A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt

A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt

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ACT 1, SCENE 1
Conversation between Thomas More and Richard Rich.

RICH: Well there! 'A friend of Sir Thomas and still no office? There must be something wrong with him.'
MORE: I thought we said friendship...The Dean of St Paul's offers you a post; with a house, a servant and fifty pounds a year.
......................
RICH: It's hard.
MORE (grimly): Be a teacher.

This conversation, as well as the previous one, sets up the contrast between Sir Thomas More and Richard Rich which is prevalent throughout the entire play.
In this opening scene, Rich and More argue over whether or not anyone can be bought. While Rich believes "every man has his price", More refuses to agree
with the notion that everybody could succumb to the temptations of status, power, wealth and women, or the notion of suffering. Rich means to say that men
want to avoid suffering and are therefore attracted to the possibility of escape, and More instantly recognises this idea as one of Machaevelli's. As Machaevelli
is historically understood to have written on the government, and how putting political appropriateness above ethical issues and morality was the sensible
approach to be taken in aquiring status, Rich's corruptibility and the suppression of his conscience is foreshadowed in that Machaevelli's theories both interest
and attract him. More warns Rich of the temptation involved in aquiring a high-ranking job, and offers him an Italian silver cup. The silver cup symbolises More's
attempt to test and teach Rich, and is significant throughout the play as it represents the commencement of Rich's corruptibilty, which eventually escalates into
much more evil and immoral actions later on. The cup also represents the differences in principles and morailty between More and Rich. While More's principles
don't allow him to keep such a "contaminated" object, Rich jumps at the chance of receiving something so valuable for free.

In between this opening conversation with More and the next important step in Rich's complete loss of innocence, and More's own demise, a number of
changes occur in character relationships. Rich and Cromwell's relationship becomes closer and more valuable. More recognises this and assumes Rich no
longer requires More's assistance in aquiring employment. Rich objects to this, claiming he would rather work with More than Cromwell, however More again
refuses Rich a job as he is certain Rich is untrustworthy and to an extent, dangerous. This is obvious in that while More points out to Norfolk that Rich is in
search of employment, he does not "recommend" him.

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Matthew (More's servant and one representation of the common man), also predicts that Rich will
amount to nothing, but as we see later on, Rich's deception and lack of morality and principles ultimately, and ironically, gets him everything he ever wanted.
More talks to Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor, who tries to convince him to approve of King Henry's divorce, but More believes the divorce is unacceptable
without the Pope's consent. Despite Wolsey's warnings of consequences associated with disapproval, More refuses to set aside his beliefs and conform,
giving a clear insight into his belief in staying true to ones self and not conforming to something you don't agree with out of fear. This persona of More
foreshadows his stance on events that come later in the play. More also refuses to allow Roper to marry his daughter Margaret due to Roper's dynamic
religious beliefs, labelling him a heretic, and disapproving of his inability to stay true to the English Church. Rich becomes Norfolk's secretary and librarian, and
Cromwell undermines him for this. Rich admits he isn't really friends with More anymore, which explains why he hasn't yet aquired a better job. However, when
Cromwell offers him employment he declines, showing that he isn't ready to become a walking representation of Machaevelli's theories yet, but later bribes
Matthew for information on More which undermines his morality once again. Chapuys and Cromwell also bribe Matthew for information, which shows how most
of the characters are immoral (especially contrasted to More) and highlights the difficulty More will face in his newly appointed position as Lord Chancellor.
After deceiving More, Rich attempts to convince More to give him a job once again by telling him of Chapuys and Cromwells bribery towards Matthew. More
refuses again and Rich's violent behaviour and badgering spark fright in More's family, who try to convice More to have Rich arrested. More believes the idea
of this is infallible because Rich has not broken the law. King Henry visits More personally in an attempt to receive his approval, as the approval of a man with
such an honest and moral reputation would be sure to make the King feel moral as well. However More is unable to discard his conscience, telling the King:
"This is my right arm. Take your dagger and saw it from my shoulder, and I will laugh and be thankful, if by that means I can come with Your Grace with a clear
conscience". Once again he is portrayed as a man of irrefutable morality, in that he won't approve of something he believes is wrong by the law, or
unacceptable by God.

CROMWELL: ...Well, congratulations!
.............
RICH: ....You enjoyed it!

In this Dialogue between Rich and Cromwell at The Loyal Subject, Cromwell bribes Rich with the position of "Collector of Revenues for York" in return for
information. Rich is subtly coerced into admitting he will be bought, which pleases Cromwell in that he was relying on Rich's corruptibility for information on
More. Cromwell seeks Rich's help in making the King's divorce "convenient", and despite Rich's "laments" over his own corruptibility, he informs Cromwell of the
bribe More once received. Cromwell believes More will change his stance on the King's divorce, but Rich objects, saying More will not be easily frightened.
While Rich represents how one can sacrifice their own moral conscience in the face of gain, Cromwell appears to have nothing to gain, which makes him
appear more evil in that he is trying to bring More down for the sake of it. Guilt is a recurring theme throughout the play, and is strongly exemplified in this extract
as despite Rich's own guilt, he easily succumbs to the temptation Cromwell offers to him, revealing his pathetic character traits which were first brought to light
in the opening scene.

Between Rich's ultimate betrayal of More, and complete transformation to a representative of Machaevelli's theories, several events occur. Act two opens,
which is two years later than the previous Act. The Act of Supremacy has been passed, which states that King Henry VIII is now the head of the Church of
England. Staying true to his religious beliefs, More is unable to continue in his position as Lord Chancellor due to his belief that the King is attacking the Church
of England. His disapproval of the King's actions force him to resign in order to keep his moral conscience, as he can't be so closely connected to someone he
sees as having no conscience, let alone work for them. Cromwell intends to use the information he gained from Rich in order to blackmail More into recognising
the King as the head of the English Church, and consenting to the King's divorce. The next time we see Rich is when Cromwell questions More about his stance
on the issues regarding the King, and Rich notes what it said. However, while the knowledge that the King isn't pleased with More's actions, and the many
attempts from everyone (even his family) to make him sign the Act of Succession unsettle More, he will not sacrifice his self for anything. More takes notice of
Rich's fancy clothes, which represent Rich's gradual rise through position and status in society. It is now clear that the contrast in Rich's and More's ascent and
descent are simultaneous with Rich's lack of regard concerning moral principles, and More's refusal to ignore his moral principles and conscience. More is
eventually taken to prison for refusing to agree to The Act of Succession, which deems the King's first marriage (to Catherine) invalid, while confirming that
Queen Anne's children are the heirs to the throne. More feels he will be condemned to hell if he is to approve, and while his death has been forshadowed, the
play argues that his sacrifice of life is nothing compared to the other characters who sacrifice themselves and their consciences. As More's family comes to
the Tower of London to see him, his love for them is highlighted, while his absolute love for God is further highlighted in that he is willing to sacrifice a happy life
with his family who he loves so much in order to serve God, and protect what he believes to be right.

CROMWELL (backs away. His face stiff with malevolence): My lords, I wish to call (raise voice) Sir Richard Rich!
.....
NORFOLK: Prisoner at the bar, you have been found guilty on the charge of High Treason. The sentence of the court is that you shall be taken from the Court to
the Tower, thence to the place of execution, and there your head shall be stricken from your body, and may God have mercy on your soul!

Prior to this extract (during More's trial in which he is being charged with high treason), Cromwell attempts to convince the jury that More's silence regarding the
King can be interpreted as nothing but disapproval. More once again refuses to take the Act of Succession, as he sees taking the oath as lying to God, which
would be sacrificing his self. Rich is called to the stand, and claims he heard More say "Parliament has not the competence" to declare Henry VIII the head of the
Church of England. More denies this, and tells the court there were two other people present during the conversation with Rich, but Cromwell undercuts this by
saying they could not be at the trial and heard nothing anyway. Ultimately, More's attempts to teach Rich were futile and unsuccessful, as Rich's actions directly
led to More's death. When More realises his fate, he publicly denounces the Act of Supremacy and while he considers himself loyal to King Henry, he
understands his premature death is because he refused to recognise the King's marriage to Anne Boleyn. More also realises Rich has a new chain of office,
and mildly scolds him: "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for Wales?". Rich's transformation to everything More ever
despised is completed with his perjury. Ironically, More's own refusal to perjure himself led to his death, while Rich's willingness led to his financial and social
prosperity.
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