Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral, a poetic drama in two parts, with a prose sermon interlude, and a chorus in the style of Ancient Greek drama, was poet T S Eliot's most successful play. It was performed at Canterbury Cathedral in 1935 and published the same year.

It is set in December 1170, and tells of the assassination by four knights of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, apparently ordered by his king and formerly close friend, Henry II. His martyrdom led to him being created Saint Thomas Becket.

This photograph from the 1953 Old Vic production is of Robert Donat, kneeling, as Thomas Becket, with William Squire behind him playing one of the Temptations which Becket must withstand in the course of the play. The show, produced by Robert Helpmann, met with considerable critical acclaim as 'one of the most important and impressive productions to date' (The Stage). Critics hailed film star Donat's return to the stage in a role for which 'his moving voice and presence and his unassuming nobility fit him ... almost perfectly'.