A Man for All Seasons

by Robert Bolt

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Who is the "man for all seasons" in the play, and why?

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To answer the first part, this play is based on Saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England during the reign of Henry VIII. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, because she was getting old and had failed to bear him a male heir. Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, but he needed to get a divorce first. At this time, England was Catholic and divorce was not permitted.

Sir Thomas More opposed the Protestant Reformation. Henry VIII eagerly embraced the ideas of the reformers like Martin Luther because he wanted to break the power of the Catholic church in England and because he wanted to be able to obtain a divorce.

More was imprisoned and eventually beheaded by Henry in 1535 because the king grew weary of fighting with him and because he refused to sign the Act of Supremacy which declared the king to be the head of the church of England. If the king was declared the head of the church, the king could do whatever he wanted, including getting a divorce.

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In the play "A Man for all Seasons", who is the man for all seasons?  

An author, humanist, and lawyer who rises to being lord chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More is "The Man for All Seasons." A man is his forties, More is a witty man who is a loyal Englishman.  Yet, as a devout Catholic, More will not compromise his beliefs, and refuses to accept Henry VIII's break with Rome over his divorce and remarriage.  He dooms himself in this refusal, becoming a prisoner and finally a martyr for his convictions.

Saint Thomas More was respected throughout Europe for his intellectual and moral integrity, for his refusal to submit his immortal soul to the rule of a secular king.  Truly, he was a man in all situations, a man for "all seasons."

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