A Man for All Season and Machiavelli's Doctrine: Reiteration of History

Topics: Henry VIII of England, Thomas More, Prince Pages: 6 (1911 words) Published: December 22, 2005
A Man For All Season and Machiavelli's Doctrine: Reiteration of History A Man For All Seasons, a play written by Robert Bolt, in essence is both a moral play and a historical play. Sir Thomas More, a "man of the greatest virtue this kingdom has ever produced" (Dean Swift), is famous for choosing to suffer death rather than swearing to an oath that would counter his principles. Sir More had acquired a high position of Lord Chancellery under the reign of King Henry VIII, but stepped down since he could not do what the king had asked of him since this action would conflict with his beliefs and conscience. From that time, Sir More was in disagreement with King Henry's divorce, which led him to his own doom. Realizing that Sir More would not submit, the king decided to turn to his other advisors and approached Sir Thomas Cromwell.

Machiavelli said, "cruel behavior is to be used only when necessary for the common good". To Sir Cromwell, it is a necessity that the king's orders must be followed whatever it takes: "…it's much more a matter of convenience, administrative convenience" (Bolt, 1963, 49). Their craftiness reflects Machiavelli's writing about politics seeing it as a public responsibility that cannot afford to govern under the laws of morality. Yet to some degree, harm still comes repetitively to individuals who oppose people with dictative power. "It must be understood, that a prince … cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state." (Machiavelli).

Machiavelli remains one of the controversial figures of political history. One of his works, The Prince (also known as "A Handbook for Dictators"), contains many references to ancient history, but is mainly based on the political career of his political beliefs. His book, The Prince is often divided into four sections. The first section deals with principalities ("monarchies"), of which according to Machiavelli there are four types. First is the hereditary principality, which is traditionally under the control of a ruler's family and their descendants. The second type of principality is called the mixed principality, where the hereditary is considered with newly conquered territories. Next, the principality acquired by new people where the territory of another is acquired by force, through someone else (for example as a gift from a king), through a crime or cruelty of the inheritor, or through the favor of the prince's fellow people. Lastly, the principalities of Ecclesiastical, which it can only be obtain through good fortune or virtue because this is sustained by the religious ordinance.

The second section of The Prince deals with military, it was discussed how a principality can prepare itself militarily. There are four types of armies that can be employed: the mercenaries, the auxiliaries, the nationals, and the mixed armies. The mercenaries and auxiliaries were said to be "useless and dangerous". Mercenaries will fight but are not willing to die for their ruler, while the auxiliaries will act as either an offense or defense. The nationals, also known as natives, serves as the best fighting force since they are fighting for their homeland.

The next section of The Prince discusses what kind of qualities a prince must possess. It was said that the prince must conduct himself in regard to his friends and subject. Machiavelli wrote in the book, "…It is better for a ruler to be feared than loved, as fear is a stronger and more binding emotion." Meaning, the prince must provide set of rules and make it effective but must avoid making him be despised by others.

And lastly, the book also discusses the political state that existed in Italy. "Italian princes have all lost the control over their states because ‘common weakness in regards to military organization' and unable to balance allegiance...

Cited: Bolt, Robert, "A Man For All Seasons". Ancient Times to the American and French Revolutions Volume I (Prehistory – 1790 's)
"Act of Supremacy, 1534." DISCovering World History. Online Edition. Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 24 March 2005
Bolt, Robert A Man For All Seasons Notes. Toronto: Coles Publishing, 1985.
Bolt, Robert A Man For All Seasons Notes. Toronto: Coles Publishing, 1964, 1974.
Bolt, Robert A Man For All Seasons. Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1960, 1963.
Burnham, James, "Machiavelli: The Science of Power," in his The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom, The John Day Company, Inc., 1943, pp. 29-80. DISCovering Authors. Online Edition. Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center. Thomson Gale. 23 March 2005
Jalic LCC, The Literature Network: The Prince, Copyright: 2000-2004
RAUL J. BONOAN, S.J., is the president of the Ateneo de Naga, a Jesuit-sponsored university in Naga City, Philippines, and editor of The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence, published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press in 1994.
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