Act V

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

Castle in Normandy. King’s Chamber.


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—

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

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

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

                        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.

Not to a Gregory of my throning! No.

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.

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.

Being so crush’d and so humiliated
We scarcely dare to bless the food we eat
Because of Becket.

                        What would ye have me do?

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

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.

God’s eyes!            [Starting up.


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

And,—while you dream’d you were the bride of England,—
Stirring her baby-king against me? ha!

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

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.

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.

Richard, if he be mine—I hope him mine.
But thou art like enough to make him thine.

Becket is like enough to make all his.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Not ev’n the central diamond, worth, I think,
Half of the Antioch whence I had it.


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

                                    Dead! you have murder’d her,
Found out her secret bower and murder’d her.

Your Becket knew the secret of your bower.

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

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

O devil, can I free her from the grave?

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.

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!



Enter the four KNIGHTS.

What made the King cry out so furiously?

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

I hate him for his insolence to all.

And I for all his insolence to thee.

I hate him for I hate him is my reason,
And yet I hate him for a hypocrite.

I do not love him, for he did his best
To break the barons, and now braves the King.

Strike, then, at once, the King would have him—See!

Re-enter 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?


[The KNIGHTS draw their swords.

Are ye king’s men? I am king’s woman, I.

King’s men! King’s men!

Becket - Contents    |     Act V - Scene II

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