In Murder in the Cathedral, what was the conflict?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is interesting to consider this question by not only considering the external conflict between King Henry and Thomas, but also to think about the internal conflict that Thomas himself faces as he is constantly warned about his impending death and advised to flee so he can survive. The Chorus, even before Thomas enters the stage, is shown to fulfil this function, as it begs Thomas to go back to France. However, Thomas by contrast seems to have an innate belief in God's sovereignty and in the inevitability of what will happen, stating that "the hungry hawk / Will only soar and hover" until there is an end that is decreed by God. Thomas therefore shows that in spite of the threats surrounding him, he chooses to trust in God and His plan for his life.

This helps us understand the way in which Thomas faces the internal conflict of seeking physical safety against trusting in the spiritual belief he has of God's sovereignty. The conflict is heightened by his conversation with the Tempters, who seek to appeal to his earthly nature in order to stop his open condemnation of King Henry. At every stage, Thomas shows himself immune to blandishments and earthly power, in spite of the way that he is tempted in so many different ways, finally showing that he is able to stand up for his own belief in the sovereignty of God.