A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt Essay
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When looking at the play, A Man for All Seasons, Richard Rich lied, cheated, deceived, hurt close friends and committed perjury to obtain his goal. He went from Attorney General of Wales to the Solicitor General, to the Secretary for Norfolk and finally to the Chancellor of England. Sir Thomas More, was very selfish towards achieving his own personal goals. He believed that if he went about everything the way God would have done it that he would reach heaven.
In this process he managed to hurt his wife Alice, his daughter Margaret, and put his friends in awful positions.
When every aspect is considered Sir Thomas More, evidently wanted eternal salvation and only really truly cared about him self. King Henry VIII was a man of power and intimidation. He did not let anything stand in his way. Cardinal Wolsey, was executed because he put up resistance toward the King, along with Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More. Any individual that caused a ripple in his path was executed. “Henry VIII, started with everything and squandered it all…” (Bolt, vii). Henry VIII wants an heir for his thrown and no matter how many women he has to marry then divorce to get it that is his primary intention.
Richard Rich, Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII all use reprehensible means, which harm others in order to achieve their own personal goals and in the end are never justified.
Sir Thomas More does not justify the pain and suffering he causes by trying to live a glorious life that will put him in heaven. More has a one-track mind. With this, his beliefs and values are very strong towards the way of God and the right and the wrong; but his actions are very self centered and selfish. When More, was asked his opinion on the matter of King Henry’s divorce he replied, “…As I think of it I see so clearly that I can not come with Your Grace that my endeavor is not to think of it at all….There 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” (Bolt, pg31). His pride and values get in the way of his loved ones future and outcome. More is acting the way his heart tells him but not the most beneficial way in his circumstance.
King Henry is one who hates opposition or doubts and Sir Thomas More is giving him doubt and grief on not siding with him on this issue. With having the King on your bad side the chances of you living a good life or living at all is very slim. Also, More shows selfish acts when Margaret approaches him, while he is in his jail cell. “When a man takes an oath, Margaret he’s holding his own self in his own hands…” (pg.83) This shows his selfishness towards himself and his goal of going to heaven.
He does not care about his life hear on earth or what he leaves behind he just wants what is best for himself. Hence, Sir Thomas More attitude toward his family’s life was very poor. By talking about the King and by not siding with him he threw his life and his families life out the window. For food he made Alice eat mutton and did not provide for his family. Also, by him thinking of resigning his position is another example of himself being selfish and not providing for his family. His selfish acts towards himself hurt his friends and his family and do not justify his means for eternal salvation.
Firstly, Richard Rich does not justify his means by his ends at all. This man is a lying deceiving little man that will do whatever it takes to gain rank and power. His betrayal towards Sir Thomas More was very futile in Sir Thomas’s conviction. “I’ve lost my innocence.”(pg.44) Rich has just sold out information to Cromwell in order to move ahead in rank. From here on Rich is starting down a path that will lead to hurting a lot of people’s lives. Secondly, Rich betrayed More for obvious reasons.
He wanted to get ahead in life but also, there was the taste of money that came along with it. “Every man has his price.”(pg.2) This is just showing again why Richard Rich keeps on hurting individuals. In life one will betray another for some benefit and this in it self is an example of Macchiavelli. Hence, when Rich took the stand in the court to persecute More he showed again his greed and will to not stop at any cost to get what he wanted. “He said, ‘Parliament has not the competence.’ Or words to that effect.” Rich was saying what he knew the King wanted to hear. He was committing perjury against More so that he could eventually move into the spot of Chancellor of England. With this being said it shows that his greed and lust could not justify Rich’s means for money and self-advancement.
Lastly, King Henry VIII only lived and strived for power and for dominance over everybody in England. If anybody ever crossed his path they were executed and nothing was said about it. Henry liked to show everybody that he ruled and no one else. “No opposition I say! No opposition!…” (pg.33) King Henry is again showing More that his opinion on his divorce is not going to be taken lightly in any sense. Even though More is the Chancellor of England Henry is still pressing him to side with him on the matter and not the Pope. Also, Henry showed dominance over Margaret. The King always has to be the smartest and most powerful one among all. In this certain occasion when Margaret could speak better Spanish then Henry he was very defensive. Right away he asked her if she could dance her response was no.
“Well I can dance superlatively!” (pg.28) Henry is trying to put her down for showing her dominance over him. Also, Henry always wanted to be in power of the Church of England. This was the only thing that he was not in full complete control of and he needed to be to divorce Catherine for Anne Boleyn. The only way he could do this is to kill Cardinal Wolsey and clear the path for his dominance. Catherine provided him with a daughter and without an heir to the thrown this marriage and his legacy would not work. “Queen on the throne of England was unthinkable.” (pg. Viii) The King had to have power over the Church of England because he would not receive a divorce if he did not receive a boy through Anne. Henry used intimidation to justify his goals and his means were not reasonable nor were his actions justified.
With Sir Thomas More, Richard Rich and King Henry VIII all having their means not justify their actions it showed that they were all doing this for some self-advancement in life. So again clearly through points and quotes all three used reprehensible means which harm others, in order to achieve their own personal goals and in the end are never justified.
Bolt, Robert. A Man for All Seasons,
Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1963