Ethical Issues in A Man of All Seasons
EthicalIssues in A Man of AllSeasons
EthicalIssues in A Man of AllSeasons
Set in the 1500’s during theEnglish Renaissance, AMan of All Seasons byRobert Bolt depicts dilemma on the part of Sir Thomas More underpressure from King Henry VIII where he wants him to support theking’s divorce irrespective of the fact that it is against theCatholic religion. According to St Rosemary Education Institute(2016), King Henry VIII requires the consent of More based on thefact that More serves as a highly respected figure in the Catholicchurch.According to Higginbotham(2015),itis the decision by Thomas More to stand by his Catholic religiousteachings against divorce that prompts him to face significantpressure from King Henry VIII that involves threats and intimidationsdriven by different people. Some of the notable individuals used toinfluence More’s decision comprise of her Renaissance daughter Megand Cromwell, a cardinal. Although More experienced an ethicaldilemma, he sticks to his morals and refuses to support divorce. Theplay captures ethical issues of self and society, the relativitypoint of view, lies together with worldliness against unworldlinessand moral heroism.
Self andsociety as an ethical issue that Thomas More faces is depictedthroughout the play as the decision he has to make impacts on him asan individual and the wider society. According to Billiter (2014),More remains focused throughout the play in avoidance of using theindividual aspect to influence decisions that impact the overallsociety. His discussion with Norfolk on the need to make adistinction between oneself and the appetites serve as an indicationof the desire to separate the individual benefits from those of thegeneral society. As Billiter (2014), notes, “More advises againstengaging in actions based on individual benefit while neglecting thesocietal concerns.”SirThomas More further moves to make a statement that his self isdifferent from his pride and agree he may suffer from threat, insulttogether with a loss of office and imprisonment among other things,but he considers the true self as immortal. The decision by Morewhere he refuses to take oath serves as an indicator of the balancehe makes with his individual actions and their impact on the overallsociety. He likens taking an oath as a situation where a person holdsoneself like water in two hands. Breaking an oath is furtherassociated signifies a sign of self-fall where one hand neverrecovers. The statement implies that an individual must be a definitething with the ability to offer oneself as a guarantee for individualwords. In a situation where a person fails to back up personal wordswith the self, it will render the world useless as the self lacksvalue. The conscience of More signifies that his self is connected tothe society in an infinite manner with his focus directed at ensuringthe protection of actions that may destroy the community.Irrespective of the fact that More is aware of the possible adverseconsequences he would face for disagreeing with King Henry VIII andthe possible benefits of supporting him, he sticks with what heconsiders morally right.
Ethical issue in the story byBolt further emanatesfrom the relativityof point of view where characters portray conflicting points ofviews. King Henry VIII has a view that it his individual right in anymanner he may wish. However, his views on leadership conflicts withthe moral views of More. Additionally, while More has a will ofdefending his values irrespective of the costs involved, his friendNorfolk is on a different level as he carves into threats and eventries to convince More to support the decision by King Henry VIII ofdivorcing his wife. Another notable conflicting point is evidencedwhen More is in prison for his failure to take an oath that supportsthe divorce by King Henry VIII. More’s Renaissance woman daughter,Meg is forced by King Henry VIII to convince More to take the oath.Meg tries to use her wit in persuading More by asserting to him, ‘Saythe words of oath and think otherwise in your heart.”(Bolt, 2014).More notes the confusing part in the statement by Meg and respondsthat“there is nothing like an oath but the words we say to God (Bolt,2014).”
From the statement by Meg andwhat she tries to pressurize More to agree into, another ethicalissue of telling lies is introduced. Meg is cheating More to say theoath but not believe in the words in the oath in order to benefitfrom the pledge allegiance while at the same time sticking to hismorals. While the lie seems somehow convincing, More thinks over itand sticks to his morals. More thinks that taking the oath and notbelieving in the words goes against the Catholic religion in that heattributes the words in an oath as spoken by God. As a result, he isopposed to the strategy applied by Meg. Meg further tries to trickMore through an emotional message where she questions whether he hasnot done a lot as a reasonable requirement from God would need (Bolt,2014). Cautious with the temptation, More is in support of his beliefwhile responding where he asserts that his connection with God is notan issue of reason. In the final decision aimed to trick More, Meggets into a matter of love where she wants More to realize that hisfamily was dependent on him for money and food and whether he wouldsay the oath. Irrespective of the fact that the issue of love isweighty, More sticks into his belief that he undertakes every rolethat God wants him to conduct. The eventual failure by Meg in herattempt to trick and convince More into saying the oath in support ofdivorce as required by King Henry VIII is an indication of the mannerMore succeeds in making ethical decisions.
Moral heroism serves as anotherimportant ethical issue depicted in the story by Bolt. Throughout theplay, More portrays moral courage as he stands his ground guided bymoral thinking irrespective of the challenges at hand. He, therefore,emerges as a moral saint based on the fact that his characteristicsand decisions appeal to the audience to perceive him as a morallyheroic character. Irrespective of the fact that More has friends andfamily members that try to convince him to agree with the oath and asa consequent serve as an indication that he supports King Henry VIIIdecision on divorce, he stands his ground as informed by his Catholicreligious teachings that are against divorce. For example, Meg herdaughter tries to use trickery and her intelligence to make himcommit to the oath even asserting that he should do that only for thesake of saving his life without agreeing with the oath or changinghis morals (Bennett, 2013). However, More stands his ground based onmorals developed from his religious teachings something that othersfear to observe.
The ethical issue of worldlinessversus unworldliness equally comes into light in the play. Theseethical issues emanate from the fact that More rejects both politicalcynicism as well as what may gain recognition as worldliness andseeks the unworldliness. While Cromwell informs More through a directapproach that King Henry VIII is angry with More for his position, hethen shifts his tone. According to Bolt (2014), Crowell asserts that“if you brought yourself in agreement with the parliament, bishopsas well as universities regarding the issue, there is no honor thatKing Henry VIII will likely deny you (66).” In the statement,Cromwell intends to promise worldly favors to More only if he was inagreement with King Henry VIII. The fact that other individuals andleading organizations in the country are in agreement with the viewsof the king in support of divorce. Therefore, Cromwell intends tomake More aware that King Henry VIII has great respect for him and ifhe only took the oath, he would receive any honor that he may wishfrom the king. The fact that other organizations led by the mostrespected individuals including bishops support divorce asrecommended by King Henry VIII serve as an indication that theyappeal to the worldly things as opposed to More who is focused onattaining non-worldly things by adhering to his religious teachings.Irrespective of Cromwell’s attempt to convince More in order tochange his position, such type of pressure and promises fail toaffect More based in the fact he is not tempted by rewards, butrather follows his Christian morals in order to achieve what he ispromised the afterlife. When Cromwell realizes that there is nothinghe would do to change the position of More, he reads the charges inorder to rush his execution (St Rosemary Education Institute, 2016).Focused on pleasing the King, Cromwell takes advantage of the silentnature of More and accuses him of denying the King his title.Although More denies the charge of denying the king his title,Cromwell holds that he did that traitorously and found him guilty oftreason and thus subjected to execution. Irrespective of the judgmentMore is unmoved by the worldly things and focuses on unworldliness.
Conclusively, in the play AMan of All Seasons RobertBolt, the play writer captures ethical issues of self and society,the relativity point of view, lies together with worldliness againstunworldliness and moral heroism. The writer basis the moral themesaround the decision of Sir Thomas More towards the issue of divorceproposed by King VIII. Although all the other leaders andinstitutions are cowed and agree with the king’s demand thussupporting divorce, More is unmoved and basis his decision on moralsderived from his Catholic religious background. Throughout the play,More remains unaffected irrespective of the fact that he is subjectedto execution, he stands by what he considers ethical based on hisreligious background.
Bennett, M. Y.(2013). Conclusion: For All Seasons—The Particulars and theUniversals of Man in Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. Narratingthe Past through Theatre,74-80.doi:10.1057/9781137275424_5
Billiter,M. (2014). AMan for All Seasons.Avon: Adams Media.
Bolt, R.(2014). Aman for all seasons.
Higginbotham, F. M.(2015). A Man for All Seasons. SSRNElectronic Journal, 5(2),415-419. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1508485
St RosemaryEducation Institute. (2016). Robert Bolt’s A Man for all Seasons:More’s Moral Dilemma. Retrieved fromhttps://schoolworkhelper.net/robert-bolt%E2%80%99s-a-man-for-all-seasons-mores-moral-dilemma/
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