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A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt

‘A Man for All Seasons’ is a play written by Robert Bolt, previously for BBC Radio in 1954 before revising it on stage. It was premiered on the 1st of July 1960 at the Global Theatre in London.

The story begins when Sir Thomas More, a scholar and a statesman, advises Richard Rich to be a teacher instead of striving to be affluent but he fails. He then gives Rich an Italian cup that was given to him by a lady he reviewed. It was given as a bribe and he did not realise it until after receiving it and decides not to keep it. At the same period, King Henry VIII wishes to divorce and remarry since Queen Catherine did not give birth to a male heir. More objects to this but holds his peace. Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England, writes a letter to Pope to dissolve the King’s marriage and More reviews it. More makes it clear that the Pope made an exemption once when he agreed to the marriage of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragorn because she was the widow of King Henry’s brother. Wolsey recommends More to be more practical and less moralistic.

After discussing with Wolsey, More meets Thomas Cromwell, the Cardinal’s secretary and Signor Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador to England. Chapuys interprets More’s evasive reply to the Cardinal as a disagreement to the divorce and informs More that if the King Henry insults Queen Catherine, it will be taken as an insult to the King of Spain for Catherine is the aunt of the King. More goes home to find Roper -his daughter, Margaret’s Lutheran boyfriend- visiting Margaret and asking her hand in marriage. More tells him that as long as he is a heretic, there is no way he will marry Margaret. Meanwhile, Wolsey dies in disgrace when he fails to secure an exemption to dissolve King Henry’s ma...

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...nnot do any further damage to More than lifelong imprisonment as long as More remains silent. Cromwell confiscates More’s books but allows his family to pay him a visit by making Margaret take an oath to convince her father to change his mind. More does not relent and Alice finally sympathises her husband. They reconcile and depart when the jailer insists that the time is up for the visit.

Cromwell grants Rich the position of Attorney General of Wales in exchange for a false testimony. Despite More always holding his peace, Rich claims that he has heard More deny the authority of the king over the church. More is sentenced to death but he finally states his disapproval of the Act of Supremacy and discontent that the government will execute a man for his silence. More is unruffled and goes to death with dignity. The play ends with the beheading of Sir Thomas More.

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