Murder in the Cathedral: A Call to Responsible Life .
History is often viewed as impersonal and amoral.We are not the makers of history but its pawns, and we bear no responsibility for how the game is played out. In his play Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot raises the issue of personal responsibility. A struggle that ended with the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury is viewed not just as a clash of the powers of Church and State, but as a struggle deep in the heart of that man to stand up and obey the call of God. Eliot portrays the historical event of the Archbishop's murder as spiritual struggle - a type of the spiritual battle every Christian must wage every day. .
From 1162 to 1170, Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury, a highly influential and important position both in government and in the church. Seven years of conflict with the king previous to his murder had divided the church into those loyal to Becket and those loyal to King Henry II. For this reason Becket"'"s death is considered one of the most momentous events in medieval European history. Ever since, there has been an almost unceasing stream of pilgrims to his shrine (perhaps popularized further by Chaucer"'"s Canterbury Tales, which describe such pilgrims). .
Throughout the story of Becket"'"s service as Archbishop, we see a political battle between two men who do not want to give up their powers or give in to each other. Previous to his ordination as Archbishop, Becket was Chancellor to King Henry II, and they appeared to have a close friendship. The movie Becket focuses on this friendship and love between these two very different men that turns into bitter resentment and ends in violence. During his years as Chancellor, Becket experienced a '"'full-blooded enjoyment of secular and military life, and a way of dealing with the Church which often displeased his fellow clerics'"' (Urry 5). Perhaps because of Becket"'"s stern dealings with the Church during his chancellorship, Henry pushed for his election as new Archbishop when the old Archbishop died.