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A Must if You Haven't Seen or Read

Book/Play/Movie: A Man for All Seasons
Author: Robert Bolt
A Vintage Book, New York, pp. 95


Excerpt from Fr. William Byron on Robert Bolt's Introduction:

Reflective persons are not impulsive; they are not necessarily indecisive, but they are measured and deliberate in their approach to decision making. Reflection is the environment, the atmosphere, of ethical deliberation. And ethical reflection emerges from the "inner house," from the character of the one who deliberates and must decide. That character is shaped by the Jesuit educational experience. Not surprisingly, those who provide the experience entertain the theoretical expectation of finding evidence of ethical decision making emerging over time from the characters of those in whose formation they have had a hand.

. . . . Whenever my thoughts turn to this issue, I find myself recalling the words of playwright Robert Bolt in the preface to his classic A Man for All Seasons. The play is a testimonial to the integrity and character of Thomas More. In the preface, Bolt explains his mood and his social perceptions as he wrote the play. He was troubled by the thin fabric of contemporary human character, by the tendency of the typical modern man and woman to think of himself or herself in the third person, to describe the self "in terms more appropriate to somebody seen through a window." Bolt then provides a penetrating insight amounting to a one-sentence summary of the cultural ills that beset us today: "Both socially and individually it is with us as it is with our cities an accelerating flight to the periphery, leaving a center which is empty when the hours of business are over."

The playwright goes on to ask, "Why do I take as my hero a man who brings about his own death because he can't put his hand on an old black book and tell an ordinary lie?" He answers: For this reason: A man takes an oath only when he wants to commit himself quite exceptionally to the statement, when he wants to make an identity between the truth of it and his own virtue; he offers himself as a guarantee. And it works. There is a special kind of shrug for a perjurer; we feel that the man has no self to commit, no guarantee to offer."

Excerpt from Book:

(Rich, a young aspiring man who longs for courtly life, and especially courtly honors and riches, beseeches Thomas More for a position with him. More realizes this, knows that court life is not all it is cracked up to be, and also realizes Rich has another talent that would better suit him to follow. The dialogue is one that lauds the role of being a teacher.) More. But, Richard, in office they offer you all sorts of things. I was once offered a whole village, with a mill, and a manor house, and heaven knows what else a coat of arms, I shouldn't be surprised. Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher. Perhaps even a great one.

Rich. And if I was, who would know it?
More. You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that . . . . Oh, and a quiet life.
Rich. You say that!
More. Richard, I was commanded into office; it was inflicted on me . . . (Rich regards him) Can't you believe that?
Rich. It's hard.
More (Grimly) Be a teacher