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A Man for All Seasons


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A: Robert Bolt Pf: 1960, London Pb: 1960 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts S: Various locations in London and environs, 1526–35 C: 11m, 3fThe Common Man as narrator introduces the play and comments throughout. Sir Thomas More is an incorruptible and generous Privy Councillor with a wife Alice and a daughter Margaret. Cardinal Wolsey tries to persuade More that the young King Henry VIII, still in his thirties, should reject his present wife Catherine of Aragon, who is as ‘barren as brick’, so that he can remarry and have a male heir. When Wolsey dies in disgrace in 1530, More is appointed Lord Chancellor. Wolsey's former secretary, the devious Thomas Cromwell, urges More to support the King's application for an annulment, and the Spanish ambassador calls on him to resist it. More is finally visited by Henry himself, who, failing to win More's support, resigns himself to ordering More to remain silent on the matter. However, when Henry, unable to persuade the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine, severs the connection with Rome and declares himself head of the Church, More resigns, but is careful not to denounce Henry's actions. This is not enough for Henry, who seeks More's declared approval of his marriage to Anne Boleyn and acknowledgement that her children are legitimate heirs to the throne. Cromwell and Cranmer help to devise trumped-up charges against More, who is condemned to death. He bids farewell to his family and is beheaded.

A: Robert Bolt Pf: 1960, London Pb: 1960 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts S: Various locations in London and environs, 1526–35 C: 11m, 3f

The title is curious, for More distinguishes himself by his unchanging faith and integrity, refusing to alter with the prevailing political ‘season’. Although Bolt referred to Brecht and states that this, like all centuries, is ‘the Century of the Common Man’, the play focuses on dramaturgically conventional machinations of those in power. At this level, Bolt has written a well-researched and compelling piece of theatre.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Robert Bolt (1924—1995) scriptwriter and playwright


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