“Will No One Rid Me of this Meddlesome Priest?”
The theme of Church vs. State has been an ongoing struggle between two opposing powers: the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. What happens when the collision occurs? The necessity of a separation between church and state lies mainly in that a freedom of religion should be allowed to all, as opposed to a particular church being given priority over others, especially in the realm of political matters. Laws, constitutions, taxes and the like should never be in favor of one particular mode of belief. To use religion as a political ploy is manipulative, as it possibly sways the followers to the favor of a particular political affiliation. But who has the power, then, if both church and state are to be separated? That is the question widely contested even today. A fine example of this question of power is the 1964 film Becket, starring Richard Burton as Thomas Becket, and Peter O’Toole as Henry II.
The film begins in the days before the dispute between the two main characters. Becket and Henry initially appear as deeply bonded friends—wining, dining and wenching as they see fit. They live the life of two young men with unlimited resources of money and power. All of this weighs nothing on the conscience of the King, but Becket has an insatiable void that no amount of excess can fill. When Henry makes claim to an innocent woman in the woods, it is Becket who plays devil’s advocate in order to trick the King into allowing the woman for himself, thus giving him the opportunity to free the woman, where before she surely would have been raped. Throughout the beginning of the film we see this kind of compassion for the common person from Becket, perhaps due to his own humble upbringing. Becket is constantly dissuading Henry from making unwise decisions against the throne, or to cease straying from matters of the throne for romps with women. He keeps Henry...