THE Festival of Music and Drama, organized by the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, began on Saturday, and will continue throughout the present week. A new play, Murder in the Cathedral, by Mr. T. S. Eliot, was performed during the evening in a setting designed by Mr. Laurence Irving to accord with the existing decoration of the Chapter House. The action, which is accompanied throughout by the tragic comments of a chorus of Canterbury women, describes Becket's return to England, his resistance to the persuasions of four Tempters, who represent the innermost working of his own mind, his death, and his murderers' attempt to justify their action. The play is an exposition, in Becket, of the nature of saintliness, and contains an urgent suggestion that the problems by which he was beset are present to-day. In form it is something between a Morality and a chronicle play, the use of introspective symbols being subtly interwoven with a simplified historical narrative.
Recognizing the necessities of the dramatic medium, Mr. Eliot has put away from him, except on rare occasions, the use of private symbols and has written in a way that may be generally understood. There are certain passages of which, though the meaning is plain, the aesthetic purpose remains obscure--namely, those in which Mr. Eliot employs a limping jingle that reminds the hearer of nothing so much as the 'book' of a pantomime. In some instances the intention appears to be satirical, the speaker (for example, one of the Tempters) being