Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Question from Celine - Thomas More's death sentence in "A Man For All Season"

In the play "A Man For All Seasons" by Robelt Bolt, should Thomas More have been sentenced to death? From any characters point, what evidences will you use to defend/prosecute him?

1 comment:

J. F. Hawthorne said...

I don't know about A Man For All Seasons. I watched it but compared to reputable bios of More it looks like flagrant hagiography, so I couldn't take it seriously.

A good place to start for info about his trial is G. R. Elton's 'Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell' (Cambridge, 1972). The final chapter has a discussion of the case against More and his attempts at legal defense during his trial and just after sentencing. Also try chapter sixteen of Jasper Ridley's 'Statesman and Saint' (Viking, New York, 1983).

A good way to tell this story from another character's point of view would be to have Cromwell thinking that the Act of Succession had been passed by Parliament and is law, and that it isn't the place of subjects to refuse to comply with the law if they disagree with it because if one can do that, they all can. He could believe that society won't function properly and order won't be maintained if people are free to choose whether or not they respect Acts of Parliament. And also that Thomas More didn't respect people's right to their consciences when he pursued heresy charges against them on his own initiative while he was Lord Chancellor. The expression 'what's good for the goose is good for the gander' might not have existed then but Cromwell could think something like that: Thomas More used the law to kill people who were harmless but technically in breach of the law, and now the same is going to be done to him.