• synonyms

Becket, Thomas à

An English bishop of the twelfth century. Becket was archbishop of Canterbury and thus leader of the Christian Church in England. He defended church interests against interference by the king. Four of the king's men, thinking that the king wanted Becket put to death, went to Becket's cathedral (see also cathedral) and murdered him.

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The killing of Becket is dramatized in plays by T. S. Eliot (Murder in the Cathedral) and the French playwright Jean Anouilh (Becket).


Soon after Becket's death, people from all over England began to go to his burial place in Canterbury to pray, especially sick persons, who prayed for healing. The storytellers in The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, are on their way to Becket's tomb.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.