot’s play version I had a good idea of how it would unfold and was already interested in the material.

The Archbishop was embroiled in a disagreement with the king of England, Henry II, and was assassinated in 1170. That infamous line, “Will no one rid of me this turbulent priest?” was supposedly said by Henry II in reference to Becket. Four knights interpreted that as a command and traveled to Canterbury to kill him.

Sounds pretty thrilling right? A priest standing up against a king, that king (inadvertently or not) having him killed, then the priest is canonized. That’s a lot of action, yet somehow Eliot turns it into one of the most boring plays I’ve ever read. In the play Becket is tempted to abandon his stance in a similar way to Christ’s temptation in the Bible. He gives sermons and pontificates and I completely lost interest. I read the whole play, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Maybe this is one that needs to be seen and not read.


Vaishnavi said...

I am sorry you didn't enjoy it. I am currently reading Pillars of the Earth and having a fantastic experience. It must be a dampener when you read a play that makes the whole thing seem boring.

Susan E. Harris-Gamard said...

Good to know. I have Pillars of the Earth on my nightstand, waiting until my TBR list gets smaller.

Jenners said...

It takes skill to turn something that interesting into something boring though, right?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Vaishnavi/Wingchair - I hope you both enjoy Pillars. I really did. It was a great blend of history and good fictional characters.

Jenners - Ha, that's true, but I still try to avoid it.