Study Guide

A Man for All Seasons Richard Rich (John Hurt)

Richard Rich (John Hurt)

You're Tearing Me Apart!

Public service announcement for fans of early 90's Macauley Culkin movies: Richard Rich is not the same dude as Richie Rich. One is a poor little rich boy who gets into all sorts of crazy hijinks… and the other one is the slimy Attorney General of Wales.

Hmm. Maybe they're not all that dissimilar.

Richard Rich (John Hurt) is an ambitious, young job-seeker, trying to gain a position in court by petitioning More (since More is Chancellor to the King). More tries to talk him out of it, explaining how difficult it is to withstand the corruption of holding a position in government. He uses the example of a bribe someone gave him, showing Richard the silver cup a woman slipped into his hand (More didn't realize what it was until later).

But Rich is torn between More and Cromwell. At first, he doesn't want to get drawn into Cromwell's orbit, because he knows how devious Cromwell really is. He begs More to employ him, but More refuses, urging him to go into a career in academia and leave politics alone.

Rich is put off and goes over to the dark side with little fuss. Cromwell tries to get him to betray More, and, after a little cajoling, Rich relents, telling him about the "bribe" (even though More didn't know it was a bribe, and got rid of it).

After Rich spills the beans, Cromwell asks him, "That wasn't so painful was it?" Rich answers, "No."

Aptitude For Evil

Rich quickly grows even more callous, realizing that cynical power manipulations are natural. At one point, he suggests to Cromwell that they should force More to sign the oath by torture, saying, "Rack him."

But Cromwell regretfully explains that they can't do it because of the King's orders. We see Rich's clothing growing fancier and finer as Cromwell helps him advance his career (and as he loses his soul).

Finally, he completely betrays More by lying—perjuring himself in order to claim that More openly denied that Parliament had the right to break with the Church over the issue of the King's marriage. Rich claims that he (Rich) said to More, "I will put you a middle case. Parliament has made our King head of the Church. Why will you not accept him?" Then he lies and says that More said, "Parliament had not the competence… or words to that effect."

Rich is wearing a chain of office when he tells this lie—Cromwell has made him Attorney General of Wales. When More sees the chain, he tells him,

MORE: Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?

Ooh. Burn. (Also, Wales is a really nice place.)

Despite telling the lie that seals More's fate, a voiceover at the end of the movie tells us that Richard Rich died in his bed. So, the power-hungry vulture gets a comfortable death, while the saintly More gets his head lopped off—the irony!