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The Movie A Man For All Seasons English Literature Essay

3394 words (14 pages) Essay in English Literature

5/12/16 English Literature Reference this

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His characters can be looked as either universal or base That is, he shows that the “common” human being is base and immoral. His characters let others be concerned with right and wrong. They are concerned with what works, with “getting by.”


The boatman interested in making a living.


The publican who runs a tavern who is willing to serve with those involved with money.


Jailer is used as a spy to trap Sir Thomas and get information on him. But because he get offered of a large amount of money get him frightened and keep himself away out of trouble.

Jury Foreman

The jury foreman was chosen to take part in the trial of Sir Thomas. But when the time comes to give the verdict, he says that Sir Thomas is guilty to insure his safety.


The headsman has only one line that does his job. He beheads Sir Thomas in order to save himself.

Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas is the character of morals and principles and law. That makes him the main character. He acts to refuse making king Henry VIII the head of England church in the act of supremacy. Sir Thomas character shows his unable to save his own life by sacrifice his morals. He tries not to become a martyr by refusing to speak against the act of supremacy and by not writing anything against or a reason of the act.

The Duke of Norfolk

Norfolk is More’s friend. Cromwell ultimately asks Norfolk to betray his friendship with More. He looked almost innocent compared to Cromwell. But he continually tried to get Thomas to save himself and it’s impossible for More to do that.

Thomas Cromwell

Is a lawyer who acts against More in an evil nature but seemed to have no sense of guilt or shame. Cromewell performs his required tasks with relish.

King Henry VIII

Having Henry some of his unconscious actions but he is a man of conscience. He cares about making a moral action and greatly cares what More thinks of him as a moral person. Having More accepting what Henry is makes him a moral man.


Well-educated Sir Thomas More’s daughter. She marries the man she loves, William Roper. Margaret tends to show that she understands her father than any others and questions him for his actions.

William Roper

Margaret’s Husband with an anti-Catholic in part of the play, but then becomes a Catholic like his wife is. Roper shows his high-minded ideals as Mores. His scenes shows taking a public stance of issues rather keeping it to himself unlike More.

Cardinal Wolsey

Is the Lord Chancellor of England who was a powerful character of Henry who dies suddenly following his inability to obtain a dispensation which could annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine and Marry Anne. Wolsey also caused disquiet among the commoners. They did not like to pay the taxes that he caused to be levied. They also looked askance at his luxurious lifestyle.

Alice More

Is More’s wife who doesn’t want to learn and doesn’t understands why More won’t do as the King wants. Her attitude is kind of conflicted from anger to confusion. But at the end she accepts his reasons saying that ”God knows why” More must die is good enough for her without understanding the reasons of this.


Who served the King even when what he was asked to do revolted him.

Richard Rich

Rich who seeks to gain employment but because he is the opposite of More, More denies this and prefer him as a teacher. Instead, Rich goes and work for Norfolk. He read Machiavelli’s writings and seemed to use them as a guide to how to act. He is the type of person likely to prosper during the reign of King Henry VIII and acts as his fortunes rise at the same time that More loses favor with the king and the king’s men. Mainly he sacrifices his moral and principle standards for wealth.


A man who had two faces of his political agenda masked with interest in religion. He was a Spanish ambassador to English worked for king of Spain who supported Catherine’s rights and privileges. He tried to assure that the divorce of Catherine and Henry wouldn’t work because this might damage Catherine.


The movie A Man for All Seasons is about the divorce and remarry of King Henry VII. It is showing Thomas More’s view on the divorce and how the king reacts to this. He married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon from Spain. This marriage was made to form a more solid alliance between Spain and England. The Pope completed a dispensation to okay the marriage. For sixteen years, King Henry VII and Catherine tried to produce a male heir to the throne. Unluckily, Henry and Catherine had no success in their efforts to produce a male heir. Catherine did bear male children, but they were unhealthy sons that were either stillborn or died shortly after birth. The King grew tired of trying to produce a male heir to the throne through Catherine and soon became interested in a very fertile Ann Boleyn. King Henry VIII is no longer satisfied with his wife Catherine. He wants to dump her and marry Anne, but the Catholic Church won’t let him.

Henry makes himself the spiritual as well as political sovereign of England. The bishops of England in convocation give their consent to the act of Parliament making Henry head of the Church in England, whereupon More resigns from the king’s service, hoping that he will be left to retire into private life. More voices no opinion regarding the king’s actions, but his silence is taken as a personal rebuke. So he has begun spreading the word that his marriage is not valid in the eyes of God anyway, citing a Bible verse that makes it wrong to marry your brother’s widow, which Catherine was. Henry claimed that he believed that his punishment for marrying Catherine was that she could bear no healthy male heir. When Cardinal Wolsey died, Henry appointed Sir Thomas More as Lord Chancellor of England. When Pope Clement VII refused to back the divorce, Henry declared war on the Church which means he is free to start his own church. Sir Thomas More later resigns his position because of disagreements between him and the King over the issue of his divorce. Henry and Thomas Cromwell, the King’s confidante, set up legislation to weaken the authority of the Catholic Church in England after the Pope refused his request for the annulment of his marriage with Catherine.

This led to the Henry’s excommunication from the Catholic Church. Henry then created the Act of Supremacy, which stated that he was the head of the Church of England. Parliament passed an act to follow the Act of Supremacy requiring that all the King’s subjects swear an oath to the Kings supremacy in England over the Church and to the legality of his divorce and remarriage. In time Cromwell and his opportunistic aide, Richard Rich, make false accusations against More, and he is called to answer the charge of high treason. Found guilty, he freely avows his belief that the king’s actions are repugnant to the law of God. At peace, he goes to his death on the block.


Values and morals are often installed in people as they grow up, but the extent to which people choose to follow these principles can be swayed by personal and selfish desires. In the film of a man for all seasons, we conclude that being true to yourself is a virtue but sometimes it may destroy like what happened to Thomas More who was wise, honest and a well respected man to himself. Unlike King Henry VIII, Common Man and Richard Rich who chose to sell their integrity for their own sake to achieve their goals. Because Mores morals, religion, principles, integrity and his true intentions of other characters and their true morals which are hidden. Thomas More was given a silver goblet as a bribe which he refused. This showed how honest and aware More is. More used to look for his inside strength. He was not only a friend or a lover but also a teacher. Strongly he was relying on his own conscience through tests and guides and through the examples set from him. More was teaching and guiding others to do the same thing. But as a result, his instructive instrinct resulted in relationships that are not heartfelt. It also showed that More’s self-reliance wasn’t completely incompatible with friendship and love.

Thomas More faced choices were we make are ultimately affected by different factors

such as religion, morals, upbringing, society, and environment, ignoring any of these factors to make the choice which would be a violation of self-respect and remain loyal to oneself by following one’s correct decision . 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. Thomas More was perceived to make a silent attack on the Throne where his war was to protest the unlawful marriage between King Henry and Anne which is rooted with morals and in Christian beliefs. The refusal to accept the divorce between Henry and Catherine allowed problems to occurred but More’s decision remained the same.

A Man for all seasons had clearly stated that More had strong religious beliefs when he quarrels with Roper over the marriage of Margaret, More’s daughter. More wants hie daughter to marry inside the church but because Roper’s heretical views he doesn’t allow this to happen. Roper’s Lutheran outlook seems to be a source of friction because of More’s strong Christian beliefs or will not change, however he expects those around him to modify their views. More will not negotiate his views because to compromise is to show weakness in one’s outlook and in turn give in. He wants to be protected under the law. He wants to find a way behind the law for his own sake of safety. He clearly was expecting something with his knowledge of law that he is able to find a way to have the oath and still have a conscience.

More says “The law requires more than an assumption; the law requires a fact.” 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 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 Announcing his views to the public will 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. He kept silent, as his silence was seen as disapproval. More’s lack of vocal elaboration was so that he could be given the benefit of the doubt under the law. More never changed his stance on the matter. Looking to this, More wanted to protect himself and his family so he chose not to disclose his agenda even with them. More’s silence has even spread widely; More did not waver or modify his position. He remained steadfast in his beliefs, on the situation that had plagued England, regarding the divorce. He was named as ” A man for all seasons” because he remained on his beliefs, his family and country.

In the beginning, More at first scolds Rich for pleading him to become a courtier. More rebuffs him and says that the Court is a corrupt place and he should be a teacher. Teaching is generally held as a noble job because it is selfless while a courtier or politician is seen as a selfish occupation. Every courtier in King Henry’s court wanted to advance as it meant more power and more money. However Rich disobeys More, and goes to court and caught Cromwell’s attention. Cromwell decides to elevate Rich as he saw him as a pawn to use in the eventual downfall of More. Also self-interest could also be applied to Wolsey and the Duke of Norfolk. Wolsey admonishes More for not supporting the divorce of Henry and Catherine. Wolsey supporting the divorce and the act was a way to please Henry VIII and a gesture of sucking up so that he can retain his position of power. On the other hand, Norfolk much like Wolsey submits to Henry’s whims because he wants to keep his position even though he is a friend of More. They ignore and surrender their morals, which brings them material rewards equating to success.

On the other hand, selfish characters such as Richard Rich only wanted their advancement in society is seen as successful as he is elevated into a courtier and he brings about the destruction of More. Guilt was clearly shown in the characters of Rich, Norfolk, Mathew and even More himself. Rich was constantly suffered because of his guilt but yet he resisted the attempt to solve and improve his own principles, conscience and the expense of others showed by Bolt. Common Man in a specific level felt guilty when More showed affection for him. As the jailer, the Common Man has a conscious understanding of his guilt and assuages his guilty conscience by convincing himself that it would be futile to set More free. Looking at Norfolk, he had the sense of guilt when he said to More of Cromwell’s plot and his own association with it. About More, he showed guilt when he realized that he had to go with his family to the chopping block. More seemed to get rid of his guilt by refusing to take the tainted goblet as a bribe.

In my opinion, it is an individual’s own law and law enforcer, which continually balances and checks his thinking and his thoughts and guides him to act in accordance with his own beliefs and principles. When a person or a public officially abandons his conscience, he tend to betray his own integrity and honor and also betrays the nation’s trust in his moral capabilities leading them into following his corrupt decisions. More took care of 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. More was willing and thinking to sacrifice himself for his beliefs, principles and faith, it was clear in the video. An individual or a person such More who has the choice to make the right choices and have a strong convictions had a quality which was really admired and loved. 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. As More was executed, he was seen as a failure who has his symbol of integrity. He kept a clear conscience by not telling the Act of Succession which submits that Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne was Lawful and their children are stated as his legitimate heirs. More didn’t support this because he submitted the marriage of Henry and Catherine as lawful despite what Henry thought. So, he denied and refused to take the oath because this would make his conscience upset and was scared of being damned for eternity.

More kept silent. He thought that if he maintained that if he didn’t speak his opinion and thoughts of his disapproval of the divorce then, his silence will connote consent not dissent according to the Bible. Silence was used by More for his own advantage to avoid incriminate himself that will resemble invoking the fifth amendment in U.S court of law. Plus, more was protecting his family by staying silence and disparages Roper who clamors about ideals. More didn’t criticize Norfolk until he was sure that Norfolk was criticized. More preferred to listen to his conscience instead. Cromewell argued More’s silent, but Common Man remained silent when they couldn’t tell More about the plot against him. As a result of this he committed treason under the act and was punished with death.


Henry VIII was fighting for his kingship of his heirs by implementing English law against papal law. So, Henry VIII recruits a lawyer named Sir Thomas More who has unimpeachable religious devotion with the legal matters in hand, as self-declared head of England Church, Henry wanted More’s support in order to quell the objections of Yorkish and other nobles who refused his request. Because Henry was the second Tudor to rule, he felt that he needed a son to rule his family’s claim to the throne. But under the English law, a child form Henry was considered as an indirect line to ascend to the throne. Legal interpretation, English law and law making is connected with god’s law as regarding to A man for all seasons film.

Legality would state peace among nobles in the case where families in Yokshire of the defeated noble and Northumberland wanted an excuse against a king they wished to depose. Not content merely to have Parliament decree an Act of Supremacy making himself sovereign of both Church and State in England. Henry demanded that his followers pledge an oath supporting the Act. , “An oath is made of words. It may be possible to take it. Or avoid it” said More to William Roper. More tried to find a legal loophole in the oath. But a failure was resulted in order to take the oath. That’s why more remained silent. Being silent is always legally interpreted as long as either he gives his reasons or denies the oath according to English law.

To avoid treason, the King must legally assume his assent but he didn’t. Cromwell displayed patriotism saying “What Englishman can behold without Awe, The Canvas and the Rigging of the Law!” Richard then defines English law through perjury and sends an innocent man to death. The theme of law and abuse where are ironically foregrounded in the penultimate scene of a man for all seasons.


In 1966, in these times, and unlike today, church seemed much more interested in money, strength and power rather than teaching people about morals, law, God, principles, Christ, spiritual aspects of Church and what’s right and what’s wrong. This resulted in innocent people death and wrong actions in the Church. Such actions like bribe and selling of indulgences where people pay money to comit a sin and reading the Scriptures only in Latin for people not to understand what is really going on. As a result of this, churchmen such as Wolsey became rich and powerful for only him thinking of wealth and not having interest in the church spiritual values. (Sitemeter, 2009)

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