What effect is achieved by having the Comman Man address the audience at the beginning of the play and at other times?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Robert Bolt, the playwright, includes the character of the Common Man in A Man for All Seasons to establish distance between the audience and the dramatic action. When in his several roles the Common Man directly addresses the house, he serves to distance it from emotional involvement in the play and to emphasize the artifice of theatrical form. Paradoxically, however, the Common Man - functioning analogously to the Chorus in classical Greek drama - also forges a link between the audience and the play by interpreting the historical action of the drama. The Common Man also serves as a kind of foil for Sir Thomas More, presenting the worst of vulgarity and egoism in contrast to the selfless nobility of the saint. The question left with the reader is this: Why did Bolt design the play in this way? In keeping with the social motive of the inventor of the distancing effect in modern drama, Bertolt Brecht, Bolt may have wanted to summon the audience to an intellectual desire to defend men of principle, men who for their adherence to the truth are often seen as pariahs in society. 


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