3Characters Chorus of women of Canterbury Three Priests of the CathedralA MessengerArchbishop Thomas BecketFour TemptersFour KnightsAttendants
4Brief Conflict Overview Archbishop Thomas Beckett is to return to the Canterbury Cathedral after being away for seven years. Three tempters arrive to bribe Thomas with friendship with the king, wealth/fame, coalition against the King. A fourth, unexpected tempter arrives and provokes Thomas with martyrdom. The Archbishop must struggle with his own selfishness. Four Knights come from the king. Having misinterpreted the king’s frustration as an order to kill the Archbishop. They accuse him of betrayal and kill him. The conflict in part one is emotional and moral while conflict in part two is physical.
6Key Terms to Remember Duplicity Circumlocution Incredulity Prognostic TemporalLaitySkeinVenialMartyrEnduedDominionTransgressionBrevityFlutingCloisterRefute
7Discussion QuestionsIf the first three tempters represent the temptations of Christ then what does the Archbishop represent?The fourth tempter was unexpected, what does he symbolize?How does the Chorus foreshadow the events to come?What is significant about the three priests reaction to the Chorus?What does the Archbishop’s conversation with the four tempters reveal about his character?What is significant about the Archbishop challenging the knights to accuse him in public?Why would the Archbishop refuse to protect himself by leaving?What is significant about the fact that there are four tempters and four knights?What is important about the fact that the Knights were drunk when they murder Archbishop Thomas BecketWhat is significant about the chorus’ description of their simple lives in the very beginning?
8Discussion QuestionsThe Knights speak as if they are part of a collective consciousness, finishing the sentences of the others, is there anything significant about this? If so, why is it significant?In Macbeth the three witches spoke in a different pattern than the other characters. Similarly, the knights speak often in a couplet rhyme, is there anything important to say about how their rhyme scheme differs from the other characters?Why would the knights have to justify their reasoning for killing the Archbishop at the end of the play?
9Comprehension ACT ONE What is the chorus so worried about? How do each of the priests react to Thomas’ imminent return.What does each of the four tempters use to tempt the Archbishop?What do the first three tempters represent?How does the Archbishop react to the temptations offered?
10Comprehension INTERLUDE What is the overall topic of the interlude?What is the Archbishop’s opinion about Martyrdom in his sermon?How does the Archbishop distinguish martyrdom from a Christian simply dying because he’s a Christian?
11Comprehension ACT TWOHow do the priests treat the Knights in the beginning?What is the Archbishop accused of and how does he react to the accusation?What is the Archbishop’s attitude towards his approaching demise?What do the Knights claim to have killed the Archbishop for?
13IF you enjoyed this… Canterbury Tales : Geoffery Chaucer Murder in the Cathedral: The sequel!Becket : Jean AnouilhDeals with the same event.“The Waste Land” : T.S. EliotPossesses similar themesDr. Faustus : Christopher MarloweDeals with temptation