Murder in the Cathedral

First Tempter Character Analysis

A former friend of both Becket and the king, the first “tempter” encourages Becket to remember the “good old days” before his exile, when there was no political strife yet with Henry II. Essentially, the first tempter wants Becket to fix his broken relationship with King Henry II and renew their former friendship. Becket doesn’t buy it, saying that what’s past is in the past, and the future cannot be guaranteed—implying that he feels unable to unhesitatingly commit to restoring his past friendships, even though he remembers them with fondness. Disappointed with Becket, the first tempter departs saying that he will leave Becket to the “pleasures of [his] higher vices,” slightly condescending to Becket’s devotion to a higher, spiritual order. The tempter adds that, if Becket decides to change his mind, he’ll be waiting to resume their friendship—that he’ll remember Becket “at kissing-time below the stairs.”

First Tempter Quotes in Murder in the Cathedral

The Murder in the Cathedral quotes below are all either spoken by First Tempter or refer to First Tempter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harcourt edition of Murder in the Cathedral published in 1964.
Part 1 Quotes

We do not know very much of the future
Except that from generation to generation
The same things happen again and again.
Men learn little from others’ experience.
But in the life of one man, never
The same time returns. Sever
The cord, shed the scale. Only
The fool, fixed in his folly, may think
He can turn the wheel on which he turns.

Related Characters: Thomas Becket (speaker), First Tempter
Related Symbols: The Wheel
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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First Tempter Character Timeline in Murder in the Cathedral

The timeline below shows where the character First Tempter appears in Murder in the Cathedral. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Temptation Theme Icon
The first tempter , a former friend of both Becket and the king, enters the scene. He says... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Temptation Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
When Becket concedes that the first tempter is discussing a past worth remembering, the tempter says he’s also talking about the “new... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Temptation Theme Icon
The first tempter gives up trying to convince Becket, saying he’ll leave the Archbishop to the pleasures of... (full context)