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Essay/Term paper: Everyone in a man for all seasons is pursuing their own ends. what makes more different?

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Essays

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Everyone in A Man For All Seasons is Pursuing Their Own Ends. What Makes More

Often, it is impossible to reach our goals without resorting to some sort of
pragmatism. In A Man For All Seasons every character has their own ends to meet,
and the only distinguishable feature between them is how they go about it. Some
characters disregard all sense of morality as they plunge into a approach which
primarily encompasses self-interest. In all, most of the characters in the play
personify selfishness in one way or another. Of course there are some whose
selfishness is more noticeable than others, however at some point they are all
deficient in their consideration of others and live chiefly for personal profit.
All, except for one. Sir Thomas More is a man who subconsciously is a slave to
his conscience. He executes selfless acts in order to do what he knows is legal,
and what he thinks is right. He is one of very few people who have died with
their integrity intact. He is a special man, who is steadfast in upholding his
principles, even when death breathes down his neck. Sir Thomas More truly is a

One character in the play particularly concerned with his goals, regardless of
the path he must take to reach them is Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is the
personification of pragmatism and is willing to do anything, providing the end
sees him satisfied. "…our job as administrators is to make it as convenient as
we can," Cromwell states in reference to the King's divorce and the pursuit of
More's support. He is "…the King's ear," and is thus responsible for all the
menial tasks which the King would otherwise have to perform, including seeing to
it that Sir Thomas More either agrees to give the King his support or is
punished. One of these duties is to spy on others for the King's benefit. One
instance of this is on the night More goes to visit cardinal Wolsey, Cromwell "
magically' appears as More is on his way home. He asks of More, "You left him…in
his laughing mood, I hope?" This was Cromwell's method of establishing whether
the divorce had been discussed between More and the Cardinal that evening. For
if it was, there was no way the Cardinal could be in any sort of "…laughing
mood." One thing Cromwell fails to realise is that by doing his job for the King
and arranging More's death, he, "…plants my own." In order to reach his goal of
receiving flattery and credit for the King's business he is scheming and brutal
and boldly proclaims, "When the King wants something done, I do it." He is
completely amoral by the end of the play and is not seen to possess many human
characteristics, especially that of empathy and sensitivity towards other human

Another skill which Cromwell possesses is that of being able to easily sense the
weaknesses of others. He can clearly see that More is facing a huge problem with
the technicalities of the divorce. He knows that, "The trouble is, his innocence
is tangled in the proposition that you can't change your woman….unless the Pope
says so." He continuously endeavours to find out how easily More can be
manipulated, by manipulating Rich. Cromwell questions rich about the details of
a court case More was once was involved in to confirm the allegation that More
took a bribe.

In essence, the perpetrator of More's downfall is the king himself. Not even
More can understand why the king is so insistent on having More's support with
regard to his divorce from Queen Catherine. However, the King claims that it is
because More is, "…known to be honest." He is certain that More would not give
his approval of the divorce and subsequent marriage unless he was sincere. The
King deduces this from the fact that More stands out as the only supporter of
the King with genuine reasons for doing so. Henry believes that, "There are
those…who follow me because I wear the crown…and there is a mass that…follows
anything that moves…- and there is you." This statement alludes to More's "
special' qualities which make him such a unique man.

Primarily, Henry does not possess an immoral or sadistic character, rather he is
merely determined to get his way. In order to become autonomous, he will, "…
brook no opposition…" and to monitor this he employs Cromwell as his spy who is
responsible for gathering any information pertaining to the King. Cromwell is a
loyal subject and knows exactly how and where to get all the information he
needs. Cromwell is well aware that, "This "silence' of his [More] is bellowing
up and down Europe." Cromwell can not stand the fact that there is any
possibility that More is not frightened of what might become of him should he
not support the marriage. Cromwell tells Rich that the King, "…wants either Sir
Thomas More to bless his marriage or Sir Thomas More destroyed." In many
respects he too, like Cromwell, represents the idea of pragmatism. However his
representation is on a different level to that of Cromwell. Henry clearly knows
what he wants and is fully aware that he may unquestionably use any means to get
there, simply because he is the King and the Supreme Head of the Church of
England, an infallible combination.

Undoubtedly, the character in the play with the most defined goal is The Common
Man. Although each role he assumes is different in nature, they all share common
aspirations which Bolt indicates as, "…that which is common to us all." They all
share the willingness to be selfish in trying times merely to stay alive. They
all put their needs before others' in an effort to remain disassociated with
controversy. Unfortunately, The Common Man is a representation of exactly that,
common, ordinary human beings like ourselves. Perhaps this is why we are quick
to sympathise with The Common Man and feel an affinity for him. However, under
all the comedy, "Old Adam" is selfish, deceiving and has a philosophy of self

The selfish nature of The Common Man is best evidenced when in More's hour of
need, his steward Matthew deserts him because he is not satisfied with taking a
cut in his salary, regardless of how good an employer More had been to him. For
the duration of his employment, More always exhibited tolerance of Matthew's
actions, even when he sneaked a drink of More's wine or gave out information to
Cromwell and Chapuys. Therefore the final remark he makes, "You never had time
for me, Sir," is selfish, yet rather fitting considering his nature. As the
jailer, The Common Man admits that, "I'd let him [More] out if I could, but I
can't." The Common Man is not willing to take any risks to save a great man, for
it may result in the endangering of his own life. Naturally this is a chance he
is not about to take for he is far better as, "...a live rat than a dead lion."
Ironically, The Common Man recites these lines whilst twirling the keys to
More's cell on his wrist. This signifies that often great people's opportunities
are hindered by our selfish actions. It almost seems that we hold the key to
their success or their downfall and the path which they follow is entirely
dependent on our attitude towards them. In all, The Common Man is offered by
Bolt for us to identify with. However accurate Bolt's assertion may be,
identifying with a character who deserts More when he falls, betrays him to
informants, interrupts his farewell to his family, pronounces More guilty and
finally executes him is rather uncomfortable.

The goals and means of reaching expediency of the other characters in A Man For
All Seasons are all illustrated throughout, however they are not as prominent as
those of Cromwell, Henry and The Common Man. There are characters like Chapuys,
whose main aim is to spark a civil war which will ultimately cause the downfall
of Henry VIII, and possibly England. This is because he is a Spaniard and is
representing Catherine, his queen and Spain, his country. He supports More
because one consequence of More's "bellowing" silence is that, "…a signal would
be seen."

Alternatively, there are characters like Norfolk, who as More's friend faces
dilemma after dilemma in order to reach his goals. Norfolk wants More to take
the King's oath simply so they can retain their friendship. Norfolk wants More
to follow the lead of others who have supported the King, "…for fellowship." All
Norfolk wants is to have the best of both worlds, which unfortunately for him is
impossible. In spite of the way he is dismissive of More after he ends their
friendship, Norfolk is undoubtedly loyal. He admits to More that, "…you're
dangerous to know," yet he knows that More will, "…break his heart." What
Norfolk fails to realise is More has just saved his life for the time being by
ending the friendship. Sadly, Norfolk fails to see the selflessness More has
exhibited and simply continues to do his job on the investigative committee
which is ultimately responsible for More's death.

More too, is pursuing goals of his own. However, there are dramatic differences
between his pursuit and the pursuit of others. More's primary goal is to pursue
good, in the true sense of the world. More wants justice and the word of God to
govern England, however he still wishes to remain loyal to his King. He
shamelessly admits to the King that he would be willing to lose his right arm if,
"…by that means I can come with Your Grace with a clear conscience." In order to
do so as best as he can he must refrain from disclosing any information relating
to state affairs to anyone. He knows that, "…silence is my safety under the
law," however this silence must be "absolute" and must not even be broken to his
own flesh and blood. In doing so More acts in very selfless ways which are
unfortunately misconstrued for acts of selfishness, especially by those nearest
and dearest to him.

This assumed selfishness is insinuated by More without any intention of doing so.
He knows that God and the law of the land must rule him, but he believes that, "…
there's a little…little, area…where I must rule myself." This little area is no
doubt, his soul. We can infer that he also means his identity, his self, the
something we as humans should choose not to violate. More than any other
decision More makes in A Man For All Seasons which could be interpreted badly,
his resignation is most definitely the most ill received. Alice, More's wife
views his actions as sheer stupidity and selfishness. She asks More, "Is this
wisdom- to betray your ability…forget your station and your duty to your kin…?"
She does not understand why More has stepped down, and it upsets him that under
no circumstances can he tell her. She tells Roper earlier on that, "He's not
said one simple, direct word to me since this divorce came up." More selflessly
remains silent in order to protect both himself and his family, "…in the
thickets of the law…" even though it pains him dearly to do so. If he does so he
believes, "…no man in England is safer than myself." Sadly, this affirmation was
not enough to save him from his death.

There is no denying that More is a special man. There is no other character in
the play who considers both the legal and moral ramifications of everything they
say or do. More does both because he is true to his King, his religion and to
his conscience. More knows that the law is his safety and he candidly tells
Roper that in the "thickets" of the legal system he is "a forester." More knows
that if all the laws were to be "cut down," even he would not be safe from the
Devil himself. More can appreciate that Man's law nor God's law is enough to
uphold society but if both coexist, then both moral and civil justice can be
carried out.

Ultimately, More is a human being, just like Cromwell, Rich and The Common Man.
He makes mistakes and he knows, "…I'm not God." However what he does know is
that he is not willing to compromise the one thing he is not willing to let go
of- his integrity. He will not resort to Rich and Cromwell's search for "
convenience" nor will he forgo his fundamental principles all for the sake of
"fellowship." For he tells Norfolk, "…when we stand before God…and I am damned
for not doing according to mine [conscience], will you come with me, for
fellowship?" For it is only a special man like More who can waive his life
whilst selflessly saving the lives of others, all for the sake of his conscience.


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