“A Man For All Seasons”, written by Robert Bolt, is among my favourite plays of all time. And when I read the ‘Daily Prompt’, it was this scene that came to mind.
Thomas is forcing Norfolk away to protect him from what he is about to do. Thomas knows the cost of his actions, and is prepared to take them on, but not prepared to have his friends and family suffer. To my mind, this is why in a later scene from the Tower Of London, he despairs more over how his family is suffering than anything else.
Thing is, I’ve read the play dozens of times. I own the copy I read in high school. I’ve never seen it performed. Sir Thomas More is Paul Scofield to me, and while I know he performed the role on stage, I only know him from the 1966 movie.
Sir Thomas More speaks to me in ways I can’t explain, and this play is why. It’s amazing how so simple a word as ‘pedigree’ makes me want to sit and watch the whole movie over again.
There’s another line that comes to mind (so many of them do, but this is the one that I find I play over in my mind when I consider breaking rules) and that one is as follows:
Go he should, if he were the Devil, until he broke the law.
Roper (Thomas’s daughter’s boyfriend)
Now you give the Devil benefit of law!
Yes, what would you do?
Cut a road through the law
to get after the Devil?
Yes. I’d cut down every law in England to do that.
And when the last law was down,
and the Devil turned on you,
where would you hide, Roper,
the laws all being flat?
This country is planted with laws
from coast to coast.
Man’s laws, not God’s,
and if you cut them down –
and you’re just the man to do it –
do you really think you could stand
upright in the wind that would blow then?
I give the Devil benefit of law
for my own safety’s sake.
Thomas released the man who would be his downfall because he would have him be judged by man’s laws, the same as he would. But he held himself to man’s laws and to God’s and on equal footing.
Richard Rich did prosper. He received the position of Attorney General for Wales for perjuring himself on the stand condemning Thomas to be executed. Another great line from Thomas, as Rich is leaving the stand, is “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing, to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?”
Does Thomas’s character speak to his pedigree? To the blood that flows through his veins? To some characteristic inherent to all people with the last name More? Or was it is his choice to follow what was in his heart that made the difference? I would like to think that it was his strength as a person – his blood, bone and sinew – that held him high when his soul chose what to do.