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Essay about Literary Devices in "Murder in the Cathedral"

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T.S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral is well a respected drama composed of the life elements of faith, revenge, and the never-ending struggle for power. Two men, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett, and King Henry II of England, display this ostentatious struggle for power. This dispute over ruling authority between the Church and the state is indicative of a main theme in Murder in the Cathedra, man versus god. Thomas Beckett serves as the representation of the power of God whereas King Henry II and his advisors serve as the governmental representations, or the power of man. The theme to Eliot's drama is greatly supported by the enhancements of imagery, light and dark as well as sensory, by the usage of metaphors, and by his syntax. Together the elements vividly represent the struggle between the two powers that is occurring within the play.

Light and dark imagery is used throughout the play to show the disparities between Church and State. The state (King Henry II and those in his ruling class) is generally represented by dark imagery that portrays a somber and serious mood. The church on the other hand, is portrayed with a lightness that leans toward the idea that godly rule is to be desired.

In the start of the play, the idea of who controls destiny is presented. As stated by the Chorus, "Destiny waits in the hand of God... I have seen these things in a shaft of sunlight" (12) it is easy to perceive that the idea of Destiny resting in the hands of God is a much-preferred idea to Destiny resting in the hands of man. Sunlight is light imagery that represents goodness and life. By indicating that the idea that destiny rests in the hands of God is preferred and has been shown by the use of sunlight, Elio...


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Come down Daniel and join in the feast.

By only having the characters connected with evil (the downfall of Thomas) Eliot has specified a subtle way to differentiate between the evil characters concerned with the ruling power of man (the rhymers), and those who believe in the ruling power of God. Those that are believers in the ruling power of God do not rhyme. Those vying for the ruling power of man, do.

Murder in the Cathedral is an ingenious play that employs the uses of a variety of literary tactics to better express the theme. Eliot designs many ingenious forms of imagery, metaphor, and diction to better express the noteworthy ideas of the drama. His imagery gave mental pictures between the man and God, the metaphors provided real life connections, and his syntax pulled it all together to form a literary masterpiece.



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