Murder in the Cathedral


T. S. Eliot

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Second Tempter Character Analysis

The second tempter wants Becket to take up the role of Chancellor again (Becket left that position before his exile) and abandon his fanatical investment in religion and the Church. He says that those who solely give love to God, and God alone—like Becket—experience only sadness. This tempter therefore represents the exact opposite of the fourth tempter, who encourages Becket to shun the political world (of which the Chancellor is a part) and invest himself fully in his spiritual path, in martyrdom. Becket rejects the second tempter’s proposal, and calls the Chancellorship a “punier power” compared to his spiritual command as Archbishop.

Second Tempter Quotes in Murder in the Cathedral

The Murder in the Cathedral quotes below are all either spoken by Second Tempter or refer to Second 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

Temporal power, to build a good world
To keep order, as the world knows order.
Those who put their faith in worldly order
Not controlled by the order of God,
In confident ignorance, but arrest disorder,
Make it fast, breed fatal disease,
Degrade what they exalt. Power with the King—
I was the King, his arm, his better reason.
But what was once exaltation
Would now be only mean descent.

Related Characters: Thomas Becket (speaker), Second Tempter, King Henry II
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:
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Second Tempter Character Timeline in Murder in the Cathedral

The timeline below shows where the character Second 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
Temptation Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
The second tempter enters the scene, and reminds Becket of how they met many years ago. He says... (full context)