MovieChat Forums > Becket (1964) Discussion > Treatment of Women in this movie

Treatment of Women in this movie

The treatment of women in the movie was horrible! It just goes to show you how far women have come and how far we still have to go! From King Henry's mother to his wife to the peasant girl to Gwendolyn to the French girl in Henry's bed, etc., women were treated like property and possessions. In fact, at one point, Henry says something to the effect that of all his possessions, he enjoyed some woman. Anyway, thankfully Becket did show some kindness to the peasant girl and Gwendolyn, but all in all, the women did not have many rights or choices!
la da dee la dee da :o)


They sure didn't.

"Two more swords and I'll be Queen of the Monkey People." Roseanne


Anyway, thankfully Becket did show some kindness to the peasant girl and Gwendolyn, but all in all, the women did not have many rights or choices!

Your perspective is skewed by the fantasies of modernism and feminism, which really have no place in rational discussion. Nobody had many choices back in those days, and men don't have as many choices as you think. Men and women were largely confined to the circumstances of their birth; whether they were born to commoners or nobles, chances are they'd do what their parents did. Women back then ran the households of their husbands, and husbands worked to provide and protect them.

You are under the delusion that having choices makes you empowered. Choices don't do that. All they do is give you options, but that doesn't mean you end up any the more empowered or accomplished because of them, because most options are usually bad ones. People back in the Middle Ages (or, as I call them, the Christian Ages) didn't expect too much out of life. Life was hard, even for nobility, but they were happier than people are today, because they were a lot more free than people are today.

They were taxed far, far, far less than we are now. King Henry II would be astounded at how badly we are taxed in America, never countenancing ever doing such a thing and would wonder why we haven't savagely murdered our leaders for it. Even Serfs didn't work so hard as wage-slaves do today. Men and women both knew their duties, upon which all rights come from, and from that they were satisfied, generally speaking. Sure, it wasn't sunshine and roses, but the Middle Ages were not the dour, dark, and stinky ages Hollywood routinely portrays them as.

Ever heard of the concept of Dowry? Dowries are ancient customs meant to entice men to marry daughters; the family attaches to the daughter money and assets that her husband would be allowed to administer, in order to start him out with means of providing and protecting her so they can start a family of their own. This was also a means of insurance, in order to keep men in line. If a man were to want to suddenly break off the marriage, or cheat on his wife, the wife's family could demand the return of the dowry. If he spent it, or sold it, well, it was his ass - he'd have to pay back what was lost. Adulterers, by the way, in most kingdoms, were not treated too well, the king excepting (of course, kings could be excommunicated, which meant they lost their temporal authority until they made good atonement).

If men don't treat women like they are their possessions, forgive me for saying this, but it turns women into prostitutes. Men would cherish and protect what is theirs, therefore it is advantageous to be considered property of the man who is there to provide and protect them. Women owe men complete submission to their authority, and authority is not the same as power. Authority means merely the right to say what ought to be done. Men, by the same token, owe women their industry and life. I'd say that's quite a bargain women had, and now have lost.


It should also be noted that Henry's mother Empress Matilda was older and more settled down and calm during her son's reign as seen in this movie than earlier in life.

It may be noted that Maud is an alternate form of Matilda. And how does the theme song of the Maude (1972) TV series describe the title character:

And then there's that uncompromisin' enterprisin' anything but traqulizin' Right on Maude!!!

And when someone did Empress Matilda wrong she could be even more

uncompromisin' enterprisin' anything but traqulizin'

than Maude.

In 1135 her cousin Stephen made himself King of England instead of her and her response was to invade England in 1139 and begin the civil war known as the Anarchy that punished Stephen and his supporters so much that eventually they agreed that her son Henry would inherit the throne.

Matilda was never exactly the modern idea of a helpless damsel in distress.


The invasion was more because of the rebellion of Robert of Gloucester, he half brother.

When the Crown was not a settled issue, Matilda made no effort to secure it. The Anarchy certainly was not her force of will in response to succession.


Henry's wife wasn't exactly a damsel in distress either, she was queen of France and went on crusade and divorced her husband the king and married the king of England because they were in love and in doing so transferred all her lands from France's possession to England and then tried to depose Henry and put her son on the throne, etc. Absolutely fascinating woman, and she's practically cut out if this film, because the writers wanted to make it seem like Henry's only close relationship was with Beckett. Which is too bad, she must have been a hell of a gal.

So yeah, a few women did have some freedom and options, if they were rich and powerful enough. Of course they didn't usually get to choose who they married, but then neither did noblemen.


I wonder how Matilda and Eleanor got on?


First "War of the Roses", haha!

But seriously, I can't imagine they liked each other, but Eleanor's massive dowry and stellar fertility would have impressed even the most hardass mother-in-law.


How did she and Eleanor get on?


You do know the movie is set in the 12th century, don't you? How progressive did you expect its attitudes toward women to be?


They were expecting a late 2010s "woke" depiction that ignores historical reality.


Guess who else didn't have many rights or choices????

The men of the time. Almost all of them. All except for the blue bloods and the rich.


very true.