The character of Beckett, not only the Archbishop, but also the Chancellor to King Henry, is based on the real life Thomas Beckett and his path to confront the king in order to prevent him from moving beyond the law of God, and as he justifies, “It is not I who insult the King. And there is higher than I or the King” (Eliot, p. 65).
The play commences itself as Beckett returns toCanterburyafter his exile fromFrance.
He has evidently angered the Archbishop and has cornered himself into the alienation from the system. He is brought about several trials, each of which cleverly propound the significance of a rebel and reformatory. Eliot’s purpose in heightening the secular-versus-Anglo-Catholic theme of the play could have been his own influence of his beliefs, as he himself became an Anglican priest and a British subject (Ackroyd, 1985). Nonetheless, the portrayal of Beckett describes a crucial collective struggle for understanding that it is not a kingdom of a king but God which is to be established. The lines in the play that embody this message say, “Temporal power, to build a good world, to keep order, as the world knows order.
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