As the act of sacrificing one’s life in the defense or upholding of certain religious beliefs, martyrdom is the emblem of Becket’s radical submission to God. Becket seems to desire martyrdom from the very beginning of the play, though the reasons behind this desire evolve. At first he wants to die for God out of a combination of self-interest and activism (achieving glory and fame that will affect the world in ways he would want), but he eventually comes to think of himself as being fated for martyrdom, chosen by a source that is totally beyond his own ability to understand and comprehend what it might mean to, or do for, himself. Martyrdom therefore has two dimensions in the play: not only the obvious, physical event of Becket’s death, but also the continual process of sacrificing one’s partial, human view of the world for a more divine perspective that has nothing to do with human desire. Alongside Becket, the Chorus and the priests undergo this latter form of martyrdom as well.
Martyrdom Quotes in Murder in the Cathedral
Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason . . .
What yet remains to show you of my history
Will seem to most of you at best futility,
Senseless self-slaughter of a lunatic,
Arrogant passion of a fanatic.
Reflect now, how Our Lord Himself spoke of Peace. He said to His disciples ‘My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.’ Did He mean peace as we think of it: the kingdom of England at peace with its neighbours, the barons at peace with the King, the house-holder counting over his peaceful gains, the swept hearth, his best wine for a friend at the table, his wife singing to the children? Those men His disciples knew no such things: they went forth to journey afar, to suffer by land and sea, to know torture, imprisonment, disappointment, to suffer death by martyrdom. If you ask that, remember then that He said also, ‘Not as the world gives, give I unto you.’ So then, He gave to His disciples peace, but not peace as the world gives.
A Christian martyrdom is never an accident. Saints are not made by accident . . . A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God.
It is the just man who
Like a bold lion, should be without fear.
I am here.
No traitor to the King. I am a priest,
A Christian, saved by the blood of Christ,
Ready to suffer with my blood.
This is the sign of the Church always,
The sign of blood. Blood for blood.
His blood given to buy my life,
My blood given to pay for His death,
My death for his life.
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.