Becket Essay, Research Paper
The movie “Becket,” set in medieval England under the rule of Henry II, is based on the lives of the king and his assistant. The plot centers around two main characters, the King Henry and Thomas Becket, a servant who rises in power quickly and greatly. “Becket” is a story of strong friendship that, due to power and contrasting beliefs, divides into a bitter separation.
The storyline began with King Henry II grieving over the grave of Thomas Becket inside a tomb. It then shifts to his earlier memories, leading up to his present. The flashback commenced with Henry and Becket as very close friends, Becket, a servant and personal advisor to Henry. The movie went so far as to depict Henry II as being homosexual, because of his relationship with Thomas Becket, however this may not have been true. The strength of their friendship was displayed through their conversations and relations: Becket was nearly always by Henry’s side, and Henry would often refer to Becket for advice and suggestions. Becket was an Anglo-Saxon; he was a diligent worker and intelligent, making him a very good aid to the king.
Near the beginning of the movie, the two companions were hunting in the woods, when rain began to fall. They found shelter in an Anglo-Saxon hut, where both Thomas and Henry fancied a peasant girl. Henry offered her to Becket, but only if Becket swore to owe him an equal favor in the future. Becket agreed to his lord’s demands, but later reassured the girl that she would not be captured. At a later date, Henry desired Thomas’ maiden, using the favor that he swore to keep. Thomas was very confused and frustrated about this decision, but finally gave in to the king’s request. As a result, his maiden killed herself, however it proved Becket’s true loyalty and devotion to his lord.
As the plot continued, Henry admired Thomas’ wise advice and counsel, and decided to revive an old political position, appointing Thomas as Chancellor of England. Thomas, as usual, worked very devotedly and soon became famous for his deeds and relations around and across the lands. Henry was pleased to see his companion’s success and to have an associate that he could trust. Although their relationship was strong, some foreshadowing hinted at events to come. While remarking upon his friend’s success once, Henry stated that Thomas would be as formidable an adversary against him as he was successful for him. It is ironic how Henry’s own words could be so correct.
A political issue soon arose, threatening the power of the King of England. Becket brought to Henry’s attention the fact that the Church had been gaining power, and might become more powerful than he. Afraid of losing his status, Henry finally conceived a plot to gain partial control of the Church in England. He suggested to nominate Becket for the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas did not fancy the idea and spoke his doubts to Henry, however he later acceded to the plan, only to please his lordship. Thomas was quickly trained as a priest and in only several days, presented before the Church counsel and ordained Archbishop. It was clear that Becket served both the Church and England, because he continued to wear his ring of Chancellor along with his holy attire. Thomas began to enjoy his position in the Church, discovering that it was a path to his self-completion, and he became very successful in this position as he had done in others.
For some time, the relation between King Henry and Archbishop Becket remained strong, until a crime was committed that split their views. Lord Gilbert, a vassal under the king, arrested a priest for raping a woman, and killed him when he attempted to escape. Henry defended Gilbert, declaring that every man was subject to the kingdom’s law. However, Becket stated that the crime was a sin against the Church, and for that Gilbert was excommunicated. Henry could not understand Thomas’ reasoning, however Thomas stood fast to his views and defended the Church. He even removed his Chancellor’s ring, symbolizing his break with England and Henry.
Henry understood that Becket was becoming very powerful, and needed to stop him to retain his own position. He placed false charges of embezzlement while in office of Chancellor upon Becket, in order to destroy his status and position. To escape being arrested, Thomas fled to France where he was hospitably received, and planned to travel to speak to the Pope in the Vatican. Henry’s men followed him into France and Henry himself pleaded with Becket to compromise in order to sustain their friendship. Becket, however, stayed firmly by the Church and would not give into Henry’s requests. Henry attempted to win over the Pope by sending gifts of money, but these gifts were turned down. Thomas appealed to the Pope to be transferred into a simple priestly position, but the Pope declined him, advising to continue with his successful work in England. Henry knew that he could never maintain his kingdom and power with Archbishop Becket in England. Upon Becket’s return to England, Henry, in a dramatic and emotional breakdown, ordered his men to kill the Archbishop. The men slaughtered both Thomas Becket and his servant inside the Church.
The movie shifted back to King Henry’s present, in the tomb containing the grave of Thomas Becket. He was being flogged by holy men to repent his sins against the Church and against his dearest friend, Thomas Becket. After his repentance, the Church declared that Becket was a Saint in his beliefs, actions, and strong support of the Church.