Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Act V

SCENE I. Castle in Normandy. King's Chamber. HENRY, ROGER OF YORK, FOLIOT, JOCELYN OF SALISBURY: -
ROGER OF YORK:
Nay, nay, my liege,
He rides abroad with armed followers,
Hath broken all his promises to thyself,
Cursed and anathematised us right and left,
Stirr'd up a party there against your son--

HENRY:
Roger of York, you always hated him,
Even when you both were boys at Theobald's.

ROGER OF YORK:
I always hated boundless arrogance.
In mine own cause I strove against him there,
And in thy cause I strive against him now.

HENRY:
I cannot think he moves against my son,
Knowing right well with what a tenderness
He loved my son.

ROGER OF YORK:
Before you made him king.
But Becket ever moves against a king.
The Church is all--the crime to be a king.
We trust your Royal Grace, lord of more land
Than any crown in Europe, will not yield
To lay your neck beneath your citizens' heel.

HENRY:
Not to a Gregory of my throning! No.

FOLIOT:
My royal liege, in aiming at your love,
It may be sometimes I have overshot
My duties to our Holy Mother Church,
Tho' all the world allows I fall no inch
Behind this Becket, rather go beyond
In scourgings, macerations, mortifyings,
Fasts, disciplines that clear the spiritual eye,
And break the soul from earth. Let all that be.
I boast not: but you know thro' all this quarrel
I still have cleaved to the crown, in hope the crown
Would cleave to me that but obey'd the crown,
Crowning your son; for which our loyal service,
And since we likewise swore to obey the customs,
York and myself, and our good Salisbury here,
Are push'd from out communion of the Church.

JOCELYN OF SALISBURY:
Becket hath trodden on us like worms, my liege;
Trodden one half dead; one half, but half-alive,
Cries to the King.

HENRY (aside).
Take care o' thyself, O King.

JOCELYN OF SALISBURY:
Being so crush'd and so humiliated we scarcely dare to bless the
food we eat because of BECKET.

HENRY:
What would ye have me do?

ROGER OF YORK:
Summon your barons; take their counsel: yet
I know--could swear--as long as Becket breathes,
Your Grace will never have one quiet hour.

HENRY:
What?... Ay ... but pray you do not work upon me.
I see your drift ... it may be so ... and yet
You know me easily anger'd. Will you hence?
He shall absolve you ... you shall have redress.
I have a dizzying headache. Let me rest.
I'll call you by and by.

      [Exeunt ROGER OF YORK, FOLIOT, and
       JOCELYN OF SALISBURY:

Would he were dead! I have lost all love for him.
If God would take him in some sudden way--would he were dead.  

          [Lies down.

PAGE (entering).
My liege, the Queen of England.

HENRY:
God's eyes!

          [Starting up.

    Enter ELEANOR:

ELEANOR:
Of England? Say of Aquitaine. I am no Queen of England. I had
dream'd I was the bride of England, and a queen.

HENRY:
And,--while you dream'd you were the bride of England,--stirring her
baby-king against me? ha!

ELEANOR:
The brideless Becket is thy king and mine: I will go live and die in Aquitaine.

HENRY:
Except I clap thee into prison here,
Lest thou shouldst play the wanton there again.
Ha, you of Aquitaine! O you of Aquitaine!
You were but Aquitaine to Louis--no wife;
You are only Aquitaine to me--no wife.

ELEANOR:
And why, my lord, should I be wife to one
That only wedded me for Aquitaine?
Yet this no wife--her six and thirty sail
Of Provence blew you to your English throne;
And this no wife has born you four brave sons,
And one of them at least is like to prove
Bigger in our small world than thou art.

HENRY:
Ay--Richard, if he be mine--I hope him mine. But thou art like enough
to make him thine.

ELEANOR:
Becket is like enough to make all his.

HENRY:
Methought I had recover'd of the Becket,
That all was planed and bevell'd smooth again,
Save from some hateful cantrip of thine own.

ELEANOR:
I will go live and die in Aquitaine.
I dream'd I was the consort of a king,
Not one whose back his priest has broken.

HENRY:
What! Is the end come? You, will you crown my foe
My victor in mid-battle? I will be
Sole master of my house. The end is mine.
What game, what juggle, what devilry are you playing?
Why do you thrust this Becket on me again?

ELEANOR:
Why? for I am true wife, and have my fears
Lest Becket thrust you even from your throne.
Do you know this cross, my liege?

HENRY (turning his head).
Away! Not I.

ELEANOR:
Not ev'n the central diamond, worth, I think, half of the Antioch whence I had it.

HENRY:
That?

ELEANOR:
I gave it you, and you your paramour; she sends it back, as being dead to earth,
So dead henceforth to you.

HENRY:
Dead! you have murder'd her, found out her secret bower and murder'd her.

ELEANOR:
Your Becket knew the secret of your bower.

HENRY (calling out).
Ho there! thy rest of life is hopeless prison.

ELEANOR:
And what would my own Aquitaine say to that? First, free thy captive from her
hopeless prison.

HENRY:
O devil, can I free her from the grave?

ELEANOR:
You are too tragic: both of us are players
In such a comedy as our court of Provence
Had laugh'd at. That's a delicate Latin lay
Of Walter Map: the lady holds the cleric
Lovelier than any soldier, his poor tonsure
A crown of Empire. Will you have it again?

           (Offering the cross. He dashes it down.)

St. Cupid, that is too irreverent. Then mine once more.

            (Puts it on.)

Your cleric hath your lady.
Nay, what uncomely faces, could he see you!
Foam at the mouth because King Thomas, lord
Not only of your vassals but amours,
Thro' chastest honour of the Decalogue
Hath used the full authority of his Church
To put her into Godstow nunnery.

HENRY:
To put her into Godstow nunnery!
He dared not--liar! yet, yet I remember--
I do remember.
He bad me put her into a nunnery--
Into Godstow, into Hellstow, Devilstow!
The Church! the Church!
God's eyes! I would the Church were down in hell!

                                             [Exit.

ELEANOR:
Aha!

-

    Enter the four KNIGHTS.

-

FITZURSE:
What made the King cry out so furiously?

ELEANOR:
Our Becket, who will not absolve the Bishops. I think ye four have cause to love
this BECKET:

FITZURSE:
I hate him for his insolence to all.

DE TRACY.
And I for all his insolence to thee.

DE BRITO:
I hate him for I hate him is my reason, and yet I hate him for a hypocrite.

DE MORVILLE:
I do not love him, for he did his best to break the barons, and now braves the King.

ELEANOR:
Strike, then, at once, the King would have him--See!

-

    Re-enter HENRY:

-

HENRY:
No man to love me, honour me, obey me!
Sluggards and fools!
The slave that eat my bread has kick'd his King!
The dog I cramm'd with dainties worried me!
The fellow that on a lame jade came to court,
A ragged cloak for saddle--he, he, he,
To shake my throne, to push into my chamber--
My bed, where ev'n the slave is private--he--
I'll have her out again, he shall absolve
The bishops--they but did my will--not you--
Sluggards and fools, why do you stand and stare?
You are no king's men--you--you--you are Becket's men.
Down with King Henry! up with the Archbishop!
Will no man free me from this pestilent priest?

                                    [Exit. 

           [The KNIGHTS draw their swords.

ELEANOR:
Are ye king's men? I am king's woman, I.

THE KNIGHTS.
King's men! King's men!


       *      *      *      *      *      *      *


SCENE II.

A Room in Canterbury Monastery.

BECKET and JOHN OF SALISBURY:

-

BECKET:
York said so?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Yes: a man may take good counsel ev'n from his foe.

BECKET:
York will say anything.
What is he saying now? gone to the King
And taken our anathema with him. York!
Can the King de-anathematise this York?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Thomas, I would thou hadst return'd to England,
Like some wise prince of this world from his wars,
With more of olive-branch and amnesty
For foes at home--thou hast raised the world against thee.

BECKET:
Why, John, my kingdom is not of this world.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
If it were more of this world it might be
More of the next. A policy of wise pardon
Wins here as well as there. To bless thine enemies--

BECKET:
Ay, mine, not Heaven's.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
And may there not be something
Of this world's leaven in thee too, when crying
On Holy Church to thunder out her rights
And thine own wrong so pitilessly. Ah, Thomas,
The lightnings that we think are only Heaven's
Flash sometimes out of earth against the heavens.
The soldier, when he lets his whole self go
Lost in the common good, the common wrong,
Strikes truest ev'n for his own self. I crave
Thy pardon--I have still thy leave to speak.
Thou hast waged God's war against the King; and yet
We are self-uncertain creatures, and we may,
Yea, even when we know not, mix our spites
And private hates with our defence of Heaven.

    [Enter EDWARD GRIM:

BECKET:
Thou art but yesterday from Cambridge, Grim; what say ye there of Becket?

GRIM:
I believe him, the bravest in our roll of Primates down from Austin--
there are some--for there are men of canker'd judgment everywhere--

BECKET:
Who hold with York, with York against me.

GRIM:
Well, my lord, a stranger monk desires access to you.

BECKET:
York against Canterbury, York against God! I am open to him.

                     [Exit GRIM:

-

    Enter ROSAMUND as a Monk.

-

ROSAMUND:
Can I speak with you alone, my father?

BECKET:
Come you to confess?

ROSAMUND:
Not now.

BECKET:
Then speak; this is my other self, who like my conscience never lets me be.

ROSAMUND (throwing back the cowl).
I know him; our good JOHN OF SALISBURY:

BECKET:
Breaking already from thy noviciate
To plunge into this bitter world again--
These wells of Marah. I am grieved, my daughter.
I thought that I had made a peace for thee.

ROSAMUND:
Small peace was mine in my noviciate, father.
Thro' all closed doors a dreadful whisper crept
That thou wouldst excommunicate the King.
I could not eat, sleep, pray: I had with me
The monk's disguise thou gavest me for my bower:
I think our Abbess knew it and allow'd it.
I fled, and found thy name a charm to get me
Food, roof, and rest. I met a robber once,
I told him I was bound to see the Archbishop;
'Pass on,' he said, and in thy name I pass'd
From house to house. In one a son stone-blind
Sat by his mother's hearth: he had gone too far
Into the King's own woods; and the poor mother,
Soon as she learnt I was a friend of thine,
Cried out against the cruelty of the King.
I said it was the King's courts, not the King;
But she would not believe me, and she wish'd
The Church were king: she had seen the Archbishop once,
So mild, so kind. The people love thee, father.

BECKET:
Alas! when I was Chancellor to the King, I fear I was as cruel as the King.

ROSAMUND:
Cruel? Oh, no--it is the law, not he; the customs of the realm.

BECKET:
The customs! customs!

ROSAMUND:
My lord, you have not excommunicated him? Oh, if you have, absolve him!

BECKET:
Daughter, daughter, deal not with things you know not.

ROSAMUND:
I know him. Then you have done it, and I call you cruel.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
No, daughter, you mistake our good Archbishop;
For once in France the King had been so harsh,
He thought to excommunicate him--Thomas,
You could not--old affection master'd you,
You falter'd into tears.

ROSAMUND:
God bless him for it.

BECKET:
Nay, make me not a woman, John of Salisbury,
Nor make me traitor to my holy office.
Did not a man's voice ring along the aisle,
'The King is sick and almost unto death.'
How could I excommunicate him then?

ROSAMUND:
And wilt thou excommunicate him now?

BECKET:
Daughter, my time is short, I shall not do it. And were it longer--well--
I should not do it.

ROSAMUND:
Thanks in this life, and in the life to come.

BECKET:
Get thee back to thy nunnery with all haste;
Let this be thy last trespass. But one question--
How fares thy pretty boy, the little Geoffrey?
No fever, cough, croup, sickness?

ROSAMUND:
No, but saved from all that by our solitude. The plagues that smite the city
spare the solitudes.

BECKET:
God save him from all sickness of the soul! Thee too, thy solitude among
thy nuns, may that save thee! Doth he remember me?

ROSAMUND:
I warrant him.

BECKET:
He is marvellously like thee.

ROSAMUND:
Liker the King.

BECKET:
No, daughter.

ROSAMUND:
Ay, but wait till his nose rises; he will be very king.

BECKET:
Ev'n so: but think not of the King: farewell!

ROSAMUND:
My lord, the city is full of armed men.

BECKET,
Ev'n so: farewell!

ROSAMUND:
I will but pass to vespers, and breathe one prayer for my liege-lord the
King, his child and mine own soul, and so return.

BECKET:
Pray for me too: much need of prayer have I.

                                 [ROSAMUND kneels and goes.

Dan John, how much we lose, we celibates, lacking the love of woman
and of child.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
More gain than loss; for of your wives you shall
Find one a slut whose fairest linen seems
Foul as her dust-cloth, if she used it--one
So charged with tongue, that every thread of thought
Is broken ere it joins--a shrew to boot,
Whose evil song far on into the night
Thrills to the topmost tile--no hope but death;
One slow, fat, white, a burthen of the hearth;
And one that being thwarted ever swoons
And weeps herself into the place of power;
And one an uxor pauperis Ibyci.
So rare the household honey-making bee,
Man's help! but we, we have the Blessed Virgin
For worship, and our Mother Church for bride;
And all the souls we saved and father'd here
Will greet us as our babes in Paradise.
What noise was that? she told us of arm'd men
Here in the city. Will you not withdraw?

BECKET:
I once was out with Henry in the days
When Henry loved me, and we came upon
A wild-fowl sitting on her nest, so still
I reach'd my hand and touch'd; she did not stir;
The snow had frozen round her, and she sat
Stone-dead upon a heap of ice-cold eggs.
Look! how this love, this mother, runs thro' all
The world God made--even the beast--the bird!

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Ay, still a lover of the beast and bird?
But these arm'd men--will you not hide yourself?
Perchance the fierce De Brocs from Saltwood Castle,
To assail our Holy Mother lest she brood
Too long o'er this hard egg, the world, and send
Her whole heart's heat into it, till it break
Into young angels. Pray you, hide yourself.

BECKET:
There was a little fair-hair'd Norman maid
Lived in my mother's house: if Rosamund is
The world's rose, as her name imports her--she
Was the world's lily.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Ay, and what of her?

BECKET:
She died of leprosy.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
I know not why you call these old things back again, my lord.

BECKET:
The drowning man, they say, remembers all the chances of his life,
just ere he dies.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Ay--but these arm'd men--will you drown yourself? He loses half the meed
of martyrdom who will be martyr when he might escape.

BECKET:
What day of the week? Tuesday?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Tuesday, my lord.

BECKET:
On a Tuesday was I born, and on a Tuesday
Baptized; and on a Tuesday did I fly
Forth from Northampton; on a Tuesday pass'd
From England into bitter banishment;
On a Tuesday at Pontigny came to me
The ghostly warning of my martyrdom;
On a Tuesday from mine exile I return'd,
And on a Tuesday--

-

      [TRACY enters, then FITZURSE, DE BRITO, and
      DE MORVILLE: MONKS following.

-

                  --on a Tuesday----Tracy!

    A long silence, broken by FITZURSE saying, contemptuously,

God help thee!

JOHN OF SALISBURY (aside).
How the good Archbishop reddens! He never yet could brook the note of scorn.

FITZURSE:
My lord, we bring a message from the King beyond the water; will you have
it alone, or with these listeners near you?

BECKET:
As you will.

FITZURSE:
Nay, as you will.

BECKET:
Nay, as you will.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Why then better perhaps to speak with them apart. Let us withdraw.

        [All go out except the four KNIGHTS and BECKET:

FITZURSE:
We are all alone with him. Shall I not smite him with his own cross-staff?

DE MORVILLE:
No, look! the door is open: let him be.

FITZURSE:
The King condemns your excommunicating----

BECKET:
This is no secret, but a public matter. In here again!

                [JOHN OF SALISBURY and MONKS return.
               Now, sirs, the King's commands!

FITZURSE:
The King beyond the water, thro' our voices,
Commands you to be dutiful and leal
To your young King on this side of the water,
Not scorn him for the foibles of his youth.
What! you would make his coronation void
By cursing those who crown'd him. Out upon you!

BECKET:
Reginald, all men know I loved the Prince.
His father gave him to my care, and I
Became his second father: he had his faults,
For which I would have laid mine own life down
To help him from them, since indeed I loved him,
And love him next after my lord his father.
Rather than dim the splendour of his crown
I fain would treble and quadruple it
With revenues, realms, and golden provinces
So that were done in equity.

FITZURSE:
You have broken
Your bond of peace, your treaty with the King--
Wakening such brawls and loud disturbances
In England, that he calls you oversea
To answer for it in his Norman courts.

BECKET:
Prate not of bonds, for never, oh, never again
Shall the waste voice of the bond-breaking sea
Divide me from the mother church of England,
My Canterbury. Loud disturbances!
Oh, ay--the bells rang out even to deafening,
Organ and pipe, and dulcimer, chants and hymns
In all the churches, trumpets in the halls,
Sobs, laughter, cries: they spread their raiment down
Before me--would have made my pathway flowers,
Save that it was mid-winter in the street,
But full mid-summer in those honest hearts.

FITZURSE:
The King commands you to absolve the bishops whom you have excommunicated.

BECKET:
I? Not I, the Pope. Ask him for absolution.

FITZURSE:
But you advised the Pope.

BECKET:
And so I did. They have but to submit.

THE FOUR KNIGHTS:
The King commands you. We are all King's men.

BECKET:
King's men at least should know
That their own King closed with me last July
That I should pass the censures of the Church
On those that crown'd young Henry in this realm,
And trampled on the rights of Canterbury.

FITZURSE:
What! dare you charge the King with treachery?
He sanction thee to excommunicate
The prelates whom he chose to crown his son!

BECKET:
I spake no word of treachery, Reginald.
But for the truth of this I make appeal
To all the archbishops, bishops, prelates, barons,
Monks, knights, five hundred, that were there and heard.
Nay, you yourself were there: you heard yourself.

FITZURSE:
I was not there.

BECKET:
I saw you there.

FITZURSE:
I was not.

BECKET:
You were. I never forget anything.

FITZURSE:
He makes the King a traitor, me a liar. How long shall we forbear him?

JOHN OF SALISBURY (drawing BECKET aside).
O my good lord. Speak with them privately on this hereafter.
You see they have been revelling, and I fear are braced and brazen'd up with
Christmas wines for any murderous brawl.

BECKET:
And yet they prate
Of mine, my brawls, when those, that name themselves
Of the King's part, have broken down our barns,
Wasted our diocese, outraged our tenants,
Lifted our produce, driven our clerics out--
Why they, your friends, those ruffians, the De Brocs,
They stood on Dover beach to murder me,
They slew my stags in mine own manor here,
Mutilated, poor brute, my sumpter-mule,
Plunder'd the vessel full of Gascon wine,
The old King's present, carried off the casks,
Kill'd half the crew, dungeon'd the other half
In Pevensey Castle--

DE MORVILLE:
Why not rather then, if this be so, complain to your young King,
Not punish of your own authority?

BECKET:
Mine enemies barr'd all access to the boy.
They knew he loved me.
Hugh, Hugh, how proudly you exalt your head!
Nay, when they seek to overturn our rights,
I ask no leave of king, or mortal man,
To set them straight again. Alone I do it.
Give to the King the things that are the King's,
And those of God to God.

FITZURSE:
Threats! threats! ye hear him. What! will he excommunicate all the world?

                           [The KNIGHTS come round BECKET:

DE TRACY:
He shall not.

DE BRITO:
Well, as yet--I should be grateful--he hath not excommunicated me.

BECKET:
Because thou wast born excommunicate. I never spied in thee one gleam of grace.

DE BRITO:
Your Christian's Christian charity!

BECKET:
By St. Denis----

DE BRITO:
Ay, by St. Denis, now will he flame out, and lose his head as old St. Denis did.

BECKET:
Ye think to scare me from my loyalty
To God and to the Holy Father. No!
Tho' all the swords in England flash'd above me
Ready to fall at Henry's word or yours--
Tho' all the loud-lung'd trumpets upon earth
Blared from the heights of all the thrones of her kings,
Blowing the world against me, I would stand
Clothed with the full authority of Rome,
Mail'd in the perfect panoply of faith,
First of the foremost of their files, who die
For God, to people heaven in the great day
When God makes up his jewels. Once I fled--
Never again, and you--I marvel at you--
Ye know what is between us. Ye have sworn
Yourselves my men when I was Chancellor--
My vassals--and yet threaten your Archbishop
In his own house.

KNIGHTS:
Nothing can be between us that goes against our fealty to the King.

FITZURSE:
And in his name we charge you that ye keep this traitor from escaping.

BECKET:
Rest you easy, for I am easy to keep. I shall not fly. Here, here, here will you find me.

DE MORVILLE:
Know you not, you have spoken to the peril of your life?

BECKET:
As I shall speak again.

FITZURSE, DE TRACY, and DE BRITO:
To arms!

                       [They rush out, DE MORVILLE lingers.

BECKET:
De Morville, I had thought so well of you; and even now
You seem the least assassin of the four.
Oh, do not damn yourself for company!
Is it too late for me to save your soul?
I pray you for one moment stay and speak.

DE MORVILLE:
Becket, it is too late.

                       [Exit.

BECKET:
Is it too late? Too late on earth may be too soon in hell.

KNIGHTS (in the distance).
Close the great gate--ho, there--upon the town.

BECKET'S RETAINERS.
Shut the hall-doors.    

                                 [A pause.

BECKET:
You hear them, brother John; why do you stand so silent, brother John?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
For I was musing on an ancient saw,
Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re,
Is strength less strong when hand-in-hand with grace?
Gratior in pulchro corpore virtus. Thomas,
Why should you heat yourself for such as these?

BECKET:
Methought I answer'd moderately enough.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
As one that blows the coal to cool the fire.
My lord, I marvel why you never lean
On any man's advising but your own.

BECKET:
Is it so, Dan John? well, what should I have done?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
You should have taken counsel with your friends
Before these bandits brake into your presence.
They seek--you make--occasion for your death.

BECKET:
My counsel is already taken, John. I am prepared to die.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
We are sinners all, the best of all not all-prepared to die.

BECKET:
God's will be done!

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Ay, well. God's will be done!

GRIM (re-entering).
My lord, the knights are arming in the garden beneath the sycamore.

BECKET:
Good! let them arm.

GRIM:
And one of the De Brocs is with them, Robert, the apostate monk that was with
Randulf here. He knows the twists and turnings of the place.

BECKET:
No fear!

GRIM:
No fear, my lord.

                  [Crashes on the hall-doors. The MONKS flee.

BECKET (rising).
Our dovecote flown! I cannot tell why monks should all be cowards.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Take refuge in your own cathedral, Thomas.

BECKET:
Do they not fight the Great Fiend day by day? Valour and holy life should go
together. Why should all monks be cowards?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Are they so? I say, take refuge in your own cathedral.

BECKET:
Ay, but I told them I would wait them here.

GRIM:
May they not say you dared not show yourself in your old place? and vespers
are beginning.

            [Bell rings for vespers till end of scene.

You should attend the office, give them heart. They fear you slain: they dread
they know not what.

BECKET:
Ay, monks, not men.

GRIM:
I am a monk, my lord, perhaps, my lord, you wrong us. Some would stand
by you to the death.

BECKET:
Your pardon.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
He said, 'Attend the office.'

BECKET:
Attend the office? Why then--The Cross!--who bears my Cross before me?
Methought they would have brain'd me with it, John.

                                     [GRIM takes it.

GRIM:
I! Would that I could bear thy cross indeed!

BECKET:
The Mitre!

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Will you wear it?--there!

                            [BECKET puts on the mitre.

BECKET:
The Pall! I go to meet my King! 

                             [Puts on the pall.

GRIM:
To meet the King?

                        [Crashes on the doors as they go out.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
Why do you move with such a stateliness? Can you not hear them yonder like
a storm, battering the doors, and breaking thro' the walls?

BECKET:
Why do the heathen rage? My two good friends, what matters murder'd here,
or murder'd there? And yet my dream foretold my martyrdom in mine own
church. It is God's will. Go on. Nay, drag me not. We must not seem to fly.


       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

SCENE III.

North Transept of Canterbury Cathedral. On the right hand a flight of steps
leading to the choir, another flight on the left, leading to the North Aisle.
Winter afternoon slowly darkening. Low thunder now and then of an
approaching storm. MONKS heard chanting the service.

ROSAMUND kneeling.

-

ROSAMUND:
O blessed saint, O glorious Benedict,--
These arm'd men in the city, these fierce faces--
Thy holy follower founded Canterbury--
Save that dear head which now is Canterbury,
Save him, he saved my life, he saved my child,
Save him, his blood would darken Henry's name;
Save him till all as saintly as thyself
He miss the searching flame of purgatory,
And pass at once perfect to Paradise.

         [Noise of steps and voices in the cloisters.

Hark! Is it they? Coming! He is not here--
Not yet, thank heaven. O save him!

                         [Goes up steps leading to choir.

BECKET (entering, forced along by JOHN OF SALISBURY and GRIM).
No, I tell you! I cannot bear a hand upon my person,
Why do you force me thus against my will?

GRIM:
My lord, we force you from your enemies.

BECKET:
As you would force a king from being crown'd.

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
We must not force the crown of martyrdom.

    [Service stops. MONKS come down from the
    stairs that lead to the choir.

MONKS.
Here is the great Archbishop! He lives! he lives! Die with him, and be glorified together.

BECKET:
Together?... get you back! go on with the office.

MONKS.
Come, then, with us to vespers.

BECKET:
How can I come when you so block the entry? Back, I say!
Go on with the office. Shall not Heaven be served
Tho' earth's last earthquake clash'd the minster-bells,
And the great deeps were broken up again, and hiss'd against the sun?   

                                [Noise in the cloisters.

MONKS:
The murderers, hark! Let us hide! let us hide!

BECKET:
What do these people fear?

MONKS:
Those arm'd men in the cloister.

BECKET:
Be not such cravens! I will go out and meet them.

GRIM and others:
Shut the doors! We will not have him slain before our face.

       [They close the doors of the transept. Knocking.

Fly, fly, my lord, before they burst the doors!

                                        [Knocking.

BECKET:
Why, these are our own monks who follow'd us!
And will you bolt them out, and have them slain?
Undo the doors: the church is not a castle:
Knock, and it shall be open'd. Are you deaf?
What, have I lost authority among you? Stand by, make way!

      [Opens the doors. Enter MONKS from cloister.

Come in, my friends, come in! Nay, faster, faster!

MONKS:
Oh, my lord Archbishop, a score of knights all arm'd with swords and axes--
To the choir, to the choir!

    [Monks divide, part flying by the stairs on the
    right, part by those on the left. The rush of
    these last bears BECKET along with them some
    way up the steps, where he is left standing alone.

BECKET:
Shall I too pass to the choir, and die upon the Patriarchal throne
Of all my predecessors?

JOHN OF SALISBURY:
No, to the crypt! Twenty steps down. Stumble not in the darkness,
Lest they should seize thee.

GRIM:
To the crypt? no--no, to the chapel of St. Blaise beneath the roof!

JOHN OF SALISBURY (pointing upward and downward).
That way, or this! Save thyself either way.

BECKET:
Oh, no, not either way, nor any way
Save by that way which leads thro' night to light.
Not twenty steps, but one.
And fear not I should stumble in the darkness,
Not tho' it be their hour, the power of darkness,
But my hour too, the power of light in darkness!
I am not in the darkness but the light,
Seen by the Church in Heaven, the Church on earth--
The power of life in death to make her free!

    [Enter the four KNIGHTS. JOHN OF SALISBURY
    flies to the altar of St. Benedict.

FITZURSE:
Here, here, King's men!

    [Catches hold of the last flying MONK.

Where is the traitor Becket?

MONK:
I am not he! I am not he, my lord. I am not he indeed!

FITZURSE:
Hence to the fiend!

                            [Pushes him away.

Where is this treble traitor to the King?

DE TRACY:
Where is the Archbishop, Thomas Becket?

BECKET:
Here. No traitor to the King, but Priest of God, Primate of England.

                     [Descending into the transept.

I am he ye seek. What would ye have of me?

FlTZURSE:
Your life.

DE TRACY:
Your life.

DE MORVILLE:
Save that you will absolve the bishops.

BECKET:
Never,--except they make submission to the Church.
You had my answer to that cry before.

DE MORVILLE:
Why, then you are a dead man; flee!

BECKET:
I will not. I am readier to be slain, than thou to slay.
Hugh, I know well thou hast but half a heart
To bathe this sacred pavement with my blood.
God pardon thee and these, but God's full curse
Shatter you all to pieces if ye harm one of my flock!

FITZURSE:
Was not the great gate shut?
They are thronging in to vespers--half the town.
We shall be overwhelm'd. Seize him and carry him!
Come with us--nay--thou art our prisoner--come!

DE MORVILLE:
Ay, make him prisoner, do not harm the man.

      [FITZURSE lays hold of the ARCHBISHOP'S pall.

BECKET:
Touch me not!

DE BRITO:
How the good priest gods himself! He is not yet ascended to the Father.

FITZURSE:
I will not only touch, but drag thee hence.

BECKET:
Thou art my man, thou art my vassal. Away!

       [Flings him off till he reels, almost to falling.

DE TRACY (lays hold of the pall).
Come; as he said, thou art our prisoner.

BECKET:
Down!

                            [Throws him headlong.

FITZURSE (advances with drawn sword).
I told thee that I should remember thee!

BECKET:
Profligate pander!

FITZURSE:
                   Do you hear that? strike, strike.

    [Strikes off the ARCHBISHOP'S mitre, and wounds
    him in the forehead.

BECKET (covers his eyes with his hand).
I do commend my cause to God, the Virgin,
St. Denis of France and St. Alphege of England,
And all the tutelar Saints of Canterbury.

               [GRIM wraps his arms about the ARCHBISHOP.

Spare this defence, dear brother.

    [TRACY has arisen, and approaches, hesitatingly,
    with his sword raised.

FITZURSE:
Strike him, Tracy!

ROSAMUND (rushing down steps from the choir).
No, No, No, No!

FlTZURSE:
This wanton here. De Morville, hold her away.

DE MORVILLE:
I hold her.

ROSAMUND (held back by DE MORVILLE, and stretching out her arms).
Mercy, mercy, as you would hope for mercy.

FlTZURSE:
Strike, I say.

GRIM:
O God, O noble knights, O sacrilege!
Strike our Archbishop in his own cathedral!
The Pope, the King, will curse you--the whole world
Abhor you; ye will die the death of dogs!
Nay, nay, good Tracy. 

                                 [Lifts his arm.

FlTZURSE:
Answer not, but strike.

DE TRACY:
There is my answer then.

                       [Sword falls on GRIM'S arm, and glances from it,
                        wounding BECKET:

GRIM:
Mine arm is sever'd. I can no more--fight out the good fight--die Conqueror.  

                      [Staggers into the chapel of St. Benedict.

BECKET (falling on his knees).
At the right hand of Power--Power and great glory--for thy Church, O Lord--
Into Thy hands, O Lord--into Thy hands!----

                                            [Sinks prone.

DE BRITO:
This last to rid thee of a world of brawls! (Kills him.)
The traitor's dead, and will arise no more.

FITZURSE:
Nay, have we still'd him? What! the great Archbishop!
Does he breathe? No?

DE TRACY:
No, Reginald, he is dead.

(Storm bursts.) [Footnote: A tremendous thunderstorm actually
broke over the Cathedral as the murderers were leaving it.]

DE MORVILLE:
Will the earth gape and swallow us?

DE BRITO:
The deed's done--Away!

    [DE BRITO, DE TRACY, FITZURSE: rush out, crying
    'King's men!' DE MORVILLE follows slowly.
    Flashes of lightning thro' the Cathedral.
    ROSAMUND seen kneeling by the body of BECKET:



       *      *      *      *      *      *      *


Lord Alfred Tennyson

Sorry, no summary available yet.