Study Guide

A Man for All Seasons Power

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Kanye West once asked, "You got the power to let power go?" Thomas More would be able to say "yes" to that question. Cromwell, Rich, and Henry VIII probably would not be able to.

More doesn't mind letting go of worldly power and influence: Being Chancellor to the king is a lot less important than remaining true to his beliefs, and when the two aims conflict, he resigns as Chancellor. But principles and beliefs seem to mean little or nothing to Cromwell and Rich (in A Man for All Seasons, at least; in real life, Cromwell was a serious Protestant), and power is their primary goal. It's the only thing they're interested in.

Questions About Power

  1. How does spiritual power (the kind held by the Pope) differ from secular power (the kind held by King Henry VIII)—provided you consider there to be a difference? What really causes the conflict between the two in the movie?
  2. How does Thomas More's attitude toward power differ from that of the other characters? Consider the differences between the attitudes of Henry, Norfolk, Cromwell, and Rich.
  3. Does More pursue power at all? How did he manage to advance as far as he does (becoming Chancellor, etc.)?
  4. In More's view, what's the right way of wielding power? How does Henry VIII end up going too far, and why in More's view does this qualify as being "too far"?

Chew on This

It's commonly said that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Might this apply to King Henry VIII?

The main problem in A Man for All Seasons isn't the king, but his power-driven underlings. The king doesn't want to kill Thomas More—it's people lower down the ladder like Cromwell and Rich who seem more desirous of this outcome.

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