“A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt: More’s Moral Dilemma”A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt: More’s Moral DilemmaDuring the English renaissance in the 1500’s, King Henry VIII wants adivorce from his wife for various reasons, but divorce is against the Catholicreligion. This is why he wants Sir Thomas More’s consent, because More is ahighly respected Catholic, but he is such a good Catholic that he goes againstdivorce. In the play, A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt, King Henry VIIIapplies pressure on Thomas More to support the divorce in many ways. He exertsit both directly and indirectly in forms of threats and intimidation fromvarious people.
Henry forces Meg, More’s “renaissance woman” daughter, to takean oath in order to see him, so she tries to influence his decision about thedivorce by using her intellect and by begging. Wolsey, a cardinal, was told bythe king to try to persuade him to support the king’s divorce by appointing himto a political office, so if More does not support the king, he could beexecuted for treason. Similarly, the king orders Cromwell, his assistant, toapply pressure by finding a reason to kill More, to force him out of the way.All of these pressures from the king lead to a moral dilemma that More has toface, but he chooses to stick to his morals.King Henry applies pressure on More to support the divorce through Meg.While More is in jail for failing to take an oath supporting the divorce, Megtries to convince him to take the oath, and she says, “Say the words of the oathand in your heart think otherwise,” (page 81). More responded to this by saying,”What is an oath then but words we say to god?” (page 81). Meg is applyingdirect pressure on More by asking him to say the oath and not believe in it, sohe will get the benefits of believing it and stick to his morals at the sametime.
However, More thinks this is against Catholic religion because he thinksof an oath as “words we say to God,” so he certainly can not use Meg’s strategy.Meg pressures More directly by trying to reach out to his feelings when she saysemotionally, “But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonablywant?” (page 81). More supports his beliefs by saying, “Well…finally.
..itisn’t a matter of reason; finally it’s a matter of love.”Meg wants More toknow that his family’s food and money depend on him, and further more, whetherhe says the oath. More still sticks to what he believes in, because he believesthat he must always do what God wants him to do, for there is no limit to whatgod can “reasonably want.” Meg does as much as she can to persuade More tosupport the King, but it does not work, and More sticks to his morals.Henry also orders Cromwell to pressure More to support the divorce.
Atfirst, Cromwell informs More directly that the king is not pleased with him, andthen says, “Yet you do not know that even now, if you could bring yourself toagree with the Universities, the Bishops and the Parliament of this realm, thereis no honor which the King would be likely to deny you?” (page 66). Moreacknowledges this and says, “I am well acquainted with His Grace’s generosity,”(page 66). Cromwell wants More to know that the king still has great respectfor him, and if he supports the divorce there would be “no honor which the Kingwould be likely to deny” him. More is not greatly affected by this type ofpressure however, because he is the type of man that does not let rewards tempthim to go against his morals. Cromwell realizes that More is stubborn on thisissue, and wants to execute him, so to More he directly reads the chargesagainst him, “That you did conspire traitorously and maliciously to deny anddeprive our liege lord Henry of his undoubted certain title Supreme Head of theChurch of England,” (pages 86- 87). More is shocked, and said, “But I havenever denied this title!” (page 87).
Cromwell is so devoted to satisfying theking that he finds a way uses More’s silence as evidence of opposing the king,which means he is “traitorously” denying the king of his title. This