Murder in The Cathedral is said to be a poetic-drama. How does Eliot's play bring out the artistic features of a poem?


Eliot sought to combine his poetic talent with the form of drama in this excellent and outstanding text. It is easy to see the massive influence that poetry has on this play, as there are only two sections that are written in verse, which are Thomas's Christmas sermon and the so-called "apologies" of the Knights to the audience. Apart from this, the rest of the characters speak in verse which is very powerful and is poetic in its intensity. Note, for example, the following quote from the opening speech of the Chorus:

Now I fear disturbance of the quiet seasons:

Winter shall come bringing death from the sea,

Ruinous spring shall beat at our doors,

Root and shoot shall eat our eyes and our ears,

Disastrous summer burn up the beds of our streams

And the poor shall wait for another decaying October.

There is no set rhyme scheme for these lines, and no set, regular rhtythm, but it is clear from their cadence and their flow that poetry is the medium that Eliot chooses to use to have his characters express their thoughts, feelings and emotion. One way in which Eliot brings out the artistic features of the poetic form therefore is through the exclusive use of verse for the words of the majority of characters, and the powerful imagery that their words use to paint vivid pictures for the audience of what is happening in the play. The above quote uses internal rhyme in "Root and shoot" and also alliteration in "burn up the beds," just two poetic techniques that highlight the use of poetry within the overall genre of drama that the play represents.

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