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Tyrants: Villainous Monarchs in Films of Medieval History

In: Film and Music

Submitted By Kaliedescope23
Words 884
Pages 4
A good leader should lead a society to prosperity, but if a leader fails, then a rebel rises. In a world where good and evil coexist, we presume that the leader is virtuous and those who oppose the leader are atrocious, but these films: “The Vikings”, “Becket”, “The Lion in Winter”, and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” beg to differ. The films cast the monarchs in a negative light by using different themes including social conflict, and conflict between state and central government. Social conflict is displayed all throughout the movies “Becket” and “The Lion in Winter” by characterizing the monarch King Henry II as being homosexual. In “Becket”, King Henry’s homosexuality is revealed in the scene which takes place after the family dinner when the king is drinking with his barons. A drunken King Henry then breaks down into tears and confesses his love for Beckett, his once loyal servant. Based on an article entitled “Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” by D. Desser and G. Studlar , Sigmund Freud’s Mechanism of Repression is mentioned, where when a traumatic experience occurs, the person tries to repress the memory. The memory is then stored in the person’s subconscious. Even though the person may not be able to remember the event, the emotions are still there. King Henry was homosexual and in love with Becket, and couldn’t accept that the man he loved so much betrayed him, thus he tried to repress his feelings. In front of his family he kept denying the part of himself that harbored the love his mother called ‘unnatural’. However, the feelings of hurt and betrayal were still there. A good monarch would not allow his emotions to influence his decisions as a king. He would put aside his personal issues and think of what is best for his kingdom and his subjects. However, King Henry allowed his emotions to take over and cloud his judgment, causing him to confess his feelings to his barons, who took it upon themselves to kill Thomas Becket as revenge for their king.
During “The Lion in Winter” , homosexuality came in the form of Prince Richard, the eldest son of King Henry II. In the film King Henry II meets with King Phillip II of France in his chambers while unknown to him his son Richard his hiding behind curtains. King Phillip proceeds to tell King Henry about his son’s homosexual relationship with Phillip and how he lied to Richard, telling him that he loved him and how he “found him beautiful”. Richard then jumps out from behind the curtains and is at first unable to believe that King Phillip was never in love with him.
According to the ongoing debate of nature vs. nurture, either the way a person is raised influences their sexuality, or their sexuality is already decided since birth. During the time the films “The Lion in Winter” and “Becket” were made, most people viewed homosexuality negatively. Most people believed it was a choice, and a perverted one. It was also believed that if a person was homosexual, then the parents were at least partially to blame. Therefore, the film tries to convince the audience that since Prince Richard was homosexual, it was probably King Henry’s fault, and that if the leader couldn’t raise his own son properly to become a ‘real man’, then he was in no way fit to run a kingdom. Also, the common Christian belief of the time was that homosexuality was unnatural and if a person was homosexual then they had strayed from the path of God and was allowing Satan to take over. Consequently, by making King Henry II homosexual in “Becket”, religious Christians would think the monarch was being possessed by evil and was therefore a weak man unable to resist temptation by the Devil.
The part of the audience who was not Christian would still think King Henry was weak and perverted. Overall, the audience as a whole would see the homosexual King Henry II as an immoral, weak minded man who can in no way ever be a righteous monarch and rule a thriving kingdom. Another concept of social conflict shown in the movies was religion. In “Becket” there was the conflict of religion when Becket started being more loyal to God than to King Henry II. This was evident in the scene which took place after King Henry II charged Becket with embezzlement, a crime he did not commit. Becket then travels to Rome to meet with the Holy Pontiff and requested that he be demoted to the level of an ordinary priest and sent to a monastery. In this scene, Becket who began as the rebel is now shown as a hero. King Henry II would have allowed Becket to remain as the Archbishop with the condition that he cancelled the excommunication of Lord Gilbert whose crime was the murder of a priest. Becket knew that pardoning Lord Gilbert’s crime would be wrong, so instead he chose the more difficult path and gave up his position as Archbishop. In the end, Becket chose the path of justice and his God over an easy life of overlooking corruption and crime, which made him look righteous in the eyes of the audience.

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