Analysis of the Play A Man For All Seasons
With the free will presented upon us, comes a great sense of responsibility to use it wisely. The choices we make are ultimately affected by an array of factors, such as religion, morals, upbringing, society, and environment, to name a few. However, the conscious effort to ignore any of these factors in order to make the uniformed choice would be a violation of one’s free will and self-respect. In order to remain loyal to oneself, one must be incoherent to the pressures of assimilation, and follow one’s heart to the correct decision. Likewise, in the play, A Man For All Seasons, the lead character, Sir Thomas More, also faced these choices. He had the option to conform like the rest of society, however, he chose to make a choice that he felt was correct, and stood behind it until the end. With the courage to battle the King of England, Sir Thomas More was perceived to lead a silent attack on the Throne. His resolution to protest the unlawful marriage of King Henry and Anne Boleyn was rooted in Christian beliefs and morals. His refusal to accept the divorce of Henry and Catherine allowed for much speculation, however, More’s selection remained steadfast, as did his character, while enduring harsh criticism. More is truly “A Man For All Seasons” in light of his ability to remain true to his beliefs, family, and country when faced with adverse situations.
More’s strong religious beliefs are clearly displayed when he quarrels with Roper over the marriage of Margaret, More’s daughter. More wants his daughter to marry inside the church, so with Roper’s heretical views, he doesn’t allow their marriage. More says to Roper, “Roper, the answer’s ‘no’. And will be ‘no’ so long as you’re a heretic.”(17) Roper’s Lutheran outlook seems to be a source of friction because of More’s strong Christian beliefs. Afterward, when Roper again asserts his allegiance to Luther’s ideals, More responds by saying, “Listen, Roper. Two years ago you were a passionate Churchman; now you’re a passionate – Lutheran. We must just pray, that when your head’s finished turning your face is to the front again.”(17) More stands his ground. His strong disapproval of Roper’s religion shows his unwillingness to compromise in matters such as these. Margaret asks, “ Is that final, father?” to which More replies, “As long as he’s a heretic, Meg, that’s absolute. Nice boy….Terribly strong principles though…”(18) More will not change, however he expects those around him to modify their views in order to coincide with his. More will not negotiate his views because to compromise is to show weakness in one’s outlook and in turn give in.
More’s belief in the law also remained steadfast even when it appeared that the law could reveal to be his downfall. More wants to find ways to hide behind the law for his safety’s sake. When discussing the Act of Supremacy, More states, “Supreme Head of the Church in England—‘so far as the law of God allows.’ How far the law of God does allow it remains a matter of opinion, since the Act doesn’t state it.”(48) He expects that with his knowledge of the law, he can find a way to take the oath and still have a humble conscience. More wants nothing more than to be protected under the law which he so religiously observed on a daily basis. However, More’s plan could be seen by many as being treasonous. Norfolk makes this very assumption, and when he questions More about it, More replies by saying, “The law requires more than an assumption; the law requires a fact.”(77) Again he sticks to the use of the law for his benefit. More will not change his views of the law, even when challenged by Roper. More questions Roper’s views of the law by saying, “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast- Man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down- and you’re just the man to do it- d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”(39) More will stay with the law in order to reap its benefits because the true and just will be rewarded from its fruit. More has done nothing wrong, so there is no need for the law to be against him. His beliefs coincide with the law and that is the way he chooses it to be.
More remains steadfast in his belief that through a dispensation granted by the Pope, King Henry is legally and holily married to Catherine. Announcing his views openly will undoubtedly be seen as treasonous, therefore he must remain silent in order to be protected under the law and still be satisfied with his conscience. Even though More chose to use a passive stance in combating the divorce of Henry and Catherine’s marriage, he never turned back on the ideals it represented. More was satisfied by his silence, and so it seemed to be working against him as his silence was seen as disapproval. “If we govern our tongues they will!… -have you heard me make a statement?”(55) More’s lack of vocal elaboration was so that he could be given the benefit of the doubt under the law. More never gave in to the King, nor did he change his stance on the matter. In this dangerous undertaking, More wanted to protect himself and his family so he chose not to disclose his agenda even with them. “…Alice, that in silence is my safety under the law, but my silence must be absolute, it must extend to you.”(56) Worried faces started to appear in England. Cromwell said, “This ‘silence’ of his is bellowing up and down Europe!”(58) More’s silence has even spread throughout Europe. Even under a great strain and pressure, More did not waver or modify his position. He remained steadfast in his beliefs, on the situation that had plagued England, regarding the divorce.
Hence, More is evidently “A Man For All Seasons” because of his ability to remain true to his beliefs, family, and country when faced with adverse situations. More’s character is one of persistence, intelligence and among other things, courage. The way in which More kept his belief in religion, the law, and a faulty divorce during his most trying times leads us to believe that More possessed something special with regards to his character. The author of this play, Robert Bolt, would like to stress to the audience the importance of More’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his faith and beliefs. A man such as More, who has strong convictions and the courage to chose to make the right choices, has a quality that Bolt admired; More’s steadfastness. More could passively challenge the Church of England, while stating his opinion without actually saying anything that could harm himself or be presented in court as evidence. We should all learn something from a great person such as Sir Thomas More, whether it be courage, steadfastness, or persistence, it is clear that More is truly “A Man For All Seasons”.
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