Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.


spacerRICH. It’s intolerable that the royal court and the king might all be ruined by a single priest. Oh what smouldering fury! This mad Archbishop is raging what that stubborn mind of his. The king tolerates it and sluggishly maintains his silence. Becket should already be viewing the fire and the cavern of dark Hell.
spacerMORV. The king is always too kindly. He is gentle in his anger, his indignation is too slow in its arising. And now, beset by that indignation, he withdraws into himself, staying shut up in his chamber, languishing while consumed with his chagrin.
spacerWILL. And yet chagrin is not consuming his mind or his fervor. What makes him languish is his concern that this law which will confer assured security on his nation will now be approved by everybody.
spacerREG. Everybody approves it, a single Archbishop is being recalcitrant This is why the king is experiencing chagrin and concern is knocking at the door of his royal heart. Although that noble energy of his cannot be conquered, he is withdrawing into himself, troubling himself, destroying himself. This single worry torments all rulers with its pain, when the ambitions they have conceived go a long time without success. Those who govern do not like being bested.
spacerRICH. And so there’s a need for us to take counsel and apply our minds. The king should have his wish, and our deceit, trickery and arts should prevail on behalf of our king. Search your hearts, my friends.
spacer MORV. Here’s a good scheme. One Archbishop is resisting, we should provoke the rest against him. That breed of men loses its courage at a single touch of fear and promises easily win over priests. If the rest abandon him, he will be the only one to suffer punishment.
spacerWILL. The cause of a single man never looks like a good thing, the common run of mankind is in the habit of supporting that which the majority approves. So we need to employ sure wiles in winning over these men. We must be artful.
spacerREG. Time is on our side. Let the bishops be presently summoned and attend upon the king. They revere Becket, but let fear overwhelm them. They all don’t want to die, they’ll disown that one man.
spacerRICH. I see they are coming. Let our craftiness not fail us. Enter the bishops.



spacerLUC. Once more we are summoned, bishops, a single concern is always vexing the royal heart. Let the king’s effort finally achieve its goal. Let there be guaranteed peace, let the law prevail as crime is abolished.
spacerALARD. Since it is the salvation of all men this law should be approved, nobody should resist the royal hand.
spacerCONR. This mulish fellow is not being wise, he is seeking a death which will bring him glory. A prudent man ought to yield to necessity,
spacerLUC. So the king commands, we are called back. But he is confined to his litter, scarcely able to drag about his exhausted body thanks to his great grief..
spacer RICH. True, and that’s always the way with a king’grief, a single concern occupies his mind. Bishops, you must help your king. He loves you, and, if possible, he wants to do more to enhance your standing.
spacerLUC. We love our king too, for we credit him for our prosperity.
spacer RICH. What he has already given you are trifles, he promises greater, saying “I will grant honors to my bishops, for they occupy a rank next to mine. For they are my fathers and pillars of the realm.” Such is his good-will towards you.
spacerMORV. Fathers, would that a single one among you would have a change of heart, stubborn passion is inspiring his recalcitrant mind. This madman wants the king to defer to him, but kings are not in the habit of being deferential and royal wrath is serious. Too late Becket will come to fear the weight of this kingly hand. Whoever shares his spirit or way of thinking will come to experience the king’s harshness, but too late in the game.
spacerALARD. He is the only one who disapproves of this law.
spacerMORV. He’ll be the only one to die, for your safety is assured.
spacerALARD. A great frenzy is sweeping away his mind as he desires to defend our rights.
spacerWILL. That frenzy is insane. Many men go astray out of passion, and suffer their downfall when they persist. It is convenient to pretend much. A wise men man always has the same attitude but often alters his pace. Don’t change your minds, bishops, but without always maintaining the same course. A word to the wise —
spacerCONR. But he is our primate and chief father, he rages against us, defending his rights. He oppresses us with his thundering voice and frightens us with threats of punishment.
spacer REG. Let him rage, the king’s anger will lay him low and bring him to a bad end. He who approves the king’s plans will never perish.
spacerCONR. While we give our approval, the king’s oppressing us and the guaranteed rights of the Holy See are perishing.
spacerREG. That anxiety of yours is needless, he’ll never obtain the kind of law he wants. Kings act impulsively. Just pretend. The king has no desire to oppress you, let the law be approved and his passion will abate, he’ll forget about his law.
RICH. So you bishops ought to act in such a way that he cannot dislike what once he liked. Let his bishops abandon Becket, intimidating and compelling him. He will throw up his hands in surrender. But see, that prelate is coming. Enter Thomas.



spacerTHOM. And so to Court? Who summons?
spacerFOURTH LORD The king summons. If you are wise you ought to change your mind.
spacerTHOM. If I am wise, never.
spacerFOURTH LORD You stubbornly trouble the king. Now this savage pain anguishes and torments him, and you are its cause.
spacerTHOM. Let heaven bear witness I have reverence for my monarch, but I wish the rights of the Roman See to remain intact. Now continue, let there be no delay. I’ll visit the king. May the Lord guide my steps and govern my mind. Let His cross be my defense. blue
spacerLUC. Archbishop, you should not bear all the responsibility. Let us have a share, this is our task. I shall go before you.
spacerTHOM. I should always carry Christ’s cross. It is my harbor, the symbol of my salvation, His shadow will be my protection. For this cross of Christ the King is my battle-standard.
spacerALARD. Is this how you draw your sword and attack the king? But he has a mightier sword and he will draw it against you, my Archbishop.
spacerTHOM. I do not care. Let him draw it and stab. Watch over me, Christ.
spacerALARD. Such is this mad folly which always grips your heart. You are not being wise, you are only in the process of dying. Is this how you will visit the king?
spacer THOM. So I must. I’ll never abandon the standard of my own King.
spacerCONR. But you can alter your attitude to suit the times, Archbishop. Modify it as much as you can lest it become too late and the royal anger does you harm. You are the primate of the realm, match your counsels to those of the king. Give your approval to what he commands.
spacerTHOM. Such is not my inclination. Thus act the part of father of this realm by disapproving of this law.
spacerALARD. You are only damaging the realm. Your passion should be set aside, it does not befit you to trouble the king.
spacerLUC. Yield and dissimulate. This royal anger is short-lived, it will soon abate.
spacerTHOM. Dissimulation is never appropriate when our sacrosanct liberty is failing.
spacerCONR. For the sake of yourself, for the sake of that ornament you wear on your head, blue by the sacrosanct rights of our faith, by this right hand of yours, Archbishop, I beg you, since this time requires you to ally yourself with the king, you should yield.
spacerTHOM. Enough, I can’t. I shall not abandon my Church for the king’s sake.
spacerLUC. That is not his hope.
spacerTHOM. But this is what he desires to achieve by means of such a law.
spacerALARD. The rage of our foolish primate is stubborn. He plays the fool so late in the day, and he’ll bring us down at same time. Enough, fathers, the king is here. Enter Henry. z



spacerHEN. See how with this sick body of mine I am recalled to Parliament. The cause of my disease is also its cure. You must assist me, my lords. Now we are obliged to strengthen the security of our nation, now I do not wish to endure delays upon delays, nor to tolerate a stubborn heart.
spacerFIRST LORD In accordance with their summons the bishops are present, and see, here’s the primate.
spacerHEN. Let the bishops take their place. So you bring your weapons with you, perhaps to threaten me with that gleaming cross?
spacerTHOM. Great king, you should not fear this cross. It is the cross of Christ.
spacerHEN. Be that as it may, now you must obey my law and give your approval to the bill I have introduced. Go so far as to restrain your mind’s passion. I command you, this law aims at the security of our England. It is s sufficient to have provoked my cares.
spacerTHOM. I have no desire to provoke my king, but I cannot approve your law.
spacerHEN. You disapprove?
spacer THOM. Your majesty, I do disapprove. My conscience scarcely allows it and the rights of the Roman See forbid me, as does heaven. In the name of your scepter, kind king, I beg, in the name of yourself, by the glory of this royal head of yours, by whatever exists within you, by your God and the God of this world, and by the oceans of holy blood shed by our martyrs, let not our sacred liberty fail, and do not inflict confusion on the rights of your Church. Why rise up against me? My desire is to preserve the rights of the Roman church, I am obliged to do so, the office I hold requires it of me. Do not accuse me of having stubborn mind, my conscience is clear. I cannot approve this law.
spacerHEN. Once more you fence with me with words, Archbishop? Once more you merely speechify? Leave, depart hence, you are standing at the door.
spacerTHOM. I’m leaving.
spacer HEN. Bah! A single Archbishop opposes me? Me yield to you? Abandon my law? Whoever offers guilty resistance, whoever disapproves of this law, let him now be branded as a criminal. Vote aye once more, bishops.
spacerLUC. We all approve your law. Keep moderation in mind and rule us bishops with a friendly hand.
spacerALARD. May heaven bring it to pass that this law saves your England and the realm. Once more I vote aye for that which you command.
spacerHEN. I pledge by heaven and what God sends blazing from His fiery heaven, bishops, I shall protect your dignity. What now? What about him? I seek your advice, you be the judge.
spacerLUC. He is the primate of the realm and its chief bishop, he cannot be deposed by our authority. Your men must judge him.
spacerHEN. Nor will he suffer his downfall by our choice, for that is is sinful. I have no such power. Your majesty, you must decide by what right you can banish him.
spacerCONR. I shall never conclude that this Archbishop is a felon. You, king, must consult your Parliament. May the Everlasting Lord change his mind, obey his king and approve your law.
spacerHEN. So, my lords, what about my right?
spacer SECOND LORD Whoever refuses to obey his king is guilty of treason against him. Your majesty must remain undamaged. Let the passion of a single man never disturb the peace of your nation. The law demands the felon’s head. He cannot continue beholding the light of day who opposes his sovereign thus.
spacerLUC. An Archbishop suffer the penalty of death? Should a consecrated man to die by a secular hand? Great king, you should never allow this.
spacer SECOND LORD A man who does harm both to his king and the law deserves to die.
spacerALARD. This is the downfall of the king. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and to Rome.
spacerTHIRD LORD If this guilty party’s life is to be spared, his rank cannot be. Let him be deprived of that, let him live without his nation and property and be banished the realm.
spacerCONR. Why banish this Archbishop? The Pope, kings and dukes will issue him invitations, for the man’s fame is already widespread.
spacerSECOND LORD Let him choose what land to visit.
spacerTHIRD LORD If anything is to be feared, we need to be cautious. Once he was the Chancellor of yourself and the realm, and then he was appointed primate by your choice.
spacerHEN. Yes, he was made primate by my choice, he appeared to deserve whatever I gave him.
spacerTHIRD LORD Come now, the earlier reason for granting him office no longer exists and he must be removed from office. As an Archbishop he would remain stubborn and you would condemn him.
spacer FOURTH LORD This is the sure way, your majesty. For no blame for the death of an Archbishop will fall on us, this trickster cannot invent any accusation or slander by his falsification.
spacerHEN. Let it be so, such is my will. An explanation needs to be published. If he clings to office, he’ll become a convicted felon. Thus this guilty man must submit to my court. Let him be cast out of the kingdom. If he remains stubbornly passionate, perish all his kinsmen. Let let the goods of them all be confiscated, let no man of such a family drag out his life here. Let this be done, I state my wish once more. Whoever remains recalcitrant is my enemy, let him forfeit his life.



spacerLUC. So let us depart. It would be sinful for us to witness whatever awaits our primate, and perhaps the king would call us enemies and criminals.
spacerALARD. I’m not waiting, let us all depart far away.
spacerCONR. The primate is sitting here by himself, I’ll test his attitude once more. Oh father of our realm, by these knees, by this breast of yours, by these hands, by your cross of Christ, by your name for piety and the glory of your life, I beg you to have pity on us and on yourself, for we are all doomed. Father, change your mind while yo u can.
spacerTHOM. I’ll never change it.
spacerCONR. In the name of our clergy’s sacred rights, I ask you —
spacerTHOM. You have betrayed them all and now you’re turning around? Forget these entreaties, bishop. I have made up my mind to die for our rights.
spacerALARD. Then we no longer acknowledge you as our father, you have vowed your loyalty to the king and in exchange he is demanding the same from you and, although you have sworn an oath, you are now overturning it by fraudulent deceit. So may heaven bear witness that I am accusing you of perjury. May the Pope soon judge you.
spacerTHOM. I hear you, and I will plead my case wherever you wish, I care not for your threats. My mind is resolved. Enter the third lord.
spacer THIRD LORD Here I am bringing the king’s commands, Archbishop.
spacerTHOM. What commands do you mean?
 spacerTHIRD LORD You are to resign the high dignity you possessed in this realm. If you hesitate you will be branded a felon.
spacerTHOM. Heaven bear witness that I have been loyal to the king. He is fully aware that when this first rank in the realm was first conferred upon me ,with his own voice the king pronounced me freed from that oath. If you require a witness, bear witness yourself. Being appointed primate, I disowned this loyalty to the king. He cannot sit in judgment on me when he should revere me as a son does his father. I am unconcerned about the royal court, as an accused I will submit to the court of the Holy See. There I summon you, bishops. It is a great sin to have abandoned your mother and betrayed that which is sacred. I freely depart, for now I am a burden upon England.



spacerRICH. Depart forthwith, you plagues upon your nation. All of you depart, let it be a crime for anybody to remain for more than a single day.
spacerFIRST KINSMAN Where do you bid us go? Who is giving this command?
spacerRICH. This is the king’s desire. Make no delay, depart the realm.
spacerSECOND KINSMAN But at least let us take our goods.
spacerRICH. Impermissible. Whoever is a kinsman to Thomas the primate is an enemy to his nation. Exit.
spacerTHIRD KINSMAN But where? Where shall we go now? So will you destroy your relatives, holy Archbishop? Alas, will this family which thrived thanks to you now also perish on your account? Acknowledge your descent blood and rescue your kinsmen since you can. Our throng of relations are now making this sad complaints.
spacerTHOM. The fault is not mine. The king is raging savagely and I am determined to endure it.
spacerFOURTH KINSMAN But, Archbishop, you can rescue us if you wish.
spacerTHOM. I cannot now act as I wish, for I am compelled to leave my nation.
spacerFIRST KINSMAN Grant the king his wish.
spacerTHOM. But that’s sinful.
spacerSECOND KINSMAN So that we may be spared. We are of your blood.
spacer THOM. It’s always right to choose God over kindred blood.
spacer KINSMAN 4 But you can spare us with a single word. Yield to the king.
spacerTHOM. That would be impossible.
spacerFIRST KINSMAN You are destroying yourself, father.
spacerTHOM. A man who dies for Christ’s sake cannot perish.
spacer SECOND KINSMAN But we are perishing for your sake.
spacerTHOM. But that is not my fault.
spacerTHIRD KINSMAN Look us in the face, realize that we are your relatives. This is the stock from which you were born. For the sake of the rights common to our house, for the sake of yourself and your parents, for the sake of our family honor, since you have the power to rescue us, rescue your kindred.
spacerTHOM. Would that I could!
spacerFIRST KINSMAN Behold our tears. In the name of that holy object hanging from your breast, we beg for your love. Do our tears count for nothing? Or your love?
spacerTHOM. I love you, God be with you, but my mind is resolved. Now let this suffice. I shall go and disappear, may I steadfastly endure what the Fates bring! An innocent man never feels fear.



spacerCH.. So he’s departed? Oh Lord! So my sun has departed, the light of my Christian flock and the light of all my bishops, the holy standard of my life? Oh sun, dress yourself in darkness, now my brilliance has departed.
spacerFIRST KINSMAN What tears will you shed now, you Englishmen? His life as an exile demands your tears since he has removed your consolation. What now, England? You lie prostrate and orphaned, your cruel king will rage against you, in sadness you will dread his executioners’ axes.
spacerCH. Thus this harmless Archbishop suffers his downfall and, since he cannot be sinful, in his holiness he cannot please the king. Oh, how many wiles lurk in a courtroom! It’s more than enough to be innocent to earn a sentence of death.
spacer THIRD KINSMAN Now where does it remain for us to go, my comrades. Everywhere sea and sky awaits us, and exile everywhere. Alas, we must imitate our Archbishop’s destiny, wherever this Archbishop wends his way. But may the stars be moved to guide him and prosper his journey.
spacerCH. Just as the sun cannot hide, neither can virtue. He whom the harsh king expelled will be sought after by pious sovereigns. Now his reputation precedes him and Rome admires a man it has not seen. Oh great Author of nature, remember Your England. If we can deserve anything, come, return the sun to our Church.
spacerSECOND KINSMAN England, receive our tears, receive these groans. Having been bidden to thrive, you were always blessed under such an Archbishop, but now that he has been expelled you are wretched.

Go to Act IV