Study Guide

A Man for All Seasons Religion

Religion

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. And we shall have my prayers to fall back on.

WOLSEY: You'd like that, wouldn't you? To govern the country with prayers?

MORE: Yes, I should.

This shows the difference between Wolsey, a clergyman and cardinal, and More, a layman. Wolsey is a practical man-of-the-world, who thinks that action and effort are what really matter, regardless of how consistent they are with ideals. But More is perfectly willing to put his ideals above things that compromise his principles—and he really does believe that prayer can help.

MORE: Roper, the answer is no... and will be no as long as you're a heretic.

ROPER: Now, that's a word I don't like, Sir Thomas!

MORE: It's not a likable word or a likable thing.

ROPER: The Church is heretical! Dr. Luther's proved that to my satisfaction!

MORE: Luther is an excommunicate!

ROPER: From a heretic Church! Church? It's a shop! Salvation by the shilling, and divorces!

More really didn't like Protestants (in fact, he had a few executed for heresy in his day). So, it's a bit unfortunate for him that his daughter is engaged to one. But from Will's perspective, the Church has been selling indulgences (time off from Purgatory) in a baldly transparent bid to raise money. Yet More really believes the Church was founded by Christ and St. Peter, and can't break with it, even though he views its corruptions as being bad.

DUKE: All right, Thomas, make me understand. Because I tell you, to me this looks like cowardice.

MORE: All right, I will. This isn't reformation. This is war against the Church. Our King has declared war on the Pope because the Pope will not declare that our Queen is not his wife.

More wouldn't mind reforming the Church's corruption, but to actually break with the Church is heretical, in his view. King Henry has gone more than a bridge too far in his eyes. But, to someone like Norfolk, More's principles are less comprehensible, because the Pope seems just as worldly and practical as the king—not the idealist More is.

MORE: Listen, Meg. God made the angels to show Him splendour. He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But man He made to serve him wittily in the tangle of his mind. If He suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping... then we may stand to our tackle as best we can. And yes, Meg, then we can clamour like champions if we have the spittle for it. But it's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping. If I can take this oath, I will.

More explains that, while he's determined to take his stand, he won't intentionally martyr himself unless his enemies force this to happen. As long as he can, he will try to bridge the divide, serving the king and serving God, and using his intellect to do so cleverly. But, at a certain point, the divide becomes unbridgeable, and More has to go with God.

MORE (to the Executioner): … I forgive you, right readily. Be not afraid of your office. You send me to God.

PRIEST: You're very sure of that, Sir Thomas?

MORE: He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.

More means that he's going to God almost light-heartedly—he's not afraid. The world dominated by the king is heavier with pressures and torments than God's world, to which More is headed.