- Find out how the 5 approaches to morality are applied by the characters of the movie (A Man for All Seasons) in their decision-making or reasoning and explain. Cite scenes/conversations.
- Thomas More, the protagonist in the film, applies the approach to morality which defines morality as ‘inner conviction’. It is simply the law inside us which dictates our actions. This is proven as More denies the request of King Henry VIII of helping him to file a divorce with Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn in spite of knowing that the king may be able to condemn him. He also did not take the Oath of Supremacy recognizing Henry VIII as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England making him charged for treason. At some point, More’s action could also be considered as an approach to morality which defines morality as social transformation for he aims for a social peace to his countrymen.
[Sir Thomas and the King are discussing the King’s wish for a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow]
King Henry VIII: Oh, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas! Does a man need a Pope to tell him where he’s sinned? It was a sin. God’s punished me. I have no son. Son after son she’s borne me – all dead at birth or dead within the month. Never saw the hand of God so clear in anything. It’s my bounden duty to put away the Queen and all the popes back to Peter shall not come between me and my duty! How is it that you cannot see? Everyone else does.
Sir Thomas More: Then why does your Grace need my poor support?
King Henry VIII: Because you’re honest… and what is more to the purpose, you’re KNOWN to be honest. There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown; and those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth and I’m their tiger; there’s a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves. And then there’s you…
Sir Thomas More: I am sick to think how much I must displease your Grace.
King Henry VIII: No, Thomas, I respect your sincerity. But respect… man, that’s water in the desert.
- The character of King Henry VIII applies the approach to morality which defines morality as ‘love’. According to this approach, others can be treated as ‘It’ (thing) or ‘Thou’ (person). King Henry VIII treated More as object when he pretend to be kind in order to gain benefit from More, But when More did not help him, the King condemned him to death. Not only More but also other people around him like his courtiers who are left to run through the mud and into the river to catch up as the King sails away and laughs hysterically at their predicament and his wife Catherine of Aragon whom he wants to file divorce due to a reason that she had produced no sons who survived infancy.
[King wants to get the favor of More so he compliments him]
King Henry VIII: Thomas. I chose the right man for chancellor!
Sir Thomas More: I should in fairness add that my taste in music is reputedly deplorable.
King Henry VIII: Your taste in music is excellent. It exactly coincides with my own!
- The character of Richard Rich applies the approach to morality which defines morality as ‘personal growth‘. This approach says that the ultimate goal of morality is the achievement of our purpose. Rich, in the film, turns to be selfish for he only thinks of himself. He changes side and backstabs Thomas more, the one who helped and protected him in times of his need. He accepts
bribes from the king and makes false accusations against More in exchange of wealth and power (a higher position in office – Attorney General for Wales).
[Rich summons to court to be used his words as evidence against More]
Richard Rich: He said: “Parliament had not the competence.” Or words to that effect,
Sir Thomas More: In good faith, Rich,I am sorrier for your perjury than my peril.
Court: Do you deny this?
Sir Thomas More: Yes! You know if I were a man who heeded not the taking of an oath…I need not be here. Now, I will take an oath. If what Master Rich has said is true…I pray I may never see God in the face. Which I would not say, were it otherwise, for anything on earth!
2. As a Christian (Catholic), what is the fundamental option of Thomas More? What is the influence of that fundamental option in his decisions, actions and life? Cite scenes/conversations.
The fundamental option of Thomas More is the option of ‘Faith’. This ‘Faith’ greatly influenced More’s decisions and actions. He denies the requests of King Henry VIII, resigns as the Chancellor and did not take the Oath of Supremacy recognizing Henry VIII as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. He did all this actions and never thinks twice of changing his mind because he has faith, because he believes that there is a God who judges people in the time of their death and punishes them in accordance to their sins. This conversation proves Thomas More’s faith in God:
Sir Thomas More: Listen, Meg, God made the angels to show Him splendor, as 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 clamor 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 the oath, I will.