Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

As in his earlier L’Alouette (pr., pb. 1953; The Lark, 1955), dealing with Joan of Arc, Anouilh in Becket presents the life of a martyred Christian saint through the eyes of a nonbeliever, less concerned with faith than with possible human motivation. As in such reworkings of Greek myth as Antigone (pr. 1944; English translation, 1946), Anouilh at times departs radically from recorded historical data to present a myth applicable to his own time. By the time he came to write Becket, for example, Anouilh was well aware that the martyred bishop had been no Saxon, as supposed by the Romantic historian Augustin Thierry, but rather a Norman, as was Henry himself. Notwithstanding, Anouilh derives considerable rhetorical and dramatic effect in Becket from the political dialectic between the Norman king and the pragmatic Becket, ostensibly the compromised (and compromising) representative of the conquered Saxon people. In Becket, Anouilh continues an exposition begun years earlier in Antigone, sustained through subsequent plays, of the inevitable conflict within each individual between idealism and realism. Whereas Antigone chooses death over compromise, Thomas a Becket outlives her by many years, still in search of the “truth” that Antigone, through faith, takes for granted. Forced, by his father’s collaboration with the occupant Norman forces, to improvise his values, going so far as to deny his...

(The entire section is 484 words.)

Becket Themes

Friendship and Love
Anouilh explores the extent to which a friendship can be stretched, as well as what happens to the love...

(The entire section is 818 words.)