Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury. Having just returned from France, where he has gained the support of the pope in his attempt to achieve both temporal and spiritual power in England, he finds a mixed reaction among the people. Although some support him, others would gladly see him dead. He is faced with a dilemma that leaves him no alternative but to sin against his faith. After his murder, he achieves martyrdom and sainthood, which his accusers say he was seeking all along.
Three priests of the cathedral
Three priests of the cathedral, who fear the outcome of Becket’s return. They express the pessimism felt by everyone.
The first tempter
The first tempter, who offers worldly pleasure and success.
The second tempter
The second tempter, who offers temporal power through negation of spiritual authority.
The third tempter
The third tempter, who offers the support of a faction wishing to overthrow the throne.
The fourth tempter
The fourth tempter, who offers martyrdom and eternal glory. Becket denies all the tempters.
Reginald Fitz Urse
Reginald Fitz Urse,
William de Traci
William de Traci,
Hugh de Morville
Hugh de Morville, and
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Thomas Becket is the Archbishop of Canterbury and hero of the play. When the play opens, the viewer learns that he has not been in England for the last seven years because of a power struggle with King Henry, who wants the church to serve the state. His return from France provokes a variety of reactions from the Chorus, the Priests, and the four Knights who serve the King; as the play progresses, Thomas responds to a number of these reactions with the calm, measured voice of one who believes "there is higher than I or the King."
Although he is repeatedly tempted away from his desire to lead his people and threatened with death by the four Knights, Thomas becomes convinced that only "The fool, fixed in his folly, may think / He can turn the wheel on which he turns" and places the question of whether or not he will be martyred into the hands of God He accepts his martyrdom as part of a larger pattern that he, with his human limitations, cannot fully understand.
Richard Brito (Fourth Knight)
See The Four Knights
Similar to those found in ancient Greek drama, the Chorus in Murder in the Cathedral serves as a mediator between the play and the audience. Composed of women of Canterbury, this group originally fears the unknown act that their "eyes are compelled to witness" and begs Thomas to return to France; they have accepted their...
(The entire section is 1001 words.)