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A Man for All Seasons Summary

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In the play A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt the audience learns about the extraordinary life of Sir Thomas More. Sir Thomas is faced with a moral dilemma that will determine the outcome of his life. More, chancellor of England , and a strong Christian believer is forced to choose between his close friend, King Henry VIII, and the supreme lord his God. More is a man of moral integrity because he refuses to submit to external pressures to sign the oath condoning the Act of Supremacy. He follows his heart and soul in doing what he believes to be right no matter what the consequence. More is told by King Henry VIII to sign the Act of Supremacy. The Act gives Henry VIII full authority over the Catholic Church and thus further distancing England from Rome, since the Pope would no longer be the head of the Church. More has many objections to and reasons for not signing the oath. More believes that if he does what he is called to do rather than what he believes to be morally right then he will have made the wrong decision and in the end will have no positive effect. This is evident when More says I believe, when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties...they lead their country by a short route to chaos.(Bolt, p 22). Despite what many may think, More would rather not get involved or influence the life of the king concerning the divorce. To most people signing the oath is a minor thing. It is something that should be done to appease the King , despite personal beliefs. However, for More his decision to sign the oath must be based on his beliefs. If he were to sign the oath he would lose all self respect. The audience learns this when he says I neither could nor would rule my King. But there's a little...little, area...where I must rule myself. It's very little-less to him than a tennis court.(Bolt, p 59). More is a man of principles and he will not compromise these principles. According to Sir Thomas if a man is prepared to take an oath then he must stand by that oath. However, in this case the signing of the oath would compromise these principles and therefore he can not sign. He displays this view when he says, When a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water... (Bolt, p 140) More goes on to explain that he can not doubt his soul. If he were to go against his moral conscience, in a sense he would be killing his soul, and without the soul there is nothing. More's conscience is extremely important to him. He could not live with himself

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