Murder in the Cathedral

The Priests Character Analysis

The priests—three in number—represent the clergy of the Church of Canterbury who are under the religious authority of Archbishop Thomas Becket. They begin the play, opposite the Chorus, in high anticipation of Becket’s return, and are fully ready to welcome him back to England. They are confident that his presence will be good for the church-going public and the country as a whole. Yet this does not mean that they do not have their fair share of disagreement with the Archbishop. They are wary about his commitment to martyrdom, fearing that his death will spell spiritual ruin for themselves and the congregation. While not as dramatic as the Chorus, they nonetheless worry about losing their religious leader, since the Archbishop is the highest office of the Canterbury Cathedral and responsible for directing the lower clergy. After Becket dies—an event which the priests forcefully try to prevent—however, they come to see his martyrdom as destined by God, and comprehend it as something that should, in fact, have happened, even if they cannot explain “why” in terms which satisfy human thought.

The Priests Quotes in Murder in the Cathedral

The Murder in the Cathedral quotes below are all either spoken by The Priests or refer to The Priests. 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 2 Quotes

You think me reckless, desperate and mad.
You argue by results, as this world does,
To settle if an act be good or bad.
You defer to the fact. For every life and every act
Consequence of good and evil can be shown.
And as in time results of many deeds are blended
So good and evil in the end become confounded.
It is not in time that my death shall be known;
It is out of time that my decision is taken
If you call that decision
To which my whole being gives entire consent
I give my life
To the Law of God above the Law of Man.

Related Characters: Thomas Becket (speaker), The Priests
Page Number: 73-4
Explanation and Analysis:
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No. For the Church is stronger for this action,
Triumphant in adversity. It is fortified
By persecution: supreme, so long as men will die for it.
Go, weak sad men, lost erring souls, homeless in earth or heaven.

Related Characters: The Priests (speaker), Thomas Becket
Related Symbols: Martyrdom
Page Number: 84-5
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Priests Character Timeline in Murder in the Cathedral

The timeline below shows where the character The Priests 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
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
After the Chorus’s opening monologue, three priests enter the scene and discuss a feud which occurred between Archbishop Becket and the king... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
After the priests’ brief discussion, a herald enters the scene, and announces that Becket, the Archbishop, is in... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
The priests respond to the herald’s message. The first priest says he fears for the Archbishop and... (full context)
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
After the priests’ discussion about Becket’s return to Canterbury, the Chorus weighs in. They say they want the... (full context)
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Becket enters the scene, and tells the second priest that the Chorus is not being foolish, but that they “speak better than they know,... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
...they didn’t want him to return. The second priest regrets that he and the other priests were unable to prepare an adequate welcome for Becket, since he arrived with such short... (full context)
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Becket informs the priests that he evaded being killed on the way to Canterbury, because “rebellious bishops” who would... (full context)
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Temptation Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
...between acting and suffering (using the image of the wheel) which Becket gave to the priests before. (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Temptation Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
After the tempters give their opinion about the nature of humankind, the priests all plead, in unison, for Becket to not enter a fight he can’t win—to not... (full context)
Part 2
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...with Becket immediately. Becket then enters the scene, and welcomes the knights, saying to the priests that moments which we foresee can arrive at unexpected times. He tells the priests that... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
...charges, he will refute them publicly. The knights then try to attack Becket, but the priests and attendants return before they can do it privately. (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
...submit his cause before God’s throne. Before they leave, the knights threaten to kill the priests and attendants if Becket is not at the Cathedral when they return. (full context)
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Temptation Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
The four knights arrive at the Archbishop’s Hall, and start to break in. The priests barricade the doors and try to force Becket into hiding, but Becket resists; 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
Loyalty and Guilt Theme Icon
After the Chorus speaks, the scene changes to the Cathedral, where Becket is with the priests. The priests bar the door, but Becket commands them to throw the doors open, saying... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
Becket orders them again to unbar the door, and accuses the priests of thinking about this situation in too worldly a manner, shirking a more divine view... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
The doors are opened, and the knights enter, a bit tipsy from drinking. The priests still try to force Becket into hiding, and the knights command that Becket show himself.... (full context)
Worldly Power vs. Spiritual Power Theme Icon
Fate and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Eternity and Human Understanding Theme Icon
The knights exit, and the priests speak. The first priest says that the Church has been damaged by Becket’s death, while... (full context)