Beliefs are a core aspect of life, but a true test of one’s principles is how far one is willing to go to defend and preserve those beliefs. In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More exemplifies just how strong his ethics are. A Man for All Seasons is a historical play, written in 1960 by Robert Bolt, which recounts the events of the 16th century surrounding Sir Thomas More, leading up to his death. In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More becomes Lord Chancellor of England during the time that King Henry VIII divorced his wife, remarried, and declared himself head of the Church of England by the Oath of Supremacy. Since More is a sincerely devout Catholic, he could neither, in good faith, bless the king’s remarriage nor swear to the Oath of Supremacy. As a result, Sir Thomas More is charged with High Treason and is executed, making him a martyr in real life and a tragic hero in the play. Throughout the play, Sir Thomas More proves to be a tragic hero because he possesses a tragic flaw and is a man of great noble stature.
In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More’s tragic flaw, his morality, eventually leads More to make decisions that cause his own downfall. Even though many characters do not concur with the king’s divorce, they ignore their conscience in order to remain in the king’s good graces. More’s friends and family attempt to persuade him to comply with the king’s wishes. However, More refuses to do so because he believes, “In matters of conscience, the loyal subject is more bounden to be loyal to his conscience than to any other thing” (Bolt 116). Even though More remains a loyal subject of the king, his first duty is to live according to his conscience. More tries to explain that he is not being treasonous in any way.
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. onscience, More makes choices to preserve his morality, which ultimately lead to his death. Since More is unwilling to compromise his scruples, More brought his downfall upon himself. More’s downfall is also somewhat due to his position as Lord Chancellor. Since More is such an eminent figure, his actions against the king have prevalent effects, which only help the king target More as a traitor. Sir Thomas More lived his entire live based upon his beliefs and principles. Even though More meets death in the end of the play, More dies standing by what he believes in. By defending his faith and morals, More proves his virtue by demonstrating that nothing worldly is ever worth one’s eternal soul, thereby making More the paragon of a virtuous man.
Bolt, Robert. “A Man for All Seasons.” 2014. PDF file.
“Characteristics of a Tragic Hero.” 2014. PDF file.
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Thomas More. And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around 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. 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.
If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that /needs/ no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all. why then perhaps we /must/ stand fast a little --even at the risk of being heroes.
Thomas More: Will, I'd trust you with my life. But not your principles. You see, we speak of being anchored to our principles. But if the weather turns nasty you up with an anchor and let it down where there's less wind, and the fishing's better. And "Look," we say, "look, I'm anchored! To my principles!
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Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary defines conscience as 'the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or good. In "A Man for All Seasons," each character's conscience plays the ultimate role in the outcome of the story. 'Individual conscience' is trait that each character possesses. This trait differs in intensity throughout the play in each of the main characters. Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII show their unchangeable conscience, by their actions. More refuses to accept the King's divorce of Catherine, and marriage to Anne. The King appoints More to Lord Chancellor, hoping to persuade Sir Thomas to accept his marriage. King Henry wants everyone to accept his divorce. He believes he is right for going against Pope's ruling, and he wants all his royal subjects, and men of popularity to accept his decision.
This is the King's 'individual conscience' talking. He fears that without the acceptance from Thomas, Lord Chancellor, that he has made God angry, and he will pay for his unsupported decision.
Sir Thomas More was the only character that believed and stuck with his conscience, by doing so, it cost him his life. Sir Thomas was a very prominent member of the King's council, he was the only member whom did not take bribes to sway his decision. Sir Thomas had always trusted in his conscience. He believed that the right way, and God's way lies in the conscience. Sir Thomas was separated between church and state, and he stuck with his decision. The King liked More, he liked him so much, that he promoted Sir Thomas to Lord Chancellor. This decision was also to help sway More into accepting his marriage to Anne. However, when the.Citation styles:
Conscience in "A Man for All Seasons," by Robert Bolt. (1996, September 06). In WriteWork.com. Retrieved 18:01, February 24, 2017, from http://www.writework.com/essay/conscience-man-all-seasons-robert-bolt
WriteWork contributors. "Conscience in "A Man for All Seasons," by Robert Bolt" WriteWork.com. WriteWork.com, 06 September, 1996. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.
WriteWork contributors, "Conscience in "A Man for All Seasons," by Robert Bolt," WriteWork.com, http://www.writework.com/essay/conscience-man-all-seasons-robert-bolt (accessed February 24, 2017)More Drama essays:
Thomas More vs. Richard Rich In his preface to the play, Bolt calls More "a hero of selfhood." More refuses to sacrifice his self, which he defines by his moral.
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A Man For All Seasons,By Robert Bolt (St. Thomas More) Essay, Research Paper
In Robert Bolt’s Play, A Man For All Seasons, we are presented with a historical character of inexorable integrity, Sir Thomas More. More is drawn unwillingly into a situation where he must choose between expediency or his principles. More’s decision is consistant through out the entirety of the play as he remains intensely loyal to his conscience and is unable to abandon his religious beliefs, even if it ultimately means his own tragic demise. The entreaties of many are to no avail as More proves to be steadfast.
In the second scene of the play we see More meeting with Cardinal Wolsey. More’s character is exemplified as Wolsey ask’s More’s opinion about a certain letter that is to be sent to the Pope regarding the validity of the King’s marriage to Catherine. More compliments Wolsey on his phrasing and avoids the content of the dispatch directly, except to say that he feels the council should be informed before it goes to Italy, this response sparks Wolsey
Would you tell the council? Yes, I believe you would. You’re
a constant regret to me, Thomas. If you could just see facts
flat on, without that moral squint; with just a little common
sense, you could have been a statesman. (Bolt 10)
More’s non-committal response to Wolsey’s question is also characteristic of
his desire to be silent for the remainder of the play and, despite Wolsey’s
continuing plea that he should ignore his “own, private, conscience” (Bolt 12)
for state reasons, More is unable to approve of the King’s divorce.
As More and King Henry talk during the King’s visit to Chelsea in scene
six, More is once again pressured on the matter of the Henry’s divorce, now by
Henry himself. More states to Henry that he sees his own opinion so cleary
that he would choose “not to think of it at all” (Bolt 31). Henry is obviously
disturbed by this and upset with More when he responds: “Great God, Thomas, why do you hold out against me in the desire of my heart – the very wick of my heart?” (Bolt 31). More expresses to Henry that he wishes he could, in good conscience, agree with him and reminds Henry of the promise to not pressure for his support: “When I took the Great Seal your Majesty promised not to pursue me on this matter.” (Bolt 31). This conversation with Henry clearly illustrates More’s views on the subject and his disagreement with Henry’s argument. It is apparent More wishes to be uninvolved in the issue.
As we come to the second act More has decided to give up his Lord Chancellorship, which was due solely to the submission of the bishops in Convocation. More defends his decision to Norfolk by saying that the
submission “isn’t ‘Reformation’; [but] is war against the Church!…Our
King…has declared war on the Pope – because the Pope will not declare that
our Queen is not his wife.” (Bolt 52). He again remains constant in not
conveying his own opinion on this matter. More also states his belief that the
Pope is “the Vicar of God,…our only link with Christ.” (Bolt 53). More’s
resignation proves his willingness to risk everything for what he believes in.
Towards the end of this first scene in act two “More appears convinced that he
will not be molested, provided that they refrain from discussing the question of
the King’s Supremacy, and the matter of his divorce.” (Coles 28). More believes he will have safety in his silence.
As Cromwell questions More on “some ambiguities of behavior” (Bolt
67) he, in his own words, reiterates the King’s own offer from scene six, “If
you could come with me, you are the man I would soonest raise – yes, with my
own hand.” (Bolt 34), that if More “could bring [himself] to agree with the
Universities, the Bishops and the Parliament of this realm, there is no honour
which the King would be likely to deny you” (Bolt 67). More again shows his to sacrifice his religious beliefs, even for the greatest of personal gain.
In the remaining action of the play, More’s chastity remains untarnished
as his likely end nears. After sacrificing his friendship with Norfolk and
becoming a prisoner, More is then brought before the Seventh Commission and does not waiver on his refusal to swear to the Act of Succession. His reasoning is clear in scene seven as, in his discussion with Lady Margaret, he affirms his belief that an oath is a sacred promise to God and then states:
When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in
his own hands. Like water…and if he opens his fingers then – he
needn’t hope to find himself again. Some men aren’t capable
of this, but I’d be loathe to think your father one of them. (Bolt 83)
Even after the pleading of his loving wife and daughter, More continued to remain strong up to the very moment of his execution.
Thomas More felt his loyalty to his religious beliefs and his conscience
defined his own sense of self. He believed “that without a certain something life was valueless. That certain something was a belief in ‘a power above ourselves’ – a belief in the scruples of conscience.” (Coles 10). More’s refusal
to deny his virtue is, in essence, what causes his inability to swear to the oath.
More was a very orthadox Catholic and for him an oath was
something perfectly specific. It was an invitation to God, an
invitation God would not refuse, to act as a witness, and to
judge; the consequence of perjury was damnation, for More
another perfectly specific concept. So for More the issue was
simple (though remembering the outcome it can hardly have
been easy). (Bolt xiii)
More did not choose martyrdom, but simply to remain true to his religious
beliefs, at any cost.
Bolt, Robert. A Man For All Seasons. Toronto: Irwin, 1963.
Coles Editorial Board, ed. A Man For All Seasons: Notes. Toronto: Coles, 1994.
Hodges, John C. et al. Harbrace College Handbook For Canadian Writers.
4th ed. Toronto: Harcourt, 1994.
Houghton Mifflin Co. The American Heritage Dictionary & Roget’s II: The New
Thesaurus. electronic ed. China: Seiko, 1993.
How does Thomas More differ from Thomas Cromwell on religion and politics?
Why do the characters in the reading react as they do to Richard Rich reading Machiavelli and knowing Cromwell?
How does More differ from Wolsey in his opinion on the King’s divorce?
How does Thomas More feel towards Henry VIII?
How does Henry VIII try to persuade More to change his mind?
How does More resemble Henry VIII?
How do Cromwell’s words and actions with Richard Rich demonstrate his political and moral Machiavellianism. Read more →
29 out of 36 people found this helpfulby joziejane. December 15, 2015
"He maintains that if he does not speak his opinion concerning his disapproval of the king’s intention to divorce his wife, then, according to the Bible, his silence will connote consent, not dissent."
This scene is from late in act 2, in his trial. But the argument about qui tacet consentire - silence gives consent - is not a matter of the Bible, but a matter of law: “’The maxim is “qui tacet consentire”…. “Silence Gives Consent”. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence “betokened”, you must construe tha