1 (Roman Catholic Church) archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170; murdered following his opposition to Henry II concerning Henry's attempts to control the clergy (1118-1170) [syn: Thomas a Becket, Saint Thomas a Becket, St. Thomas a Becket]
2 (nautical) a short line with an eye at one end and a knot at the other; used to secure loose items on a ship
- This article is about the play. For other meanings of "Becket", see Becket (disambiguation).
Becket ou l'honneur de Dieu (Becket or The Honor of God) is a Tony Award-winning play written in French by Jean Anouilh. It is a depiction of the conflict between Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England leading to Becket's murder in 1170, but contains many historical inaccuracies which the author acknowledged.
BackgroundAnouilh's interpretation of the historical story, though often ironic, is more straightforward than T. S. Eliot's play on the same subject, Murder in the Cathedral, which was intended primarily as a religious treatment. However, there are one or two similarities in the interpretation.
In the Introduction to the play, Anouilh explained that he based it on a chapter of an old book he had bought because its green binding looked good on his shelves. He and his wife read the 30 pages about Thomas Becket, and she urged him to write a play about Thomas. He did so, knocking out the first part in only 15 days. It was not until he showed the finished play to a friend that he found out the old book he had based it on was historically incorrect in certain important aspects. Having built his play on Becket's being a Saxon (when he was actually a Norman whose family was from near Rouen and called "Bequet" in French), Anouilh could not recast the play to accord with historical facts, so he decided to let it stand.
Aspects of the content that can safely be considered true are the conflicts between England and France, church and state, and the outline biography of Becket.
SynopsisThe play is a re-enactment of the conflicts between King Henry II and Thomas Becket as Becket, best friend to Henry II, ascends to power becoming the King’s enemy. Becket begins as a clever, but hedonistic, companion; as a result of being created Archbishop of Canterbury, he is transformed into an ascetic who does his best to preserve the rights of the church against the king's power.
Ultimately, Becket is slaughtered by several of the king's nobles, and the king is then forced to undergo penance for the murder.
Stage productionsThe play was first performed at the Théâtre Montparnasse Gaston Baty in Paris on 8 October 1959 and on Broadway in 1960.
BroadwayThe original Broadway production premiered on 5 October 1960 at the St. James Theatre in a production by David Merrick, directed by Peter Glenville and starring Laurence Olivier as Thomas Becket and Anthony Quinn as King Henry II. The production was nominated for five Tony Awards and won four, including Best Play. The play later transferred to the Royale Theatre and then to the Hudson Theatre. An erroneous story arose in later years that during the run, Quinn and Olivier switched roles and Quinn played Becket to Olivier's King. In fact, Quinn left the production for a film, never having played Becket, and director Glenville suggested a road tour with Olivier as Henry. Olivier happily acceded and Arthur Kennedy took on the role of Becket for the tour and brief return to Broadway, with Olivier playing Henry. .
According to John Cottrell's biography of Laurence Olivier, however, Anthony Quinn was dismayed and angry when he read that Olivier was getting better reviews for his performance as Henry than Quinn had gotten, claiming that he would never have left the production if he had known that was going to happen. Even so, it was Quinn who was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance, while Olivier was overlooked.
London productionsThe first London production was at the Aldwych Theatre on 11 July 1961, directed by Peter Hall for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Eric Porter played Becket and Christopher Plummer the King, with Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Peter Jeffrey, Diana Rigg, Ian Holm and Roy Dotrice in the cast. The play later transferred to the Globe Theatre. Plummer won the Evening Standard Award for his performance after taking over the part from Peter O'Toole, who broke his contract with the RSC before rehearsals began in order to take the lead in David Lean's film ''Lawrence of Arabia.
The play was revived in a new version by Frederic Raphael and Stephen Raphael in October 1991 at the Haymarket Theatre with Derek Jacobi as Becket and Robert Lindsay as the King and again in October 2004 with Dougray Scott and Jasper Britton. The original script for the 1961 version was revived at the Southwark Playhouse in September 2001 with Rupert Degas and Colin Salmon.
- Main article, see Becket (film)
becket in Welsh: Becket
becket in German: Becket (Film)