A Man for All Seasons

by Robert Bolt
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How is the issue of identity explored in A Man for All Seasons?

The issue of identity is explored in A Man for All Seasons through the character of Sir Thomas More. Robert Bolt presents him in the play as a man of integrity who maintains his identity despite constant pressure to accede to the king's demand to acknowledge his headship of the Church.

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In A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt presents us with a protagonist, Sir Thomas More, who is a man of utmost integrity, a man whose identity remains fundamentally unchanged despite the enormous pressure put upon him to change by a tyrannical king and his minions.

Whereas the likes of Richard Rich may have sold their souls to curry favor with Henry, Thomas More sticks to his guns, providing us with an example of a true hero. Others may agree to Henry's becoming the head of the Church in England, either out of fear or conviction, but not the brave Sir Thomas. He knows that his continued defiance will ultimately result in his death but remains firmly wedded to his principles.

More's identity is closely bound up with the unshakable nature of his innermost moral convictions. Unlike so many others, More is not prepared to sacrifice his private conscience for the supposed common good. As far as he's concerned, that is the high road to chaos. Besides, were he to acquiesce to Henry's increasingly insistent demands, he would lose his integrity, his sense of identity; he would not be the same man.

So More is convinced that it is better to die with one's integrity intact than to live with the shame and indignity that comes from having compromised one's most deeply-held beliefs.

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