In T. S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral,” the chorus serves as a critical narrative and thematic device, mirroring the profound transformation of Thomas Becket. Initially, the chorus, representing the general populace, expresses deep apprehension and uncertainty about the unfolding events and Becket’s confrontational stance against the King. This collective anxiety symbolizes the broader societal fears and also parallels Becket’s own internal struggles as he grapples with his role and responsibilities.
As Becket’s character evolves from a high-ranking, worldly figure to a spiritual martyr, the chorus’s perception and narrative also shift significantly. This transformation is pivotal in understanding Becket’s journey. He transitions from pride and power to a state of spiritual enlightenment and martyrdom, embracing his fate with a newfound understanding of his role and purpose. This change is mirrored in the chorus, which moves from a state of fear and confusion to one of acceptance and insight into the inevitability of Becket’s martyrdom.
Eliot uses the chorus not just as a narrative tool, but as a reflection of societal and spiritual change. Their transition from dread and bewilderment to understanding and acceptance is a microcosm of the societal shift towards recognizing the need for moral and spiritual sacrifice. The chorus’s evolving perspective highlights the theme of spiritual growth, sacrifice, and the conflict between worldly power and spiritual authority, underscoring the play’s exploration of these complex themes. Thus, the chorus in “Murder in the Cathedral” is integral in portraying not only Becket’s personal transformation but also the broader societal implications of his martyrdom.