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MonkeyNotes-Murder In the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
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When all the tempters are sent away, it is clear that Thomas Becket is in grave danger. The tempters comment that he is an obstinate, blind man, bent on destroying himself. As Becket wins over these temptations, tension and fear take over the priests and the women of the chorus. They sense death at the door of the cathedral. Becket is calm and takes stock of his past life. He remembers how he followed worldly pleasures and accompanied the King in all his enjoyment and ambition. He regrets that in the past he had not become more of a servant of God. Now, he is willing to totally surrender to the will of God.

After this realization, Becket delivers a sermon in the cathedral of Canterbury on Christmas morning, 1170. He explains to the people the mystery of Christmas day. He tells them to rejoice in the birth of Christ because the Son of God was born to offer his blood to absolve humankind from sin. He also tells his listeners to mourn their sinful ways; then Christ will give them courage and strength to endure all suffering.

Becket closes his sermon with a discussion of Martyrdom. He says that Martyrdom does not come as an accident; it comes by God's will and design. A true martyr, who is always to be respected, is one who has given up even the wish for glory of martyrdom. Christ was the ultimate Martyr. Becket closes by saying that this is his last sermon and appeals to the people to remember his words.


After the sermon, the priests are busy carrying banners of St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, and the Holy Innocents. The four knights enter and inquire about Becket, using abusive, rude language. They accuse Becket of being a traitor to the King, which Becket denies. Becket insists that any charge they make must be in public, so that he can refute them in public. The knights accuse Becket of denying the legality of the coronation of young Prince Henry. Becket replies that he wished three crowns to the prince and that he had no role to play in the episode. The knights demand that Becket absolve the bishops that the Pope had suspended. Becket replies that the suspension was ordered by the Pope, and he can do nothing about it. The Knights then say that Becket should leave the country along with his men. Becket says that he has lived away from his people in Canterbury for seven years, without giving them any hope or guidance, and now he will never forsake them again. He emphasizes that he will bow down to the judgment of the Pope and not the King of England. At this, the knights tell Becket that he is endangering his life, but he does not heed the threat. The knights leave in a furious state, and the chorus of women sing.

The song of the chorus describes the shadow of death all over the world that creates fear and anxiety. Thomas tries to pacify them. The priests request Becket to hurry to the altar and be safe there. They bolt the church doors. The chorus of women and priests are horrified at the idea of the killers coming and attacking the Archbishop. Becket orders them to open the doors, for he does not want to convert the church into a fortress. The knights enter again, calling him a traitor and, while Becket prays, he is killed. The women of the chorus are stunned. They feel as if the whole world is overtaken by evil and will never be clean again. After killing the Archbishop, the knights address the audience. William de Traci states that they have killed Becket not out of their personal enmity but for the good of their country. The second knight, Sir High de Morville, informs the group that Becket has been killed because he did not support the King's idea of uniting the power of the church and the state under the central government. Becket has been insistent that the church is higher than the crown. The last knight claims Becket is responsible for his own murder. He tries to explain his reasoning. Before becoming Archbishop, Becket has done a lot for his country, giving it unity, stability, tranquillity, and justice. When he becomes the Archbishop, he acquires a sense of superiority over the crown and becomes "a monster of egotism." He purposely avoids the knights' questions, argues against them, keeps the church door unlocked, and almost invites them to kill him. Hence, this knight deems Becket's death to be the suicide of a mentally unstable person. All the knights, however, admit that Becket was a great man, and they had no personal dispute with him. The knights leave after giving this brief explanation of their act of murder.

In the end, the grief-stricken priests and the chorus of women lament the death of Becket. They feel that they are all sinners and responsible for the blood of the martyrs. They pray to Jesus to have mercy on them and appeal to "blessed Thomas" to pray for them as well.

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MonkeyNotes-Murder In the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
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