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 he calls her, above everything else in this world, and his greatest torment is to be separated from her by his imprisonment.
William Roper, Margaret’s suitor and later her husband, a young man in his early thirties who is highly opinionated and equally indiscreet in religious and political matters. Although his beliefs change several times during the drama, he is passionately devoted to each of them in sequence, from his initial fanatic Protestantism to his final staunch Catholicism. Roper’s fervent but mutable convictions are contrasted to More’s quiet but steadfast faith.
Henry VIII, the king of England. In his late thirties when the play begins, he is talented, attractive, and ambitious. He craves both power to do what he pleases and the approval of More; when he cannot have both, he does not hesitate to use flattery, force, or threats, and he ends up resorting to imprisonment and execution of More. A self-conscious character, Henry moves through the play in a larger-than-life fashion; the monarch’s actions are not restrained by the rules of logic or laws that govern other men. At times, his actions seem those of an intelligent but petulant child—but a child with enormous power.
Thomas Cardinal Wolsey
Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, prince of the church and lord chancellor of England, an aged, fat man clothed in expensive robes and surrounded by the trappings of power, with a powerful intellect undiminished by time but an equally enormous ambition frustrated by his inability to please his royal master in the service that matters: securing a divorce. The son of a butcher, Wolsey has risen in the king’s service through ability and intelligence, but when he fails to secure the divorce, he falls from favor, and only his death, on November 29, 1530, saves him from a trial for treason.
Thomas Cromwell, secretary to the cardinal. Like Wolsey, Cromwell comes from humble origins and has risen as a result of...
(The entire section is 869 words.)