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Thomas More, Modernistic?

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Thomas More, Modernistic?

Thomas More was an ordinary person whom decided to become a lawyer, perhaps England's most notorious lawyer during that generation. He was also an accomplished writer, devoted family member, a close friend, and counselor. Later on in life he was promoted to serve as Lord Chancellor to the King of Henry VIII. Sadly, for Thomas this was not a good time to be Chancellor. During this period, despite More's efforts, England had decided to move away from Rome. An oath was sent out through England, requiring everyone to acknowledge and accept the "whole contents of the Act". Thomas More a man with a center, unyielding principles, faith, and conscience refused to sign the oath sent out by the King. More's existentialistic beliefs assure that he will not sign an oath for something that he does not believe in... neither for his family, friends, nor the King.

In Bolt's playwright, A Man for All Seasons creates several instances to show that More has a sense of some part of himself about which he can never give in. More is a man of faith and conscience, and he will not submit himself to swear unto an oath that he does not believe in- not even for his family, his close friends, nor the King. His daughter Meg says to him, "'God more regards the thoughts of the heart than the words of the mouth.' Or so you've always told me." Based on this belief, Meg insists (rather pleads) that her father "say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise." More responds to Meg, "When a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then-he needn't hope to find himself again."(140) In Bolt's preface he provides some assistance. He states that he is neither a Catholic nor a Christian but he is intrigued by More's intransigent principles and conscience. Because More "became for me a man with an adamantine sense of his own self." (xii) Through his conversation(s) with Norfolk and Cromwell, More conveys his obstinate principles and the reason he refuses to take a false oath. At one point, Bolt has More exclaim "what matters to me is not whether [the Apostolic Succession of the Pope is] true or not but that I believe it to be true, or rather, not that I believe it, but that I believe it."(91)

Later on in the play, in the Hall of Westminster where Thomas More is being charged of High Treason, declares to Cromwell that he should "be loyal to his conscience than to any other thing." Cromwell responds by saying that conscience is "a noble motive for frivolous self conceit!"

MORE (Earnestly) It is not so, Master Cromwell-very and pure necessity for respect of my own soul.

CROMWELL Your own self, you mean!

MORE Yes, man's soul is his self!

So More, a man who believes that as long as he does not make an opinion or takes a side on the issue, the law will protect him. Thus he remains silent and remains steadfast upon his beliefs not because he is confident that they are true, but because the beliefs are his. John Guy states that "More's beliefs are very constitutive of his very self." In contrast, More surely would not have declared that it did "not matter" to him whether his beliefs were true, nor would he have committed the typically modern incoherence of imagining that he could believe an idea without thereby committing himself to the truth of the idea.1 More's conversation with Roper further proves how much faith More has in the law. When discussing arresting Richard Rich, hereto after referred as "the devil", Roper argues with More.

MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?




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