The Falcon and the Dove Essay - Critical Essays

Alfred Duggan


Although The Falcon and the Dove was written as a straightforward biography, Duggan was also attempting to make the medieval world, particularly twelfth century England, both interesting and comprehensible to modern young people. He accomplishes this task by balancing action and historical exposition.

The life of Becket is presented as a personal drama. He is drawn as a hero, one who is hardworking, brilliant, and loyal. He has the courage, temperament, and talents of a great warrior. These qualities enable Becket to rise above a humble background to the pinnacle of power and success, yet they also drive him to battle against what he sees as injustice. Ultimately, he accepts death courageously, unarmed against the treacherous knights who attack him, rather than compromise his principles. Duggan has even paced the book dramatically, detailing Becket’s rise and his conflict with his king and former friend in a series of separate incidents that lead, inexorably, toward the climactic murder.

The archbishop even resembles the heroes of classical Greek tragedy because he has a great flaw: his inordinate pride. The son of a middle-class businessman, Becket revels in his success, showing off the wealth that his positions have brought him by spending lavishly. Although the reader is often led to sympathize with the archbishop, Duggan also reveals that Becket had a lifelong inability to understand the effects of his actions upon others; he had no skill in public relations, and he was so stubborn in his views that he could not compromise even a little. Thus, he alienated many who might have helped to resolve his conflict with the king peacefully.

Though Henry II is Becket’s main antagonist, he is not presented as a villain. Some fourteen years younger than Becket,...

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