Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons

Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons"

In the play, written by Robert Bolt, 'A man for all seasons' the

Common Man is a very important character and also a very important

part of the play, not in the plot but in the way the play has been

presented, he is both a narrator and a role player who makes the play

more interesting and separates it from reality. The Common Man also

introduces some of the ideas from Bertolt Brecht's work. The idea of

the Common Man is a rare and rather unusual one. Robert Bolt used him

intentionally to be like no other character in his play.

One of the distinctive functions of the Common Man is obvious from his

name. The word, 'common' meaning, 'common to us all.' Everybody in the

audience should be able to relate to him. The Common Man plays a very

plain and simple man and he sustains this through all his roles,

especially the Boatman, who when asked to describe the life of a

boatman says, 'its common.' We see the boatman as a typical hard

working man as he talks about the strains of his job, 'from Richmond

to Chelsea, downstream, from Chelsea to Richmond, upstream..' Yet this

character is still able to make a joke about his wife to show that he

is not bitter. The boatman is also the first to introduce the motif of

the river, water imagery in the play. This involves the members of the

play using the characteristics of water and portraying them into their

own lives, an example being society figures as dry land.

Throughout all the roles played by the Common Man, including the

Steward, Boatman, Publican, Jailer, Foreman of the jury and a

Headsman, he will always express a similar attitude, the attitude of

the 'plain and simple man,' as the jailer says. The speech used

amongst ...

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... shows self-preservation at one point and a way in which

he is not so simple and ordinary, when he declines the bribe, where as

a simple man might have just taken the money, The Common Man

understands the wrong and refuses the money. During his role as the

Foreman of the Jury, The Common Man seems to bring all the roles

together I think a quote that very well sums up the Common Man is when

the jailer says, 'Better alive and no conscience, than dead with


But I think the Common Man's most major function in the play is his

part as narrator, if it wasn't for the Common Man the story would be

told alone just by the characters, this could mean the story might be

harder to understand as it goes along. Furthermore the story would be

less interesting as well as harder to grasp. The Common Man is a very

important part of the play 'A man for all seasons.'
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