A Man For All Seasons is a play written by Robert Bolt about the life story of Sir Thomas More from the 16th century. Bolt portrays More, the protagonist of the play, as an individual who gave his life up only because he was true to his own commitment to his conscience. He would not try to change the right or what is in God’s hand. What made the play all the more interesting is that Bolt himself was not very religious of a man. Yet, he wrote this emotion charged play sketching the beauty of belief upon God and life. The narrative from the perspective of The Common Man. The audience sees him only when he comes across other characters or plays the role of the lower-class characters.
The story starts with a friendly conversation between More and Richard Rich, a low-level functionary. Rich asks More to help him get employed. More suggests him to become a teacher rather than taking a high-ranking political position because of all the bribery involved. Not very long after this, More gets called by Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor of England, to have an important discussion with him. King Henry VIII was planning on divorcing his current wife, Catherine to father a male heir. More did not want to get involved in this and was hoping that the Chancellor would leave him out of this. So he remained silent. Yet, during the meeting with Wolsey, he asked More to review the letter of approval for Henry’s divorce. This letter was being written to the Pope in Rome. More explains that the only reason the Pope granted Henry to marry Catherine in the first place is because she was the widow of Henry’s brother. It was an exception that the Pope made. More further mentioned that he was uncertain if the Pope would make another exception and grant him the permission to divorce her. His opinion caused Wolsey to be frictional and direct More to not be so righteous all the time and be more of a rational thinker.
Soon after this mismatching conversation with Wolsey, More came across Thomas Cromwell, the King’s confidante. Seeing More, Cromwell could not hold back his fake adoration out of sheer deceptiveness. Later on, More also ran into Signor Chapyus, who was the Spanish ambassador to England. Chapyus was very loyal to his country. As Catherine is the aunt of the King of Spain, he was very overwrought. He did not want Henry to offend her in any way whatsoever. Chapyus himself had a character based on Christian morals and Catholic dogma. He was aware of More’s disagreement on Henry’s divorce. Thus, in an unspoken manner Chapyus found an ally in More.
More had a daughter, Margaret and she was romantically linked with Roper who was a Lutheran. It was late hours, but even so Roper decided to visit her place and make an offer of marriage to her father. More,however, strictly refused since he did not want his family to get related to someone like him.
In the meanwhile, Wolsey breathed his last. The position of Lord Chancellor became vacant. Henry was not very pleased with Wolsey. He needed Wolsey to gain him the dispensation from the Pope about his divorce with Catherine. However, he failed and got arrested before his death. Besides, More became the Lord Chancellor as the replacement. Soon after, everyone was trying to know More’s opinion regarding Henry’s divorce.
Later in the story, Cormwell meets Rich, who persuaded him to give away any and every information about More. Cromwell offered him an opportunity to thrive in his career. Rich complied even though More helped him with a silver cup. More received this silver cup as a bribe, unknown to the fact that it was a bribe. In the meanwhile, Rich and Cormwell were also companied by Chapyus. They came across More’s manservant, Matthew (The Common Man who was narrating) who entered the same room as them. They tried convincing him by offering to bribe him in exchange for information about More. He mentioned all the already known facts about him but they bribed him regardless.
More lived in Chelsea, London and the king has decided to pay More’s home a visit but when he took the boat ride down the streams of Thames and reached there More was not there. He was at his evening prayer. When he finally met More and the topic was raised More honestly replied. However, the king previously promised More that he will not be bothered about this again. Later, Henry turned furious and before leaving he tells More that he will not be brought into account if he remains silent regarding his disapproval. In the meanwhile, More’s wife Alice was also angry because of his response to the matter and she wanted him to agree with whatever the king had to say. Following the occurrences, Rich met More informing him about Cormwell and Chapyus trying to gather information about him. He again tries asking More to help him get a job but More, annoyed, does not continue the conversation. But then later on when Rich met Cormwell once more, was offered a job because he shared the information about the silver cup with him even after we was not proud about it.
In the meanwhile, Henry was appointed as the Head of the Church of England which was passed by the parliament. This needed everyone to submit themselves to nobody but the king. It was the Act of Supremacy and More was very strict about his decision that he was not to submit himself to the king and on top of that he declared that he would resign from the post of Lord Chancellor if the bishops supported this act. He had his own reasons which he shared with not even his closest wife and daughter because he did not want them to be testified later on.
Henry wanted to victimize More and Cormwell being the person who does everything and anything the king needs done, tried persuading the Duke of Norfolk to persecute More with bribery charges. However, More did give it away to Rich right after he figured out that it was a bribe and that was the proof the Duke gave, further adding to the fact that More cannot be persecuted due to this. Cormwell commences to think of other ways to victimize More and tells the Duke to support the king with his demand of More’s persecution.
More was called to Cormwell’s office where he reads out a letter to More from the king where he deliberately called More a ‘villain’ and that left more appalled. Before the reading out of the letter, More was accused of two things, both of which More denied straightaway. When More came across the Duke of Norfolk, more asked him to stop being friends with him if he is in favor of the king and his decisions. He also mentioned, with a bit of sneering that it was dangerous to be friends with someone like himself.
Soon after More was in jail for he refused to take the oath after the parliament passed another act to take the oath to King Henry’s Supremacy and to validate his divorce which will be followed by him marrying again. More was against both of these decisions being taken.
Many a time he was tried to be convinced and misled into taking the oath but he was very strict. Cormwell could only have him locked up in jail but it was not possible to have him executed. He allowed his family to visit him so that they could put some sense into him. When Margaret met her father she tried telling him that he has everything within his bounds of possibility but More was only refusing to listen to anything that conflicted his morals. Previously angry, Alice, More’s wife meets him and be compassionate toward her husband. The moment was emotional, with each of them on the other of the jail they shared a moment of love and care. The jailer (the narrator and The Common Man) requested Alice to leave after a while since the visiting hours were over.
Rich, hungry for the position of the office attorney for Wales helped Cormwell prepare a false testimony at More’s trial. He claimed that More denied King’s authority over the charger and it was something More never did. More kept quiet the whole time and uttered nothing. The play came to end with this virtuous man, who was driven by his morals, and had his heart was filled with dignity, being beheaded.