A Man for All Seasons - "Richard Rich is a character to be pitied rather than despised."

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                            A Man for All Seasons

“Richard Rich is a character to be pitied rather than despised.”

Richard Rich; Bolt’s young and ambitious bachelor of England, self-centred and ambitious, yet not sinister or evil. Despise is too strong a word to use for Rich, because as an audience, although we dislike Rich and would not like to be involved with him as a person, we can see his situation from afar and sympathise with him. We pity the character that is trapped in his own desire for promotion opposed to his care for other characters, namely Sir Thomas More. Rich is described by Bolt as the character “longing to be rescued from himself”, which immediately suggests to us that his unpleasant and self-absorbed nature is viewed as a weakness even to himself, making us pity his lack of ability to change himself rather than hate the character he is.

Bolt first introduces Richard Rich to us right at the beginning of the play, showing he is a significant character. Rich’s opening line – “but every man has his price” is relevant to his character and immediately makes the audience aware of his materialistic priorities. Bolt wants us to be aware of Rich’s beliefs that everyone is corruptible – “there’s always something,” and so influence us to believe Rich too is corruptible. Our first impressions of Rich are that he is an ominous character, and this is reinforced by his willingness to threaten – “Impose suffering and offer him - escape”.  Bolt does not influence us to be fond of Rich as his lack of true friendship with other characters prevents us from seeing him as a likeable character – “A friend of Sir Thomas More and still no office?” We are taught lack of relationships is due to his cynical views of them being worthless unless profitable for him. Bolt furthermore presents him as quite a snobbish character who very much believes in status – “A teacher!” Despite this objectionable introduction to Rich’s character, Bolt continues to make us pity Rich rather than despise him. Bolt uses Rich’s ambitious nature to win the audience’s sympathy – “D’you know how much I have to show for seven months work?” We pity Rich as we feel that his insensitive nature will come to no harm due to his lack of status, and he is also aware of this. Bolt emphasises Rich’s desperation for acknowledgement by his superiors by making Rich an open character who is prepared to discuss his feelings truthfully– I want a gown like yours.”

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Bolt uses Rich’s own words to help the audience feel sympathetic towards him. He writes Rich’s lines to make him sound desperate for a recognisable career – “if I was who would know it?” We can see how Rich tries to please everyone with his comments – “…slightly, your grace.” He does not hold strong opinions himself as he alters them to suit his surrounding characters. Bolt also makes Rich beg for help – “if only you knew how much I’d rather yours than his!” which additionally increases our pity for him. Rich is easily influenced by pressure from ...

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