->'''Wolsey:''' Now, explain how you, as a councillor of England, can obstruct these measures for the sake of your own private conscience.\\
'''More:''' I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.
''A Man for All Seasons'' is an award-winning play written by Creator/RobertBolt and InspiredBy actual historic events. After successful runs in London (1960) and New York (1962), it was adapted to film in 1966. The play and the film made a star of Paul Scofield, who won both a Tony Award and an UsefulNotes/AcademyAward for his performance. The movie picked up five additional Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay (Bolt), Best Director (Fred Zinneman), and Best Picture. Also in the film's cast are Creator/WendyHiller, Leo [=McKern=], Robert Shaw, Creator/OrsonWelles, Susannah York, and Creator/JohnHurt.
Once upon a time, Sir UsefulNotes/ThomasMore was a barrister who became the most trusted adviser of UsefulNotes/HenryVIII. More was a Catholic with a keen moral focus, and his advice was good.
Then Henry wanted to divorce wife Catherine of Aragon, who'd failed to produce a living son, so he could marry the fertile Anne Boleyn. More refused to support this plan; he considered it immoral, and against his religion. The fact that the original marriage had been arranged to help foster peace with another Catholic country (Spain) didn't help.
Henry VIII decided to TakeAThirdOption; leave the Catholic Church and found a new one, the Church of England, with himself as the head. More ''hated'' this idea and refused to support it -- although he'd made a bit of a stink about corruption and abuse of power in the Church, his Catholicism forbade him from supporting an outright schism. But everyone else who was anyone in the government did support the king. More, rather than kick up a protest, resigned and kept his mouth tightly shut, but the fact that he would not publicly endorse the idea made it pretty obvious to everybody that he was against it.
King Henry VIII was now good and angry at Thomas More, and the persecution started in earnest...
In addition to the film, the play has been produced for television at least three times, including a 1988 version starring Creator/CharltonHeston. The 1988 version stuck closely to the stage version, including retaining the FourthWall-breaking narrator-character.
In 2006, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a radio version for their Saturday Play, using music composed by Henry VIII himself and featuring Charles Dance as Sir Thomas More.
!!Tropes associated with the play ''A Man for All Seasons'' include:
* AffablyEvil: Archbishop Cranmer, in contrast to the bully Cromwell. He's actually envious of More's certainty that he's going to Heaven at the end.
* AlmightyJanitor: Cromwell's ''official'' title is Secretary of the Council, or "Master Secretary". But he's pratically Henry's right hand man by the end of the play.
** Richard Rich, whose climb up the political ladder requires him to deliver More to the executioner.
** Cromwell. His rise in Court greatly alarms More, his family, and Norfolk.
* AsTheGoodBookSays: More, paraphrasing Matthew 16:26 (and Mark 8:36 and Luke 9:25):
--> '''More:''' Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...But for ''[[ComicallySmallBribe Wales]]''?
* AuthorTract: The play makes it very clear that More is the fella we're supposed to be cheering for.
* BadGuysDoTheDirtyWork: Cromwell is Henry's agent, and does most of the "diagreeable tasks" in the play. Notably the King himself doesn't order Norfolk to join the conspiracy against More, he has Cromwell do it for him instead.
* BeingGoodSucks: It's a major theme; Thomas More remarks that vice often brings greater rewards than virtue, so we must expend ''extra'' effort to be good.
* BreakHisHeartToSaveHim: Norfolk has been ordered by the King through his proxy Cromwell to join the conspiracy against More. Norfolk, not wanting to do it, tells More all about it, in friendship. More goads Norfolk into ending their friendship with a heated argument in order to spare him the conflict of having to choose between their friendship and his duty to the King. Even then he only half-suceeds, Norfolk implores More to take the Oath like him for fellowship.
* BreakingTheFourthWall: The Common Man addresses the audience directly.
* TheCaligula: Henry VIII by the play's end. He will not tolerate any criticism about Anne or his separation from Rome. Any poor fool who does speak his mind will be charged with treason and have their head cut off.
* ChristianityIsCatholic: Averted here. It isn't after a certain point, but More thinks it ''should'' be.
* TheConscience: More ''tries'' to be this to Henry, but Cromwell has other plans.
* TheCorruptible: Richard Rich. More is well aware of this and tries to convince him to take a post as a teacher at a new school, a place "where he won't be tempted".
* DatingWhatDaddyHates: Meg's boyfriend Will Roper is a fine young man from a good family who's been called to the Bar and later offered a seat in Parliament. He just happens to be a Lutheran or in More's words a heretic. Roper eventually goes back to Catholicism, and marries Meg.
* DeadlyDecadentCourt: Being a government offical does not entail job security when Henry VIII is in charge. If you fail him or displease him expect a trumped up charge of treason somewhere in your future.
* DeadpanSnarker: Cromwell and, on occasion, Sir Thomas:
-->'''Wolsey:''' The King wants a son- what are you going to do about it?\\
'''More:''' ''[dry]'' I'm very sure the King needs no advice from me on what to do about it.
* DragonInChief: Henry VIII drives the action, but Cromwell is one who does most of the work.
* DoomedMoralVictor: Sir Thomas More.
* DownerEnding: The only person to get a happy ending in this story is [[TheCorruptible Rich]].
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Cranmer does not like the idea of Cromwell bribing the Jailer to commit prejury against More.
** Wolsey plants the idea that More should be the next Chancellor after him as revenge for refusing to help him secure a divorce:
** Cromwell convinces the King to make Norfolk part of the Conspiracy against More out of pure spite.
* EvilMentor: Cromwell to Rich.
* FaceDeathWithDignity: Sir Thomas knows exactly where his resistance is taking him.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Wosley and ''especially'' Cromwell.
* TheFriendNobodyLikes: Rich is the ''only'' one in More's circle who actually likes Cromwell. Rich himself could qualify as well.
* GenreBlindness: More believes if he just keeps quiet about his opinions on the marriage he can live out in peace. Lady Alice is much more cunning.
-->'''Lady Alice:''' Poor, silly man, do you think they'll leave you here to think?\\
'''More:''' If we govern our tongues they will!
* TheGhost: For all that she's mentioned, Anne Boleyn never appears onstage.
* GreekChorus: The Common Man, who also takes on multiple roles (including More's executioner).
* HighTurnoverRate: Henry VIII goes through courtiers and ministers at an alarming rate.
* HistoricalHeroUpgrade: No mention is made of More's attitudes towards heresy and capital punishment which were suited to his age but [[ValuesDissonance not ours]].
** Henry VIII is portrayed as an intellectual cypher, though possessed with a low cunning. In reality, he was, like all the Tudors, something of an intellectual with a real appreciation for fine culture.
** The play and film helped codify Thomas Cromwell's reputation as the amoral ur-villain of Tudor England. More recent historical and [[Literature/WolfHall fictional works]] have significantly revised this portrayal.
** Among other things, the play doesn't mention More had three children besides Margaret: Elizabeth, Cicely, and John, besides his various foster children. (BTW: It is historically correct that More made sure his daughters received full formal educations -- a rarity at that time.)
** One odd omission is that while the Duke of Norfolk is a major character, the fact he is Anne Boleyn's uncle goes unmentioned.
* HolierThanThou: More is a genuinely devout and honest man, but he doesn't lord his virtue over others. That said he does play this trope straight in his dislike of Lutherans (a common belief at the time) and his willingness to drive his family into poverty (along with his household staff) and possibly endanger them as well by angering the King.
* HollywoodLaw: More is made to say that "When I was at law, it was the custom to ask the prisoner if he had anything to say before sentence was passed upon him." This is the garbled US version. In England, it is "Do you know of any reason why sentence should NOT be passed upon you?", in the unlikely event that there is cause for the defense to "move in arrest of judgement". (As Henry Cecil points out from his days on the bench, most criminals in the dock have no idea of this, and judges find it easier to just let them ramble when they take it as an invitation to rant about whatever is eating them than to try and shut them up.)
* HonorBeforeReason: Done nobly.
* IncorruptiblePurePureness: Sir Thomas More. He's impossible to bribe as a judge.
-->'''Wolsey:''' More, you should have been a cleric!\\
'''More:''' Like yourself, Your Grace?
* IronicEcho: "This isn't Spain. This is England!"
* JerkassHasAPoint: Henry VIII does have Biblical basis for wanting a divorce: lying with your brothers widow is considered to be a sin, and he genuinely believes his lack of a male heir is God's punishment, and that the King of Spain and the Pope are keeping him in a state of sin for their own reasons. Henry VIII was only able to marry his brother's widow because of a special dispensation granted by the Pope, but over time Henry came to believe the Pope never had the authority to do so.
** However, Henry began his affair with Anne after he ended his affair with her sister, Mary Boleyn, which was also biblically dubious. The term for intercourse with two family members is called "affinity".
* JokerJury: The jury of More's trial is composed of broomsticks wearing hats, except the Common Man, who's the foreman.
* JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope: Henry VIII goes from a wanting a divorce from an unhappy marriage (that was forced upon him by his father and ministers) to being a paranoid tyrant who will not take any criticism of his rule.
* KangarooCourt: More's trial. Witnesses who could help him are conveniently out of the country. The evidence against him is false, and done so for a very obvious bribe (Rich's job as Attonery General for Wales which is announced to the whole court). But the real clincher is when Cromwell intimidates the jury enough to ''not'' consider the evidence but deliver a guilty verdict right then and there.
* KarmaHoudini: "Richard Rich became Chancellor of England...and died in his bed."
* LossOfIdentity: Averted. Sir Thomas makes it clear, though, that if he had consented to swear a false oath, this ''would'' have been his inevitable fate. Richard Rich arguably falls victim to it, though we do not really see the effects onscreen.
* MinionWithAnFInEvil: Norfolk. He's one of More's closest friends, but he's forced to join the conspiracy agaist him because Henry wishes it.
* MiscarriageOfJustice: The climax turns on one of these; it's the cause of the DownerEnding.
* NeverLearnedToRead: More's wife.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: It's implied in the play that reason for the Oath of Supremacy is because More wouldn't go to Henry and Anne's wedding.
* NiceToTheWaiter: More to his household staff, even Matthew who is easily bribed to give information about his master to his enemies. When he has to let them go, he makes a point of finding new places for all of them.
* NumberTwo: Wolsey, More, and Cromwell all serve this postion to Henry during the play. Neither of them lasts very long though as Henry is a very fickle and impatient monarch.
* ObviouslyEvil: Cromwell. Even before he actually appears the More Family is greatly alarmed by the news he's become Wolsey's secretary.
* OffscreenKarma: Various villains conspire to have Thomas More unjustly executed for treason. The narrator gives us their subsequent fates:
-->Cromwell was [[LaserGuidedKarma beheaded for high treason]] five years after More. The archbishop was burned at the stake. The Duke of Norfolk should have been executed for high treason, but the king [[KarmicDeath died of syphilis the night before]]. [[KarmaHoudini Richard Rich became chancellor of England and died in his bed.]]
* OffWithHisHead: Sir Thomas (with the aid of a GoryDiscretionShot, of course).
* OneSteveLimit: Five of the historical figures presented in the play were named Thomas; to avoid confusion, the play mentions only Thomas More's first name, while Cromwell, Wolsey, Cranmer and Norfolk are referred to only by their surnames or titles.
* OpenSecret: Everyone knows Henry wants to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn.
* OpinionFlipflop: Roper starts the play as Lutheran, than by the end of Act I he's a Catholic. This is something of a family trait; Will's father was noted by More as "always swimming against the stream."
* TheParagonAlwaysRebels: Before Henry VIII split with Rome over the matter of his divorce, he was a devoted Catholic. As mentioned by More and Cromwell in Act II, he wrote a theological book called ''In Defence of the Seven Sacraments'', for which the Pope named him "Defender of the Faith".
* PopularityPower: More is a well regarded as a philosopher, scholar, statesman, and a honest man all across Europe. It's why Henry desperately wants his approval for his divorce. However More is not popular enough to be spared the Tower.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: After More is found guilty of treason, and with nothing to lose he finally speaks his mind about Henry's separation with Rome. He angrily denounces Henry's actions as illegal, as Church Immunity from the State is promised in both Magna Carta and the Coronation Oath, and that the ''real'' reason he's on trial is not for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy but for refusing to recogonize the marriage.
* RichesToRags: After More resigns as Chancellor, he has to let go of his household staff because he can't afford them any longer. Lady Alice is not very happy about the arrangement.
* TheRival: Cromwell wants to replace More as Henry's favorite advisor. He eventually succeeds
* RulesLawyer: More as a lawyer and later a judge is an expert in law, which works to his advantage. He knows if he openly states his opinions on why he won't swear to the Oath he'll be charged with treason. But if he remains silent on the subject all Henry and Cromwell can do is lock him up in the Tower. Sadly he didn't count on Rich commiting perjury to get him beheaded.
* RuleOfSymbolism: A woman tries to bribe More with a ''silver'' cup to rule in her favor at court. More being an honest judge gives it to Rich, in an attempt to teach him about corruption and bribery. Eventually Rich, throws his lot in with Cromwell because he's promises Rich a postion at court, More does not.
* ScrewTheRulesImDoingWhatsRight: William Roper is willing to do this, but Sir Thomas More is not, as shown in this exchange:
-->'''William Roper:''' So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!\\
'''Sir Thomas More:''' Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?\\
'''William Roper:''' Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!\\
'''Sir Thomas More:''' Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, [[ArmorPiercingQuestion where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat]]? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, [[PragmaticHero for my own safety's sake]]!
** Cardinal Wolsey.
** Archbishop Cranmer.
* SmartPeopleKnowLatin: Henry tests how smart Meg is by conversing with her in Latin. Her Latin is better and Henry is a bit miffed but he doesn't make a big deal out of it.
** Wolsey is mentioned to be a "butcher's son" and Cromwell is mentioned to be a "farrier's son"; both have managed to work their way to positions of power and prestige at Court.
** Rich too, but he tries too hard, which is why he gets constantly snubbed until Cromwell takes him under his wing.
* TheStarscream: Cromwell starts off as Wolsey's secretary, but he curries favor with the King when Wolsey becomes disgraced and moves up in the Royal Court until he ends up living in Hampton Court, the residence of his former master. Henry VIII at one point calls him a jackal with teeth who only follows him because he's his tiger, but by the end he doesn't seem to mind this.
* SuccessionCrisis: Why all this is happening in the first place -- Henry VIII wants a male heir, and wife #1 (Catherine of Aragon) hasn't provided one. Wolsey fears that the UsefulNotes/WarsOfTheRoses (Yorkist Wars) will start up again without one.
** King Henry choosing to split from the Catholic Church.
** Sir Thomas' decision to side publicly neither with the Reformers nor the Catholics and to remain silent about Henry's choice.
* TakeThat: More, after he learns that Richard Rich committed perjury against him in exchange for being named Attonery General for Wales.
-->Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for ''Wales''?
* TeethClenchedTeamWork: Norfolk and Cromwell. The two '''hate''' each other, and are only working together because the King wishes it (if Norfolk had his way he wouldn't even be part of the Conspiracy against More).
* TemptingFate: "There'll be no new Chancellors while Wolsey lives."
** During More's trial Henry is ''still'' offering him a chance to take the Oath and save himself.
** Norfolk gets charged with treason somewhere down the line, but Henry dies before he can sign the death warrant.
* ToxicFriendInfluence: Cromwell to Rich and more seriously to the King himself.
* TurnCoat: Richard Rich (against More), Thomas Cromwell (against Wolsey), and, because he's being forced by Henry, the Duke of Norfolk against More.
* UnPerson: More after he resigns as Chancellor. Even the boatmen on the Thames won't give him a ride home.
** Henry and More. Eventually their friendship ends because More won't support Henry in his efforts for a divorce. Even then they both have some affection for each other: More still considers himself the King's servant, and Henry gives More chance after chance to take the Oath and save himself.
** More and Rich. Their friendship ends when Rich pathetically begs More for a postion at Court. More steadfastly refuses. Only then More becomes aware of how much influnce Cromwell has over his young friend.
* WithUsOrAgainstUs: There's no arguing with Henry VIII. Nor is it possible to just keep quiet and not say anything about the King's plans one way or the other; Henry will have an endorsement, or else.
* YouHaveFailedMe: When Wolsey can't secure a divorce Henry charges him with treason, but he dies before he can even stand trial, or make it to the Tower.
* YouTalkTooMuch: Roper is very open about his opinions (which he changes often) to point where More has to tell him to shut it before he gets accused of treason.
* YourDaysAreNumbered: Wolsey is well aware that if he can't secure a divorce his days as Chancellor are over.
!!Tropes added by the 1966 film include:
* AdaptationDistillation: The subplot with the Spanish Ambassador was dropped, and some scenes were trimmed. Bolt himself wrote the screenplay.
* AdaptationExpansion: The film does add several brief scenes of exposition to make up for the Common Man's absence: Wolsey's death, Henry's wedding, Parliament voting on the Act of Succession.
* AdaptationalHeroism: The Duke of Norfolk is not the judge in [[KangarooCourt More's trial]] (being replaced by a trio of judges) but merely a spectator instead.
* AndStarring: Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More.
* TheCameo: Creator/VanessaRedgrave makes a cameo as Anne Boleyn, during the wedding.
* DecompositeCharacter: The Common Man was deemed too theatrical for a film, and is decomposed into his various separate roles, with one, Sir Thomas' servant Matthew, retaining a little of his function as commentator.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: Cromwell gets one when he politely shows in More to see Wolsey, then is seen eavesdropping on their conversation, proving he's loyal only to himself.
* HotConsort: Anne Boleyn (in the five seconds we see her, anyway).
* LargeHam: King Henry. During his attempt to get More's endorsement, he's basically shouting the entire time. Even the other characters notice it, and are listening at the window. Or away from the window, given the volume.
* PimpedOutDress: Anne's scene has her in an [[PrettyInMink ermine-trimmed]] dress.
* OhCrap: A subtle one, but More is ''not'' happy, when he sees that Cromwell is now part of Henry's entourage.
* StealthInsult: Norfolk gives a truly awesome one directed at Rich (who gives him a DeathGlare in return):
--> '''Norfolk:''' The moment Thomas knew the cup was a bribe he dropped it into the nearest ''gutter''.
* WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue: at the end of the film, a voiceover explains what happens in the next few years (for most of the characters, things get worse).