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Summaries With Notes
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The play opens at the Cathedral of Canterbury in December 1170. A group of women have gathered near the Cathedral; they have heard that the Archbishop of Canterbury is soon to arrive after seven long years of absence. They look forward to his arrival, for they are always given strength and hope by the Archbishop's presence, these women form the chorus. As they sing, they express anxiety and fear of an unknown, evil force. They feel that they will soon witness death, and they foretell that it will come from the sea. While they wait, they recall the hardships and struggles of the past seven years. In Becket's absence, the rule of Henry II has been one of oppression and exploitation, causing them misery and helplessness. They have lived like sheep lost in the woods without a shepherd.
After the chorus, three priests enter to talk about the King and discuss Becket's return.