• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.


Practice Essay (AMFAS: Character - Sir Thomas More) by Belinda Fitzpatrick

Page history last edited by pbworks 4 years, 11 months ago

‘Sir Thomas More is not the only “man for all seasons” in the play’. To what extent do you agree?




 Robert Bolt, in the play A Man for all Seasons, presents his protagonist, as the ultimate man of conscience. However, More is not the only character who constantly and unwaveringly stays true to themselves. Although, he is the character that epitomizes moral uprightness, his antagonist Cromwell does abide, at all times, to his conscience- he is morally strong, but simply holds different morals to Sir Thomas More. Cromwell does not once question his principles, throughout the course of the play it is therefore shown that although not a good man, he is a man of his scruples. Similarly, More, even when faced with death, does not become a traitor to himself.



Bolt positions Sir Thomas More as both a “saint” and a man of principles. Early on in the play, More establishes the existence of his “moral squint” through his actions. He constantly refuses to bow to pressure and ignore these principles, even when the great power of the time- King Henry VIII- declares he will have “no opposition”. He is known to be “honest” and thus, Henry and his henchmen persistently seek his public approval of their doings. To begin with, Henry asks for More to approve of the “desire of [his] heart” and acknowledge his marriage as null. More decides that he cannot, as there was a “little area…where [hem] must rule [himself]”. Although left to his “silence” for some time, and promoted to Lord Chancellor, the protagonist of the play still lives in fear. This trepidation becomes real, when once again More is seeked out, this time for the signing of the Act of Supremacy. Once more, he remains silent but this is viewed as dissent of the Act and was said to be “bellowing up and down Europe”. This directly leads to Sir Thomas More’s imprisonment and eventual death. Before this, though, More’s beloved daughter begs him to “say the words of the oath and in [his] heart think otherwise”, but still he refuses. Bolt’s lead character is a man of strict moral righteousness, he never once wavered, which leads to his fall from grace and untimely death.



In this position, as a man of virtue, More stands alone in the play. Surrounded by a cast of seemingly weak and base characters, More’s morality is even more obvious. Such characters as Richard Rich and the Common Man demonstrate how most normal individuals will be guided by their needs, not their consciences. Common Man displays this best as the character, Matthew, whom was More’s steward. For “more than [he] earn in a fortnight”, Matthew betrays his master by delving information to Chapuys, Rich and Cromwell. Although, it is true this information is only “common knowledge” it still reveals that this character will do the wrong thing for a small sum of money. Similarly, Richard Rich betrays Thomas More- but to an even greater degree. Rich’s desire for wealth and fame is established early on in the play when he decides to “risk” taking an Italian Cup from More- even after being told it was a bribe. This character flaw is known to More who advises Rich to become a “teacher” and go somewhere he will not be “tempted”. However, Rich does not list to More, and instead ends up becoming Cromwell’s right-hand man. He does so for a position of power and money, but in doing so he loses his “innocence” and becomes entwined in the plot to ruin More. It is evident that Rich does not stay true to his principles- he chooses to commit perjury (an act that led directly to Sir Thomas More being beheaded) so to ensure that he maintains a position of superiority. Another character, the Duke of Norfolk, also forsakes his beliefs so to avoid persecution. Norfolk accepts the actions of Henry VIII even though he does not approve them, he also tries to persuade More to do the same for “fellowship”. His “price” is safety, for which he accepts to suffer the guilt of knowing that he had not abided by his heart. A Man for all Seasons is littered with characters that have shaky moral standings. Each of them betrays themselves and others for some personal treasure, and further demonstrates the goodness of the protagonist.



Nevertheless, the character of Cromwell has as firm a set of principles as More does himself. Cromwell, the antagonist of the play, is often illustrated as being somewhat of a “devil”. His unpopularity in society is made unequivocal when Alice declares that Rich would be “the only man in London” to like Cromwell. At the end of Act One, he is even displayed a narcissist when he seizes Rich’s hand and “holds [it] in the candle flame”. This instantly sets Cromwell up as a character of little morals. However, through his consistent behavior it is obvious that Cromwell is a man of morals- but not of good ones. The audience is made aware that Cromwell believes that one must obey his leader, which is shown when he states “when the king wants something done. I do it”. While other characters do the King’s biding with a constant sense of guilt, Cromwell carries about his duties with no nagging feelings of wrongness. This is as much governed by his loyalty to the King as it is by his ambitiousness. Cromwell is even described by the King as a “Jackal”. Still, Cromwell does not once waver in what he believes is, perhaps not right, but necessary- unlike the majority of other major characters in the play. It is clear that Cromwell does hold morals, just not those of Sir Thomas More. While, More holds morals that epitomizes goodness, Cromwell holds ones that are dictated by his evil nature. But, whatever his morals may be, Cromwell still manages to stay true to them throughout the play.



To be a ‘man for all seasons’ one must remain true to themselves, no matter the consequences. It is unarguable that More perfectly encapsulates such a person in the play, while others like Rich and Norfolk, fail to withstand pressure. Most surprisingly, nonetheless, is that More is not alone in this position. Another character, the nemesis Cromwell, also could be considered such a man. He steadfastly does what he feels he should- not what others do- and although clearly corrupt, it is indisputable that Cromwell did hold his own, unique, set of ‘morals’. Thus it can be said that both Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell represent, in their own personal way, a “man for all seasons”- it’s just that one of these men was noble, and the other evil.


Front Page


AMFAS Home Page


hospedagem de sites

Comments (2)

Belinda Fitzpatrick said

at 3:08 pm on Mar 10, 2009

the paragraphs didn't seperate....Ms. Sinclair commented that I needed to add more on Bolt's views and the impact certain aspects of the play have on the audience :)

William Walsh said

at 3:24 pm on Mar 10, 2009

Awesome Belinda, good job. You might need to review comma usage at the end of the second last paragraph, but...

You don't have permission to comment on this page.