Pragmatism vs. Idealism (a Man

Topics: A Man for All Seasons, Henry VIII of England, Thomas More Pages: 5 (2317 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Morality is often overpowered by materialistic pursuits. In "A Man for All Seasons",Robert Bolt shows the corruption of those who put self interest above all other values. His use of such characters as Thomas Cromwell, Richard Rich, Chapuys and Wolsey help convey this corruption. There is yet another character who is a pragmatist that Bolt successfully represents. Thomas More is an idealist as well as a pragmatist, for he is prepared to give up everything for his beliefs and takes all precautions possible to make his case "watertight". It is through this pragmatism and idealism that Robert Bolt shows the corruption of the times. Thomas More believed in his ideals to such an extent that he was prepared to sacrifice his life for them, if the need arrived. He was a firm believer in the separation of Church and State. When the King tried to start the reformation of England and the Church by a simple Act of Parliament called the Act of Supremacy, Thomas refused to sign it. He believed that the indictment of the King was "grounded in an Act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to law of God. The King in Parliament cannot bestow he Supremacy of the Church because it is a Spiritual Supremacy! And more to this the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and the Kings own Coronation Oath!"(Bolt, p. 92) The marriage was yet another reason why More refused to sign the Act. He knew that if he signed it then he would accept the King as the Supreme Head of Church and thus give the King the power to "dispense with the dispensation" which to him was against his morals and religion. Of course the marriage was associated with other things -attack on the abbeys, the whole Reformation policy-to which More was violently opposed. When told by Norfolk that his parish attire is a disrespect to the King and his office. More replies that "the service of God is not a dishonor to any office"(Bolt, p.26) Even though he loves the King to death as proved by Mores loyalty towards him, he values his morality and religion more. For his conscience is a "little area where I must rule myself"(Bolt,p.34). His position is perfectly described in his belief 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." His idealism is clearly shown in his refusal to take the oath for the oath to him was an invitation to God to act as a witness as well as a judge and the consequence of a perjury was damnation. He is a man who is "anchored to his principles" (Bolt, p.36). The issue is not about what other people see his beliefs as but "not that I believe it, but that I believe it..."(Bolt, p.53). He needs to be true to his conscience and cannot let other people interfere with these decisions, for when he faces his creator it is he alone who will answer Him. "In matters of conscience, the loyal subject is more bounded to be loyal to his conscience than to any other thing"(Bolt, p.89) Even towards his tragic end he is so sure of his righteousness that he advises the headsman to "be not afraid of your office. You send me to God. He will not refuse one who is to blithe to go to him" (Bolt, p.94) Thus, it becomes clear that Thomas alone possess the "moral squint" that no other character possesses in the play. Thomas More is a pragmatist with a lawyers mind and a loyal heart. He was able to foresee the future and knew exactly what could be used against him later on. When Thomas More realized that the silver goblet that he received from the woman was a bribe he immediately got rid of it. He gave it to Rich, for he knew the type of person Rich was, and gave the woman an impeccably correct judgment. Not surprisingly, the goblet was later used against him but due to More's actions, it held little substance. More's trust in the law was his trust in society; his desperate sheltering beneath the forms of the law was his determination...
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