This is one of my favorite plays ever. I love the story of Thomas A’Becket, anyways, but this play makes the story very palatable.
I found this play through Netflix, actually. I found the movie version with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton playing Henry the (number) and Thomas Becket, respectively. They were phenomenal. Then, I found out it was a play, and bought the script as soon as I could.
The story of Thomas Becket begins with Becket and the King. Henry and Becket are friends, doing all sorts of horrible things. Because Henry likes Becket, he keeps promoting his friend, who is a Saxon, which drives the Norman Lords mad. Henry is also fighting with the Catholic Church in England. His great-(insert correct number)-grandfather, William the Conqueror promised the church that he would not collect taxes from them or their land. Henry, on the other hand, is fighting a war and needs every bit of cash he can get his hands on. He is also fighting with the Church over who has judicial authority. If the King is King of all the land, he should have judicial authority over members and clergy of the Church on his lands. However, the Church argued that he had no authority over clergy, and the Church argued its right to divvy out punishments as it saw fit, as well. This drove Henry crazy.
But, Henry thought he figured it out. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, he figured he would place his old pal, Becket, in that position. Becket asked the King not to promote him to Archbishop, but Henry would not have it. So, when Becket became Archbishop, he started upholding the Church’s positions instead of Henry’s. Henry felt betrayed. One day, in frustration, he yelled, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest!” Some of his Lords heard him, and rushed to Canterbury, where they murdered Becket in his own church. Henry was heartbroken; he didn’t mean what he had said. To appease the church and his people, who quite liked Becket, he agreed to strip and go under the lashings of several monks from Becket’s church (which was unheard of. Most kings would have never subjected themselves to that).
Rating: 10/10, would read again. (and again….and again…..)