We can see here how each of the men got to their positions: Norfolk through birth, Cromwell through work, and More by intelligence and talent. This shows that the Norfolk and Cromwell got to their positions through materialistic ways, whereas More got to his by means of a much more mental way. We can now see who is likely to be the most and least corrupt.
Bolt also shows that More cannot be questioned by the Archbishop either; “Some men think the Earth is round, …” says More when Cranmer tries to make him sign. This is a moral standing, and it appears More has an answer to everything. This tells the audience that even though Cranmer represents the Pope, More can see that Cranmer has become corrupt. We can see he has become corrupt when he says “…and the -er- ‘Pope’…” as he should be loyal to the Pope and this shows he is not. “Sir Thomas, it states in the preamble… (Gently)…” also shows that Cranmer doesn’t want More to be executed, as Cranmer knows that More is right, but doesn’t want to show it as that would aggravate the King. The symbolism of Cranmer wanting More to give into the oath is that even a religious man can become corrupt quite easily, showing that More is above even the Archbishop in religious standing. Here, all three men are trying to get More to give in; Norfolk (his friend), Cromwell (representing the King) and Cranmer (religious perspective) but More resists. This tells the audience what a strong character More was, and makes them respect him. The symbolism of Cranmer wanting More to give into the oath is that even a religious man can become corrupt quite easily, showing that More is above even the Archbishop in religious standing.
When Norfolk says: “then your reasons must be treasonable!” More shows that he is slightly naïve: “not must be, may be”. Here More has put is life in the hands of the man’s law; he doesn’t understand that laws based on hierarchy can be broken by the person on the top of that hierarchy. So it is the King’s justice that is being used, not ‘God’s’ justice, as More seems to think is more prominent than it is.
The body language in this scene is interesting; More seems relaxed, Cromwell seems afraid and agitated, whereas Cranmer and Norfolk seem more desperate to get More to sign. This shows the audience that Cromwell is the weakest one out of the three as he is more worried about his life than More’s. Cromwell’s body language is particularly interesting as it incorporates the frustration he has because Norfolk is more powerful, yet he is less intelligent. Cromwell having stage directions like “(Sighing, rests head in hands)” supports this. Cromwell is also sarcastic: “Brilliant.” And Norfolk rounds on him. This is because he is so desperate to get More to sign; he has to introduce some wit to relieve the tension. Also it shows they are all getting tired and just want More to give in.
More seems relaxed because he has had enough time to realise his fate; he knows what is going to happen and he isn’t going to do anything more than he has already to stop it. It also makes him look like a great man, and noble to be able to accept his own death; something that I expect none of us would find easy to do. This makes the audience feel more sympathetic to him because he seems to have been chased into a dead end. Also the stage directions, general atmosphere of the scene and his language show what prison has done to him and how he has aged.
As the interrogation continues, things get more intense. More asks “Oh, gentlemen, can’t I go to bed?” This again generates sympathy from the audience as it shows that More is human and even though he is very much mentally advanced, he is still tired and exhausted. Cromwell says, “You don’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of your position.” More replies, “I defy anyone to live in that cell for a year and not appreciate the seriousness.” This again reminds the audience he is human, and influences their judgement of the characters that are responsible for him being imprisoned, making More increasingly righteous. The word “appreciate” is quite important; coming from More, it is as if he is telling the audience to appreciate their position, as it is probably more desirable than his. This generates more sympathy from the audience. Cromwell then threatens More, and More says that Cromwell should threaten “Like a minister of state, with justice!” Again this points out that More is putting his fate into the hands of moral justice, whereas the justice being used here is Cromwell and the King’s justice, which is entirely different. Also, the word justice is important. It is repeated through the play and symbolises two things: More’s defence, and the corruptness of Cromwell, the King and the gentry. The effect this has on the audience is that it makes them question what justice means to them, and what justice is in the modern world.
This scene ends with More asking for more books, and results in having them taken away; the books symbolise his freedom and his old life; being taken away. Cromwell then asks the jailer to swear that he will say if More talks about the “King’s divorce, King’s supremacy of the Church, or the King’s marriage”. He swears on the Bible, and then Cromwell says “and there’s fifty guineas in it if you do.” This is very important as It shows just how corrupt Cromwell is, and how he wants to get More executed for something More said himself, rather than because Cromwell couldn’t get him to sign to the act (as then Cromwell would be in trouble with the King). In addition it shows how he is willing to go against the Bible for this, and it clearly points out that swearing on the Bible has become meaningless, and so therefore is the Act Of Succession that More is so reluctant to sign because he values an oath more than everyone else; he is true to himself. The jailer then goes on to say: “If it’s worth that much now, it’s worth my neck presently.” The repetition of ‘worth’ is important: the fact that More believes it is ‘worth’ being true to himself so that he can be “sent to Paradise” whereas the others are losing faith and therefore don’t risk gambling their life. The ironic thing is that the King seems to be playing ‘god’ with people’s lives. The jailer/common man symbolises the people in England at the time: they know that something is wrong, but they consider their own lives more important than finding out what is wrong and trying to correct it. This makes the audience question their standing in society and whether or not it is correct in relation to the modern world and the historic world.
Before More’s family enter, more water imagery is used. This symbolises how the state is at sea – no one are being true to themselves; no one knows where they are going and More seems to be in the middle of it all as the waters are rising.
Bolt reintroduces the family because they are an important part of the play; they each represent a part of More’s emotions. They also provoke the audience to have even more sympathy and respect for More as he resists giving in for his family, even though to some this may seem selfish. They also show again that Cromwell is trying to get More to give in so that the King doesn’t get angry with him, as the King doesn’t want to execute More because he plays as the King’s conscience. The audience see this, and they see that the King is weak, even though he has power over the kingdom. Also a family is the one thing More has that the King wants immensely.
When he sees his family, his daughter curtseys, which shows that even though he has neglected them, she still respects him, which furthermore indicates that she has matured in this period. When audience see this, this shows them that if his daughter still respects him after he’s neglected them, then they ‘can’ respect him. Bolt makes it obvious that More’s family has suffered during this period: “…has aged and is poorly dressed”. This again shows how much More has sacrificed, perhaps gambled, for his beliefs. Roper comments, “this is an awful place!” this re-establishes that More has had to put up with terrible conditions, which yet again tells the audience what a great man he was and what he was willing to give up. The word “awful” is quite ironic, it may mean that even though Roper appreciates it is a dreadful place; he wishes (has ‘awe’) that he was like More and could be so noble. More shows his modesty by saying, “it’s not so bad…” which may mean that it isn’t in relation to what he will achieve from it. This is followed by water imagery: “it drips… too near the river.” This means that it is too near to people that aren’t true to themselves and are corrupt.
Even though More wants to se his family, he is initially confused about why they are there. Margaret has the stage direction “doesn’t look at him”. This indicates that she loves him very much, but she doesn’t want him to know this, as she is annoyed with him neglecting them, and wants him to come out. Also, Alice has a bitter face, which shows that she feels the same way, and shows what time apart has done to their relationship. She believes that if she makes out she doesn’t love him, he’ll swear to the act, which is what his family want. Bolt has used stage directions well to help the audience see the underlying meaning in every sentence. Subsequently Roper says, “Sir, come out! Swear to the act…” More then realises why they were allowed to visit him, and Roper confirms this. “Coldly” points out that he is disappointed in them for being under oath to persuade him to swear to the act. This is ironic that again an oath is used to make somebody take an oath. ‘Oath’ is a very important word in this play; it is used endlessly in many different contexts to reinforce the same, continuous message in the play – to be true to ones-self.
The family begin a discussion about oaths: “What is an oath then but words we say to God?” shows again that More believes an oath to be more than everyone else seems to believe. “When a man takes an oath…” is More describing what he believes an oath is, “Like water” is a simile with water again as he believes many of the people in the state at that time were like a liquid; could change with whatever was popular at that time, whereas he would consider himself solid as his opinions never change as a result of outside influence. When More uses third person, “your father”, he is trying to show Margaret that he is looking at things from her perspective as well. More proceeds to make a long speech, which is hard to follow. This is very complicated, and shows the audience what an intellectual man he still is. The words used in this speech are interesting: “avarice, anger, envy, pride sloth, lust and stupidity” contrast greatly with “humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought”. Here, More is trying to put across what the world has become, and then contrasting it with what it should be according to him, and more importantly, God.
When Margaret tries to make More feel guilty by saying how the family has suffered since he has been gone, More understandably gets upset as one side of him is saying ‘swear to the act so that they are happy’ and the other saying ‘God will take care of them, I shouldn’t swear to the act’. This is a very emotional moment and Bolt’s stage directions and language all add to the influence on the audience. It makes the audience sympathise with both More and his family, adding to the emotional experience of the play. More’s comment “the King is more merciful than you. He doesn’t use the rack” shows that he would actually rather die quickly than be tortured; which is what Margaret is doing to him by telling him how they have suffered. This emphasises the two sides of him explained earlier are being stretched, like the effect of the rack.
The Jailer then breaks the tension by entering and saying that they have two minutes left. All the family know that this is going to be the last time they see More, so now they give up trying to get him to sign to the oath, and show their love that they have being hiding for the best part of this scene. More gets Roper to delay the Jailer; his comment “he has dice” is interesting as it emphasises the fact that everyone in the world has options; they don’t have to be something, they can ‘play their dice’. This may make the audience realise a few things about their own lives, which may be one of Bolt’s intentions.
More now pleads with Alice and Margaret to leave the country. He does this because he knows he is going to be executed, and even though they foresee this, he still doesn’t want them to be near when he is executed, as it would be very distressing. More is also freeing them from danger. “There’ll be no trial, they have no case.” This is More persisting to pull the wool over their eyes; even though he is right, he does realise that it isn’t God’s justice being used here, it’s corrupted man’s justice.
The end of this scene is incredibly emotional; More and Alice get very intimate. This is the only time in the whole play that Alice is seen to understand More; even though she still obviously wants him to sign the act, she can now accept what he is doing and understand why, and this is shown. Alice says “I shall hate you for it.” Bolt also shows Alice as honest to More in their last time together. Her comment about God is also interesting, as it shows that Alice feels very much the same way about the King and his council as More, but she isn’t prepared to risk her life for it whereas More is. “Lion” symbolises this fact, as lions are proud, strong, and noble; More wants to make Alice feel better because she may feel that she doesn’t have these attributes as More has.
The dramatic exit of the family is effective, including the use of the bell ringing 7 o’clock: “…reducing what follows to a babble.” This disperses the emotional exit of Alice. Bolt uses the jailer (Common Man) again as a simple man: “…you don’t want to get me into trouble.” This is dramatic irony, as the last thing Alice cares about is getting the jailer into trouble. Also the fact that the jailer seems to completely overlook the emotional atmosphere is symbolic of the way the state appeared at that time, shallow and somewhat lacking in intelligence and individuality. “Oh, Sweet Jesus! These plain simple men!” supports this and the use of ‘sweet’ reinforces More’s religious beliefs to the audience, which is why all this is happening in the first place. Also, Bolt has to make More seem in a very difficult and emotional position. The water imagery aids this, along with More’s strong sense of loneliness (now his family have left) being portrayed in his language and actions. This generates more sympathy for him from the audience.
The stage directions in the trial all add up to the overall effect: “(1) Music, portentous and heraldic” indicates that this is very near the end which means the audience will feel that it’s all over already, even though this is the trial, we know the outcome already. It also makes us feel that the King isn’t there, but there are people representing him. The lighting change contrasts with the previous lighting: as the trial is much more formal, the public would know about it and might be involved whereas in the tower it is much more secluded and out of the way. The public wouldn’t have known about things that happened in the tower, whereas the trial is a grand, false front for the public. Again, the jailer gives More a chair and helps him to it. This happened earlier and the purpose is that the jailer may be holding More, and he may relate to him in an odd way. Even though the jailer seems to be the opposite of More, the fact that he didn’t take the 50 guineas earlier is important, and even though they have different opinions, neither are corrupt, probably the only two in the whole of the trial. “Rigging of the law!” indicates that Cromwell’s passage is basically him admitting that what he and the King are doing is ‘wrong’. The symbolism of “does the cap fit?” is that the common man represents the general population of the state; he can be anyone and everyone. After an odd discussion with the common man he also says “and fix these quick sands on the laws plain chart!” which emphasises the inescapable position that More is in.
When the trial starts, More is told his position, and he is offered another chance to swear to the oath. He then talks about being honest until he dies, but he is clever and doesn’t reveal why he won’t swear to the act. Cromwell adds more pressure by telling More that someone with the same charge was executed that morning. Bolt is making the ending more ‘likely to happen’, even though we already know what is going to happen, the audience still have the suspension of disbelief and are still likely to get emotional. The use of “clinically” when Cromwell is looking at More is important as the whole atmosphere is portrayed as ‘clean’ as it is all fake. This is effective as the more the trial seems fixed and the characters looks and body language show this, the more the audience realise how corrupt the council was, and this makes More seem greater and more free from this. More’s stage directions help channel the feeling and atmosphere of the scene: “at this point he is sensing that the trial has been in someway rigged”. This stage direction reminds the audience of what Cromwell said earlier.
Throughout this scene, Bolt has made it clear that More is getting gradually used to his tragic fate as he sees it has inevitable. “Death… comes for us all…” shows that he realises he cannot avoid it anymore and he doesn’t seem scared at all by the reality. “Yes, even for the King he comes” is ironic, as we already know that the King dies of syphilis, he died of a disease that is contracted in a sexual form and he so badly wanted a son; this want ended up killing him. This may provoke some humour in the audience to disperse the turgid atmosphere. Norfolk then reminds More that his fate lies in his own hands. The use of ‘hands’ refers back to the analogy More used when he was talking to Margaret. It also reminds us that More is putting his ‘self’ into the hands of the King and his justice, so he is going to open it fingers.
Cromwell proceeds with a long speech, in which he is trying to be clever; trying to be like More; something he’s not: “with some of the academic’s impatience for a shoddy line of reasoning.” He is trying to justify taking More’s silence as ‘betoken’, which is against the law. The discussion that continues is More and Cromwell battling it out one last time; the audience may feel relieved as they have shown sly dislike for each other throughout the play, but only now are they letting it all out: “they hate each other and each other’s standpoint.” The use of ‘pure’ is More considering himself pure as the rest are Only now that the play is climaxing does Cromwell begin to get angry, yet More keeps calm; Bolt shows who is and who as always been in control and on top of everyone else. “A man’s soul is his self!” is an extremely important statement: it is the crux of the play. More then almost gives away his opinion: “can I help my King by giving him lies when he asks for truth?” This means that if More swore to the oath he would be lying, showing that he doesn’t believe in what the oath contains.
The entrance of Rich is important; before Rich worked in office, he was innocent, and a friend of More’s. Now, as More warned him, he has become corrupt since he has been in office: “e is now splendidly official.” The significance of Rich taking the oath and ‘forgetting’ to say ‘so help me god’ is that Rich is still fighting with himself and he knows More is right deep down, but he wants to be in a well-paid job. Rich takes the last step when he gives false testimony against More. More denies that he denied the King’s title, but he realises that there is nothing he can do about it, as everyone is now against him. “I am a dead man” shows that he has come to conclude death is inevitable, and there is nothing else he can do to prevent his execution. Bolt adds some humour at the end: “it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales-!” This shows just how corrupt and money grabbing he has become.
There is one last attempt by Cromwell to get More to give in: “Sir Thomas, I am empowered to tell you that even now-“ but More declines. The importance of ‘empowered’ is that Cromwell has the power to ask More, but More has greater symbolic power to deny it.
When the foreman announces the verdict, this is the common man again playing a different character: another character that helps the downfall of More. All the characters that the Common Man has played all convict More in some way: After More is told his fate; he has a “sly smile”. This indicates he has won. “…his manner is of one who has fulfilled all his obligations and will now consult no interests but his own.” concludes the scene: “final stock-taking”. Now More only cares about revealing his true feelings, and definitely with a sense of superiority: they have given the sentence out of desperation. He knows that that day will manifest in their conscience long after he has gone, because they will have a tiny part of them saying it was wrong. More sees that this is worse for them than death is to him. More relieves the build up by telling everyone what he thinks of the whole situation. “God have mercy on your soul!” is highly ironic, as it’s their souls that God should have mercy on, as they are dishonest and corrupt, whereas More is “pure” and true to himself. The trial is over.
The first scene change is ironic: “The trappings of justice are flown upwards.” This is Bolt showing that justice has not been done in a physical way. The gradual scene change, and the return of Margaret, creates more emotion in the scene. The meaning of More being ‘dispassionate’ to Margaret is so that she doesn’t get too upset when he is beheaded. He feels that she shouldn’t be there anyway. Also, the return of the woman again proves that More has not changed at all since the beginning of the play, but everyone has changed around him (like water surrounding him). “Envious” is used as a stage direction for Cranmer to reinforce that even Cranmer knows what is happening, and he is jealous of Sir Thomas More for being able to do what he is doing. The final ironies of Cromwell and Chapuys walking off together shows that they know what exactly has happened and understand it: “men who know what the world is and how to be comfortable in it.” The curtain falls.
Robert Bolt has left a very important message, through the dramatic exaggerations of this real event. Be true to yourselves, and no matter who challenges you, they can never win, as long as you know your self and don’t deny it. More was a great man, and this play can only touch on how vast his greatness was, it can only tell us what he showed and not what he thought. This play can set a meaning for us to follow, the fact that we try to change our self for the wrong reasons, and A Man For All Seasons can help us put this right.
Aaron Bundock 11S English Coursework Page