“Sordid particulars”: Deixis in the Chorus of Murder in the Cathedral
Much has been written about the ritual function of the Chorus in T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. Eliot’s masterful handling of the rhythm and the ritual is undeniable, yet there is always more than meets the eye in Old Possum’s works. Eliot himself stated that the Chorus’s role is that of mediating “between the action and the audience”. Traditionally this comment has been read as an invitation to the audience to participate in the ritual as if they were, to all purposes, a congregation. This is only partly true. This paper aims to demonstrate that Eliot, through the – partly Shakespearean – use of deixis in the Chorus’s speeches, involves the audience not merely in the ritual slaughter of the martyr Thomas, but also, powerfully, in the horrors of history. The terror and revulsion associated with history, in fact, are expressed through Eliot’s thoroughly modernistic handling of the sordid, his well-stocked misogynistic repertoire and his references to recent murders as his most powerful tools to express the loathsome, unbearable burden of “very much reality”.
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