I need help with the following assignment: What are the political and moral issues raised in Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons"? Compare and contrast the views of statecraft propounded by...

I need help with the following assignment:

What are the political and moral issues raised in Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons"? Compare and contrast the views of statecraft propounded by Machiavelli, Thomas Cromwell, and Sir Thomas More. 

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The key to succeeding in this assignment is creating an outline that enables you to organize your essay thematically. In other words, rather than just summarizing Blot's play, you should divide your essay into sections, each addressing a political or moral issue raised in the play, and then within that section begin by summarizing Bolt's presentation of the issue and then examining the other authors. Thus this answer will be organized by issues.

1. Individual Morality vs. Common Good: More agrees with Henry VIII and many other characters in the play that Henry needs an heir and that having one would be good for England. The problem he faces is whether it is legitimate to sacrifice private morality for the common good. While others argue that the divorce and remarriage is necessary for providing a legitimate heir to the throne and avoiding the political chaos that would ensue without it, More believes that Church teachings on private morality cannot be set aside. Machiavelli prevents a very different point of view, emphasizing the importance of political stability and seeing morality as a way of restraining the weak and imposing order. For him, morality is an instrument at the disposal of the ruler rather than a limit to the ruler's actions.

2. Consequentialism vs. Deontology: There are two very different moral systems at play in the drama. More follows a system sometimes called "deontology". This is a duty- or rule-based system of ethics which says that morality consists in following a detailed moral code regardless of consequences or circumstances. While More acts in accordance with an absolute moral code, others in the play, remembering the devastating effects of the Wars of the Roses, are more concerned about issues of political stability. While Bolt sees consequentialism as a facade to cover self-seeking immorality, Machiavelli is far more pragmatic in his outlook, believing that the Prince needs to do everything possible to maintain power. 

3. Church and State: One ongoing controversy in the Renaissance was the relationship between Church and State. More believes that the Roman Catholic Church is the unique representative of God on earth and that religious faith demands obedience to the rules of the Church. Cromwell, as a Protestant, sees individual judgment and faith as more important. Henry sees that while the Church has a spiritual mandate, control of temporalities is vested in the State (and thus the King).

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A Man for All Seasons

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