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A Man for All Seasons Summary & Study Guide

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A Man for All Seasons Summary & Study Guide Description

A Man for All Seasons Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Sir Thomas More is a close friend of King Henry VIII. As a philosopher and thinker, though, he morally objects to Henry divorcing Catherine, his wife. She has not born him a male heir, and Henry is obsessed with creating a progeny. At the time, divorce was not legal as it was controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. More cites that the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, would not likely provide a special dispensation for the divorce. The Pope had already granted Catherine the ability to marry Henry, but only after it was revealed she and her first husband, Henry’s deceased brother, had never consummated their own marriage. More discusses his feelings with the current Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, but Wolsey feels More is being impractical.

Later, More meets the Spanish Ambassador to England, Signor Chapuys. Because Queen Catherine is the aunt of the King of Spain, Chapuys feels loyal to her more than to Henry. He discusses the situation with More and finds out More is against the divorce. Chapuys stresses the religious significance of marriage to the Catholic faith. He sees More as his ally in the matter. More, though, is more thoughtful about his reasoning. However, Chapuys does not comprehend this thoughtfulness and sees More’s agreement as a testament to his Catholic faith.

Once at home, More’s daughter Margaret tells him her boyfriend came to visit her while More was away. Roper, the boyfriend, asked for Margaret’s hand in marriage. Furious, More refuses to let Margaret marry Roper. Roper is a Lutheran, which means he is a Protestant. More does not want a Protestant in his family. At the same time, Chancellor Wolsey was sent into disgrace by Henry. Wolsey was not able to convince the Pope to give him special dispensation for the divorce. Wolsey died suddenly, and Henry appointed More as Wolsey’s successor.

Thomas Cromwell, known only as a close confidant of Henry, speaks with Richard Rich, a man More helped find a job. More also gave Rich a silver cup as a gift, not realizing the silver cup was given to him as a bribe. Cromwell presses Rich to give him information about More; in return, Cromwell promises Rich a high-powered position in the court. Chapuys and More’s servant Matthew enter soon after. Cromwell, Rich, and Chapuys try to bribe Matthew into giving them information about More. He tells them very vague facts, information well-known to the court. The three men pay him nonetheless.

Henry travels to More’s London home where More is nowhere to be found. After searching for him, More arrives back at his home at the last minute before Henry arrives. The two men talk, and More reminds Henry he promised not to ask More about his position on the divorce. Henry becomes angry, and he tells More he will not press him for his opinion on the divorce. However, More must promise not to speak out against the divorce publicly. After Henry leaves, More’s wife Alice begs More to reconsider his stance. She wants More to do whatever Henry asks of him in order to stay in his favor. Then Rich shows up and tells More Cromwell and Chapuys are trying to find information to blackmail More. Rich, however, uses this information to blackmail More himself and asks for a better job. More refuses. Feeling rejected and embarrassed, Rich meets with Cromwell and tells him about the silver cup More received as an unknowing bribe. In return for this information, Cromwell gives Rich a job.

Back in Parliament, the Act of Supremacy was passed. This act would establish England will be Protestant and follow the Church of England. Henry, as king, will act as the head of the church. The act has not become fully realized, though, as it still needs the bishops of England to pass it. More is more diligent than ever. He says if the bishops pass the act, he will resign his newly-acquired position. He is adamant and insists he will not explain himself or his position to anyone but the king. His family pleads with him to change his mind, but he refuses. He receives a letter from the king of Spain commending him for his decision.

By now, Henry has received word of More’s resistance. He tells Cromwell he plans to persecute More, but he needs more evidence against him. Cromwell meets with the Duke of Norfolk and tells him about the silver cup bribe. However, Norfolk pokes holes in this evidence and tells Cromwell More gave the cup away once he realized it was a bribe. Cromwell leaves in order to find more evidence against More.

Later, Cromwell calls More into his office and begins to cite charges against him. He says More was sympathizing with an enemy and had taken credit for a book written by Henry. He then reads More a letter in which the king calls More a villain. While More was able to wave off the other two accusations, the king’s words hurt him.

More meets with Norfolk outside Cromwell’s office. He tells Norfolk being his friend is a liability. Being friends with More could mean Norfolk would be considered a conspirator against the king. After the discussion, the scene changes to More’s imprisonment. Parliament signed another act into law stating all of Henry’s subjects must swear an oath of allegiance to Henry and his new capacity as the head of the Church of England. Also, the act states the subjects must fully agree and support Henry’s divorce from Catherine. Refusing to swear the oath, More ends up in prison.

Many people come to try to change More’s mind, including his family. When visiting More, Alice finally comes to understand why More took the position that he did. They reconcile their differences and rekindle their love. At More’s trial, Rich gives false testimony saying More vocally denied Henry as the true ruler of the church. Before he is beheaded, More gives a speech about the evils of a government that would condemn a man to death for being quiet about his opinions.

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