Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More, an author, humanist, and lawyer who begins the play as a member of the King’s Council and rises to become lord chancellor of England. In his late forties, More is witty yet devout, a loyal Englishman yet a committed member of the Catholic Church. Respected throughout Europe for his intellectual and moral integrity, More dooms himself by refusing to accept Henry’s break with Rome over the king’s divorce and remarriage. By not submitting to pressure or fear, More becomes first a prisoner of his king and finally a martyr for his conscience and his beliefs.
Alice More, Sir Thomas’ wife. Also in her late forties, she is a solid, no-nonsense woman from a merchant family, and her interests are considerably less intellectual than her husband’s; she has never learned to read or write. Although she clearly loves Thomas, she is baffled and often infuriated by his stubborn stand on the question of the divorce and religious allegiance to Rome. In the end, however, she accepts his position and even his self-imposed death because of her great love and respect for him.
Margaret (Meg) More
Margaret (Meg) More, the daughter of Sir Thomas and Alice, in her middle twenties and remarkably well educated for a young woman of her time. She has the plain honesty of her mother tempered by the intellectual subtlety of her father. More clearly loves his Meg, as...
(The entire section is 869 words.)
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Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More is the central character of A Man for All Seasons. He is an intelligent man who enjoys life, loves his family, and respects his king. However, his fatal "flaw," a deeply ingrained sense of integrity, causes him to choose death over compromising his soul. To Cardinal Wolsey, concerned for matters of the state, More's ethics are a "horrible moral squint" that prevent More from cooperating with the reigning powers of England. Sir Thomas More's decision to refuse Henry VIII did not come easily. Up until the Act of Supremacy and the oath Henry VIII required his countrymen to take, More had supported his king in both state and religious policy. Bolt also demonstrates the pain More's decision causes his family. Resigning the position of Lord Chancellor of England puts More's beloved family into poverty; continuing to defy his king puts them into disgrace. More is also a man who enjoys the humble pleasures of life—a good wine, the stuffed swan specially prepared for King Henry's unannounced visit, or the pudding Alice made him during the precious last minutes he spends with her. But none of this deters More in upholding his virtue and principles.
More is a man of deep religious convictions who counters Wolsey's concerns for the state by insisting that he'd rather govern the country by prayers. At the same time, he trusts the law to protect him on earth, and he considers it his...
(The entire section is 357 words.)
Attendant to Signor Chapuys
The attendant is present to indicate the status of the Spanish Ambassador.
Signor Chapuys (sha-pwees)
Signor Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, at first glance appears to do little more in the play than walk on at key moments to testify to the piety and integrity of Sir Thomas More. He pays the boatman a few coins for revealing More's pious habits and he attempts to deliver a message from the King of Spain expressing the Catholic King's approval of More's resistance to Cromwell and the Reformation movement. More realizes that even reading the missive will be taken as evidence of treason, so he refuses to accept the envelope. Chapuys is flabbergasted because he has misread More's moral stance as a political one; this scene thus alerts the viewer to another of More's rigorous ethical standards. Chapuys's purpose in the play is to illuminate the political issues surrounding the taking of the King's oath. Chapuys informs More, much to More's dismay, that Yorkshire and Northumberland are ready to launch an insurrection (that Chapuys and his cohorts may have instigated) against Henry. His message indicates to More the gravity of his situation.
The Common Man
The Common Man is a pot-bellied, middle-aged man, a base and crafty figure who dons different costumes to enact the roles of More's steward,...
(The entire section is 1532 words.)