Murder in the Cathedral By T.S. Eliot
A PLANTAGENET KING, KNIGHTS IN ARMOUR & AN ARCHBISHOP’S BLOODY DEATH:
London church which already stood at the time of Becket is the perfect backdrop for T.S. Eliot’s violent verse pageant of faith, murder and poetry.
“End will be simple, sudden, God- given…
All things prepare the event. Watch.”
England’s medieval history is certainly the topic “a la mode”: the Vikings are the subject of a major exhibition at the British Museum, Anglo-Saxon kings and their hoards are being rediscovered and many television programmes tell the story of the Plantagenet Kings just as the bones of their last representative, Richard III, recently dug up under a car park in Leicester, are at the centre of controversial plans for reburial. It is therefore the right time for Little Spaniel Theatre’s production of T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral to be staged in one of the capital’s most striking medieval churches.
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, former Chancellor of England and one time friend and companion to King Henry II, met a gruesome death in Canterbury Cathedral on the 29th of December 1170 when four knights – unofficially commissioned by the king – entered the church and murdered him in front of his terrified priests. This is one of the best-known episodes of our history. The remarkable violence of the murder (the knights cut the crown of Thomas’s head and made sure he would not rise again by spreading his brains on the cathedral’s floor), his subsequent canonisation by the Pope and the transformation of Canterbury into one of Europe’s most visited pilgrimage sites, make for a gripping and sensational story.