Art and Literature

Character Analysis in Murder in the Cathedral

Character Analysis of Murder in the Cathedral: In this blog post, we shall be discussing extensively on the characters of Murder in the Cathedral by T.S Eliot focusing on the lead character of Thomas Becket

In T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Archbishop Thomas Becket is the only direct physical character. Others such as King Henry l, the four Tempters/ Knights, The Three Priests and the Chorus of Canterbury Women are indirect characters.


Analysis of Archbishop Thomas Becket

  • The character of Thomas Becket is seen as the play’s protagonist hero.
  • Before becoming the Archbishop, he was the Chancellor of England (i.e the Chancellor is next in rank to the King of England )
  • Before becoming the Archbishop he was the closest friend to King Henry l. King Henry I recommended him to the Pope, in Rome for the position of the Archbishop of England.
  • He finally accepted to become the Archbishop when King Henry I gave assurance that nothing would affect their friendship.
  • Truly the character of Thomas Becket became the Archbishop of England, he started to obey the Holy Orders of God as headed by the Pope.
  • Because King Henry I could no longer subordinately influence Archbishop Becket, he began to move a plot to kill him.
  • Archbishop Becket had to run to exile in France.
  • He returned to England from France after his dream that his crown was broken with sword and his soul was received in paradise.
  • On his arrival in England, the plot to kill him was heightened.
  • His admirers symbolised by the Chorus of Canterbury Women cried to him to return to France.
  • Thomas Becket rejected their plea.
  • He vowed never to abandon his congregation and the Church of God.
  • So, the Four Tempters / Knights falsely accused him and killed him in the process, in the name of King Henry l.

Archbishop Thomas Becket’s Character Traits

  • He is a sincere servant of the Holy Orders of God and the Church (i.e. illustrate with how he never contradicted the Pope either by privately accepting back the ex-communicated Bishops of York, Salisbury and London, or with how he advised King Henry I through the Four Knights that the Law of Christ Church in Rome was superior to any king).
  • He is a truthful character (i.e. illustrate with how he did not deny the fact that he recommended the ex-communication of the Bishops of York, Salisbury and London to the Pope in Rome).
  • He is a resolute and courageous character (illustrate with how he did not run away from the Four Knights who came to kill him).
  • He is a clever character (illustrate with how the Four Knights testified to the cleverness of Archbishop Becket when they use the symbolism of old fox to describe him).
  • He is an emulative Christian (illustrate with how he leaves himself to the protection of God, after his decision, not to turn about from working to protect God’s Holy Order at the end of the play’s Part l).
  • He is an intelligent and calculating character (illustrate with how he had insisted that the Knights must make their case against him in public, if truly they were sent by King Henry l).
  • Archbishop Becket is an analytical character (i.e. illustrate with how he thoroughly analysed the Fourth Tempter’s opinion as tricks that could make him do the right thing for a wrong reason).
  • Archbishop Becket is a steadfast character (i.e. illustrate with how at near a point of death, he was still making the common people of England to believe that God would surprisingly liberate them from their oppressive rulers).

Analysis of King Henry I

  • He was the King of England when the story of this play took place.
  • He was a close friend and admirer of Archbishop Becket.
  • He was the architect of the conflict which led to the murder of Thomas Becket.
  • He was an oppressive ruler (illustrate with how the Chorus of Canterbury Women regarded his reign as a new terror soiling them at all angles).
  • He was a self-centred character (i.e. illustrate with how he had appointed his first son as King Henry Il when still alive).
  • King Henry I was a wicked and power-drunken character (i.e. illustrate with how the Third Tempter had revealed that King Henry I would soon kill Thomas Becket in his famous irony that King Henry I will bestow some regards on the Archbishop).
  • King Henry I was a contemptuous character and an anti-Christ (i.e. illustrate with the way he persecuted Archbishop Thomas to subordinate the law of Christ Church in Rome to the throne of the King of England).

The Four Tempters / Knights

  • The Four Tempters in the play’s Part I were similarly the Four Knjghts in Part ll.
  • So, the four people were Sir Reginald Fritze Urse, Sir Hugh de Morville, Sir William de Traci and Sir Richard de Bruto.
  • They were liars (illustrate with the fact that most accusations they made against Thomas Becket were lies).
  • They were ambitious (illustrate with the fact that they murdered Archbishop Becket in the name of King Henry I to get his favour. Also, point to their confusion when Archbishop Becket warned them that the must deliver King Henry I’s message to him in public, if truly they were sent by the king).
  • They were egocentric characters (illustrate with how they had plans to draw the Pope and Archbishop Becket to themselves and other land barons to fight King Henry l, while tempting the Archbishop).
  • They were racialists (illustrate with how they had pointed out that King Henry I did not hail from the Norman William Royal Family. They had called him a descendant of Angevin Family, while tempting Archbishop Becket).
  • They were contemptuous characters (illustrate with how they had referred to the gracious Archbishop Becket as a son of a trader at Cheapside).
  • They were riotous and faithless characters (i.e. illustrate by pointing out that they mercilessly murdered Archbishop Becket who was a non-violent anointed man of God, against the Biblical law that God’s anointed must not be touched by any man).

The Three Priests

  • They were Priests working with Archbishop Becket in the Cathedral Church of Canterbury.
  • They were the Priests that took charge of the Cathedral while Archbishop Becket was in exile in France.
  • They were good loyalists of Archbishop Becket (illustrate by pointing out how they described him as the gracious Archbishop, while inviting the Four Knights to dinner, when the Knights first called to talk with Archbishop Becket, before they murdered him).
  • They were admirers of the Archbishop (illustrate with how the Priests had described Archbishop Becket as an honest and transparent character while he was the Chancellor of England).
  • However, they were Priests of little faith (illustrate with how they described Thomas Becket’s effort to protect the Laws of Christ Church as a war which the Archbishop could not win against King Henry l. Practically, this is a denial or a temptation).

Analysis of The Chorus of Canterbury Women

  • The Chorus represented the common people of England.
  • The common people were landless.
  • They worked as serfs for barons who were land owners.
  1. They had little or no rights to freedom.
  • They were oppressively ruled by King Henry I and the barons.
  • Archbishop Becket was their hero because he always fought for fights to freedom for the common English man,
  • The Chorus were faithful Christians (illustrate with how they never deserted the Cathedral, while Archbishop Becket was on exile).
  • The Chorus was sympathetic souls (illustrate with how they had wished the Archbishop could return to France to avoid King Henry I’s plot to kill him), They were prophetic souls (illustrate with how they always prophesied that the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket would not be easy to craze from the History of England).
  • They were aversed to bloodshed (illustrate with how they had pleaded with Archbishop Becket to return to France with the pledge that they would continue to recognise him as Archbishop of England there).
  • The Chorus were rational believers (i.e. illustrate with how they finally agreed with Archbishop Becket that the sacrifice of his life was necessary for the Law of Christ Church to triumph and redeem them from the oppression of earthly rulers).
  • Thank you for reading, do not forget to share and comment.

Show More

Davidposh of Campusvibes

I'm a dedicated and progressive individual with an exceptional work ethic and client oriented service aptitude. I write to inform and educate. Currently I'm an English language students Lagos State University.

Related Articles


  1. Hey there…kudos to the great effort you have put up in this particular topic. I found it really appreciable as it is to the point and apt illustrated or extracted examples have been provided. A loud applause to the team.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button