Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Falcon and the Dove: A Life of Thomas Becket of Canterbury is a biography of the archbishop, martyr, and saint whose defense of the principle of the independence of the Church in England from the authority of the king ultimately resulted in his murder. In an introductory chapter, Alfred L. Duggan describes the world into which Becket was born: Europe in the twelfth century. He explains the structure and power of the Church in the Middle Ages, especially as it operated in England. A brief history of England in the eleventh century is provided as background. The chapter concludes with an explanation of the complex rules of feudalism, the system of social, political, and economic relationships that characterized medieval life.

Succeeding chapters chronicle Becket’s early years and discuss the development of his personality. As a young man, Becket demonstrated a rare talent for learning, so he was sent to the cathedral school (later the university) of Paris to study church law. Because virtually all education was administered by the Church, nearly every student, including Becket, automatically became a member of the clergy, although not necessarily a priest. In the Middle Ages, many different types of clergy, who were called “clerks,” were employed in virtually any job that required reading, writing, or a knowledge of mathematics. Most of them did not lead religious services or become ordained.

Becket’s first important...

(The entire section is 450 words.)