A Man for All Seasons
is an award-winning play and film by Robert Bolt. After successful runs in London (1960) and New York (1962), it was adapted to film in 1966. The play and film made a star of Paul Scofield, who won both a Tony Award and an Oscar for his performance. The movie picked up five additional Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (Fred Zinneman). Inspired By
actual historic events.
Once upon a time, Sir Thomas More
was a barrister who became the most trusted adviser of Henry VIII
. 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 Take a Third Option
; 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 Charlton Heston. The 1988 version stuck closely to the stage version, including retaining the Fourth Wall
Tropes associated with the play A Man for All Seasons include:
Tropes added by the 1966 film include:
- And Starring: Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More.
- Decomposite Character: The Common Man is decomposed into his various separate roles, with one, Sir Thomas' servant Matthew, retaining a little of his function as commentator.
- Gorgeous Period Dress
- Hot Consort: Anne Boleyn (in the five seconds we see her, anyway).
- Large Ham: 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.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Anne's scene has her in an ermine-trimmed dress.
- Smart People Know Latin: The king tests how smart sir Thomas' daughter is by asking her to talk in Latin.
- Star-Making Role: For Paul Scofield and John Hurt.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: at the end of the film, a voiceover explains what happens in the next few years (for most of the characters, things get worse).