What tragic flaw does the character Thomas exemplify in "The Murder in the Cathedral"?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Did Thomas Becket have a tragic flaw? In the classical sense, I suppose you could say that his flaw was pride. However, that pride manifested itself in obedience to the church and fulfilling his responsibility as the leader of the church in England. It was his faithfulness to the church and refusal to do what the king wanted that so angered the king and made him shout the famous line, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

Is faithfulness a tragic flaw? I think you need to look at the murderers. Their flaw would be ambition and arrogance.

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terrycshan | Student

Thomas is an enigma for me.  Pride seems to be the best answer for his actions. 

During the first few hundred years following Christ's resurrection during the era of the Apologists martyrdom was almost preferred to life.  "To live is Christ and dye is gain."  By 1170 Christianity was well established this mentality should have been out of European psyche. 

However, Becket lived in a time of struggle between the church and the the regency.  Becket is regarded as dying for the sake of the Church and for God and for all such high-minded aspirations.  The problem was that the Church was corrupt, which is a fact of which Becket would have been aware. 

Why would he die for the wrong cause of a corrupt Church?  Was he really the martyr as he is portrayed or was he ambitious and once made Bishop, saw his chance to gain and even prevail over the King?  Maybe he merely miscalculated and got himself killed. 

He knew the problem that Henry faced combating a corrupt Church.  Henry was responding to his subjects' complaints.  Becket had the chance to help but he took a different tack.  Maybe the Regent's were no less corrupt. 

Becket's elevation of motive came at Henry's expense.  Maybe this explains his statement, "Doing the right thing for the wrong reason."  He was defending the Faith, but wrongly because it was corrupt or because he was seeking personal gain, martyrdom and out of pride rather than humility.  What is up with Becket? 

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Murder in the Cathedral

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