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What do the four tempters represent in Murder in the Cathedral?

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mespinosa | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 18, 2009 at 3:28 AM via web

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What do the four tempters represent in Murder in the Cathedral?

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 18, 2009 at 5:16 AM (Answer #1)

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The first three tempters offer Becket reward in this life in return for his taking back his judgments against the King.  They are, in some ways, reminiscent of the three temptations of Jesus at the start of his ministry, offering him rewards in this world.   As with Jesus, Becket rejects these three.  The fourth tempter is a bit different because he appeals not to his relationship with the king, but to his own desire to become a saint and a martyr for his work.  He is told that without sainthood, he will soon be forgotten. Appealing as this may be, it leads him to the most important decision in the play which he expresses in this way:  "The last temptation is the greatest treason:/To do the right deed for the wrong reason."  He rejects the temptation to act out of pride and conceit (the wrong reason), and to stay and fight (the right deed.)

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