A "Man for All Seasons" is about a man so subtle and saintly that an actor
who takes on the role must be able to project an almost superhuman presence. As is evident, the
story is based on the life of Sir Thomas More, man of God and chancellor to the court of Henry
VIII. The year is 1530 and from what I know, actors in this movie typically wear transparent
half-masks and double up on roles.
More was the only member of Henry
VIII's government who would not be
seduced or corrupted by Henry's threats. When the king asked More to sign an oath establishing
the monarchy as head of the Church of England, More refused. He could not alter the law, he
said. As the play progresses and More loses his wealth and even his freedom, he becomes almost
self-righteous in his strict adherence to the law. Exasperating, but he must remain sympathetic as
his family goes down
with him into grief and poverty. The man who plays him must show both
his affectionate disposition and his unshakable piety or the script would be just an exercise in
What I saw from the story was how the wheels turn in More's mind, the glow
of warmth and the bleakness of despair that flicker across his face. It is not enough to paint him
as a man. He must be a man among grovelers and syncophants, a towering presence. A man for
, in other words.
In most cases, I am compelled to say that one probably would not be able to
successfully preserve their integrity in a situation such as Thomas More's. But in response to the
question of whether or not a man can reasonably hope to do so, I believe that More's behavioral
response exemplifies a positive confirmation of such.
Even if it could not be reasonably expected for a man to maintain his integrity when
consistently faced with such a dilemma, it would probably be asserted that such was
understandable. Somewhat indirectly, this case reminds me of Aristotelian and Platonic
discussions of virtue and the nature of man. Some philosophers would probably insist that man
would inherentlysubmit to the security of himself and his family but it is evident to me that this
case proves otherwise.
Essentially, More's dilemma is one that we have been faced with in our studies
throughout the semester's duration. His exemplary tenacity is overwhelming and his resilience is
remarkable. Plato's Republic briefly covers similar situations and seems to expect similar results.
In my opinion, it can be concluded and generally agreed upon that Thomas More (as depicted in
the movie), although arguably exceptional, was indeed characteristic of a virtuous/righteous man.