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In Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More, Chancellor of England and eventual martyr, is a multi-faceted character: Alternatively beguiling, incisive, authoritative, and pious, More is also witty. In fact this is the first character trait the audience encounters. As the play opens, the Common Man in the guise of Matthew, the Steward for the More household, treats himself to some of the wine he is putting out for his master and then introduces him as he enters the scene. More mirthfully asks Matthew how the wine tastes, knowing full well he has overstepped the decorum of the household by sampling some. Here, at the outset, the audience neatly grasps More's humanity in his humour. In fact, later on in Act I, More insists that it is the responsibility of man to serve God 'wittily', by which he means that he must elude (outwit) death as long as it is lawful or legitimate for him to do so. As the machiavellian politics of the kingdom close in around More, first depriving him of his office, then his freedom, and finally his life, it is as much his wit as his holiness which show forth his heroism.
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