As the movie begins, we see ferocious gargoyle statues in London, before observing Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry VIII's Chancellor, writing a letter. A messenger takes it down the Thames, which is full of natural beauty, to Thomas More's house.
At the More residence, More and guests are sitting around laughing and joking—Wolsey himself is a subject of their jests.
When More gets the letter, he departs for Wolsey's at once, after telling the young jobseeker, Richard Rich, that he might have a position for him.
At the Cardinal's office, More debates with Wolsey: Wolsey says that More opposed him early, but he still wants his help. Wolsey wants to put pressure on the Church to force them to grant King Henry the divorce he wants. If they don't produce a male heir, there will eventually be civil war. But More remains adamant.
They briefly discuss who will be Chancellor after Wolsey croaks—it could be More or it could be Cromwell, Wolsey's secretary.
As he leaves, a woman passes More a silver cup, saying it's a token of gratitude. More realizes it's meant to be a bribe. He almost dumps it in the river on his way back, but the boatman stops him.