The Four Knights: in Murder in the Cathedral.

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"The four knights are :

First Knight: Reginald Fitz Urse

Second Knight: Sir Hugh de Morville

Third Knight: Baron William de Traci

Fourth Knight: Richard Brito"


      The four Knights are not individualised personalities, but they differ from each in the different aspects of secularism that they represent.


The presence of the knights, make Murder in the Cathedral at once a mediaeval and a modern play.
The Knights


Role of the Knights :-

      The part that the knights play in the drama fall into two phases conceived on two totally different planes, as W.H. Mason remarks. On one level they are the agents of Henry II, coming to Canterbury to execute the bishop in the King's historical words : "Will none of those who eat my bread and drink my wine rid me of this troublesome priest ?" In the second phase, which can be referred to as there Apologia, they speak out of their historical context, emphasising the contemporary significance of the martyrdom.


Representatives of Evil :-

      The knights are representatives of evil even as they are the sordid instruments of the eternal design. They burst rudely into the Cathedral and demand to speak to the Archbishop and are rude to the Priests in refusing their hospitality. Their exchange of words with the Archbishop has dramatic vitality, and it is the most sustained passage of open conflict in the play. But their arguments are merely repetitions of the previous arguments of King Henry and Thomas.


As Murderers :-

      The priests fail to persuade Thomas to hide himself. The Knights make an appearance, slightly tipsy, and singing a parody of a hymn. When Thomas refuses to submit to the King's will, they murder him then and there.


Their Apologia :-

      After the murder, the knights advance to the front of the stage and address the audience in the manner of a series of after dinner speeches. Each knight offers a vindication of their action. The third knight points out that they have been completely disinterested and did not stand to benefit from the murder in any way. In fact, they have acted out of duty and would be facing a lot of trouble as a consequence. The second knight appeals to the audience to view the whole affair in a cool and level-headed way. Becket, he says, was becoming more priestly than the priests, and they had served the interests of the nation and its citizens by killing him. The audience should, therefore, share their guilt. They have brought about the just subordination of the church to the state. The fourth knight re-emphasises the point made by the previous speaker. There is, however, in the fourth knight's casuistry a strange kind of logic and an unmistakable reference to the fourth tempter.


Conclusion :-

      The presence of the knights, make Murder in the Cathedral at once a mediaeval and a modern play. The knights come out of their 12th century setting and address the audience directly, thus emphasising the contemporary relevance of the martyrdom of Thomas. As D.E. Jones says, their Apologia corresponds to the temptation Thomas in Part I and can be seen as the temptation of the audience. The knights can be seen as the counterparts of the tempters. Stepping Out of their 12th century setting, the knights seek, by every means, from blandishments to exhortation, cunningly using the techniques of modern political oratory, to make us admit the reasonableness of their action and to acknowledge that we are involved in it, since we have benefited from it.


      They are there to justify their actions, not only to the audience, but to posterity. The prose scene with the knights, says Eliot, "is intended to shock the audience out of their complacency, to show them apparently that the familiar voice of commonsense, of reason, of political expedience can be used to reduce a martyrdom to a banality."

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