Upsurges of Timelessness: The Becket Tale between History and Dramaturgy in Tennyson’s Becket, Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and Anouilh’s Becket, or the Honour of God

Author: Sahar Awad Allah

Keywords: Anouilh’s Becket, Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, Historical Thomas Becket, Twentieth-century man’s dilemma


The primary concern of this study is to explore the dramatization of the story of Archbishop Thomas a Becket, in three different plays by three prominent playwrights. These plays are Tennyson’s Becket, Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, and Anouilh’s Becket, or the Honour of God. The study examines the three plays in the light of their manipulation of the details of Thomas Becket’s contest with Henry II. The shifting relationship between the two men raised fascinating questions that were considered useful materials for playwrights. From the narrow confines of historical conflict, each of the three writers presented a unique artwork of a different dramatic vision. Through shedding light on the tale of the murder of Thomas Becket, this study highlights the significance of his fatal conflict with King Henry II to each of the three dramatists. First, it investigates how Tennyson’s primary purpose was to write a work of “documentary” authenticity. Then, this paper clarifies how Eliot’s interpretation of the play is a religious symbolic one. It also explores how Anouilh’s employed the Becket tale to present his perspective of the dilemma of twentieth-century man. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the different interpretations of the story in the three plays are not only distinctive in themselves but are also, in varying degrees, relating the past to the present.