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Becket Paperback – September 1, 1995


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Becket + The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“M. Anouilh’s essential theme—the portrayal of a life that ends by championing the honor of God, no matter what the cost—has nobility and exaltation.” –Howard Taubman, The New York Times

“Fascinating play… so much that is hopeful, stimulating, imaginatively gratifying.” –Walter Kerr

“A great play.” –Henry Hewes, Saturday Review

“Witty, original and impressive.” –The Wall Street Journal

“A great, exciting play.” Louis Sobol

“Brilliant, exciting and big.” –John Chapman, New York Daily News

“Stunning drama…” –John McClain

“Exciting, stimulating, full-blooded theatre.” –Robert Coleman

“A notable event in the theatre, powerful and distinguished.” –Richard Watts, New York Post

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st Riverhead ed edition (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573225088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573225083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Grant Waara VINE VOICE on August 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite plays. While Anouilh made Becket a Saxon (historians say he was in fact, a Norman), and that a decade's time is compressed to make a two plus hour play or movie, the fact is that "Becket" is a fast moving, epic saga which dramatizes one of the most heartbreaking episodes in English history.
Ignore the negative reviews here. I highly suggest you go see the play if you're lucky enough, or rent the movie with two superb performances from Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.
One last note. While plays tend to suffer when just being read and not performed, "Becket" is a glad exception. It's superbly written and it goes by briskly.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By slack@acadiacom.net (Chip G) on May 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Becket is a marvelous dramatical production. Often, it's deep and complicated nature does not entertain average audiences. However, the play deals with the drastic conversion, already brewing within Thomas, spurred by a childish king. Henry is truly the most remarkable character in the play to portray. His childishness and regality class in a torent of anguish with his best friend, and worst enemy, Thomas Becket! This play is a must read for everyone!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By butterflyeffect67 on November 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I love this play! It's one of my favourites and a wonderful complement to Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral". The movie with Richard Burton as Becket is also outstanding. I always carry it along with me when I go in a journey along with Eliot's "Four Quartets". It shows the humane side of Becket, it is a great study on the human soul. I cannot reccomend it too much. This is the stuff heroes are made of....
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
First of all, I just want to say that this was one of the greatest books I've ever read. It was fascinating and original. A powerful account of the relationship between two friends. A stunning story of a man who finds honor in the last place he thought he would, and the pain it causes when he is forced to defend it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aco on September 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
A terrific read. I agree with most of the reviews here. The story is about two giants of their time, who turn on each other through folly and necessity. That mythological study alone makes this good. Add onto it the scope of a king and an archbishop, a man looking for advise and power and another looking for a purpose in life. Anouilh's stage directions also add an excellent imagery to the story, stark and minimal that evokes an emphasis on the relationships between Henry and Becket. This is a great companion to The Lion in Winter and A Man for All Seasons. From an actor's point of view both leads are attractive, one being furious and physical and the other an internal ball of conflict and spiritual discovery.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I don't know what the English translation is like, but the book was great in the original French. Anouilh does a wonderful job with the psychology of his characters. It's not for historical purists, though, because there are several historical inaccuracies. (For example, Thomas was not a Saxon; this is a persistant legend but he was actually a Norman. Also, his personality was somewhat different in real life.) This play served as the basis for the 1964 movie Becket.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chubulus Patrunculus on February 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
Historically inaccurate as it may be, this timeless work is at once entertaining and heart wrenching. I have seen negative reviews of this work elsewhere that seem to miss the point. This book is not about a man changing completely overnight; it is about a man who finds an outlet for the honor that was always there. Becket has always done his job perfectly and meticulously, according to him for the sake of "aesthetics". A lover of only life, he has always been empty, a result of his honor being in conflict with his desire to live well and having to compromise his honor in order to achieve that; his birthright being a lifetime of servitude and poverty otherwise.

When his best friend (who happens to be the King) asks him to assume the mantle of Archbishop Of Canterbury he literally begs him not to force the appointment upon the church, foreshadowing the truth Becket already knows deep within: That his honor will no longer be in conflict with his duty should he be appointed to lead the Church Of England (which at that time was still in communion with the Pope). Eventually Becket must chose between his role as Chancellor Of England and Archbishop Of Canterbury, opting for the latter. The choice between the two titles, in itself, was not hard. What was difficult was coming to the realization that he could not serve in both capacities.

Aside from missing the truth that Becket did not "change" in the story, but that he actually was freed to be what he always was (Becket himself actually points out in the story that the "change" is far too easy, almost enjoyable), it is my feeling that those who do not enjoy the book are also missing the entertainment value. Despite it's deadly poignant nature, the story does not take itself too seriously.
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