A Man for All Seasons

by Robert Bolt

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What is Henry VIII's relationship to Sir Thomas More? "Because you are honest . . . Follows anything that moves—and then there is you."

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Henry VIII trusts Sir Thomas More because he can count on his unswerving loyalty and incorruptibility. While other courtiers shamelessly abuse their positions of power and influence to line their pockets, Sir Thomas maintains standards of integrity that are almost without parallel in the cutthroat world of Tudor politics.

But what initially attracts Henry to Sir Thomas eventually repels him and causes an irreparable breach in their personal and professional relationship. In the wake of Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, what was once such a huge asset to Sir Thomas—his honesty and integrity—has now become a fatal handicap. His inability to accept the divorce and Henry's subsequent breach with Rome puts him on a collision course with the king that will end in his execution as a traitor.

Although the relationship between the two men may have changed, the one thing that hasn't is Sir Thomas More's honesty. But as the king has no further need for it, he unhesitatingly sends his former friend and loyal counselor to the block.

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At the beginning of the story, Sir Thomas More has an excellent relationship with Henry VIII. Henry has appointed him Lord Chancellor, a position which made More the second most powerful man in England. As the play continues, a rift occurs between Henry and More because More cannot support Henry's divorce from Queen Katherine. At first, More tries to simply remain silent on the issue, but, eventually, he must take a stand. More refuses to swear to support the "Act of Succession" and the "Oath of Supremacy",both of which made Henry head of the Church of England.  As a devout Catholic, More cannot support the divorce and the relationship between Henry and More is broken. Eventually, More is executed.

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