Influence of Aristotle on T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral
History is past yet its knowledge is always important for future. Aristotle's concepts about plays are still important for playwrights. The world of playwrights like Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot has always looked up to his understanding of tragedies in his book "Poetics". It is said that past dies with time but these renowned playwrights have kept Aristotle alive for generations and his place in the coming years will be the same as it is today.
If you don't believe me you can refer to T.S. Eliot's remarkably effective play "Murder in the Cathedral" which has a deep influence of Aristotelian concept of tragedy where a great man accepts challenges bravely that attempts to stop him from accepting his fate. The play is a sequence of events that had occurred due to a chain of cause and effect of actions. The play links Greek devices like the chorus, static action, and Aristotelian purgation—with his profound commitment to the Anglo-Catholic liturgy.
"Murder in the Cathedral" is known to demonstrate Eliot's mastery of the classic tragic form. This verse drama portrays the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. The chorus in the play uses the element of foreshadowing which is common among Greek tragedies. "Murder in the Cathedral" in many ways resembles a medieval morality play whose purpose is to enlighten as well as entertain. Yet the work is never merely morally instructive.
Eliot's creation of Thomas has great influence of Greek tragedies. Even though these tragedies have poor ending for their heroes, audiences are meant to respond to the bravery with which these heroes have accepted their deaths. The author used the concept of 'tragic flaw' to reflect the challenge that Thomas conforms in accepting his fate i.e. his pride and moral superiority. These are qualities that make Thomas an effective Chancellor and empower him to defend his Church. However, his pride is also a big obstacle.
Eliot's audience also knew the basic plot of the myth like the Greek audience, so the experience of the play was about relating to the hero who accepted his fate as a martyr. The beauty is not in whether he would die but in how he will accept his death. The introduction of tempters is to enrich the play. This introduction emphasizes on the stress on Becket's pride, the flow he must overcome to accept his martyrdom peacefully for the right reason. Thomas realistic flaw does not stop the audience to look at him as a Greek hero.
By using these Aristotelian concepts for tragedies, playwrights are able to achieve success in their writing and leave their mark on the coming generations.
1. Aristotle - Poetics
2. T.S. Eliot - murder in the cathedral
3. Sophocles- Oedipus Rex