A Man For All Seasons: Act 2, Scene Five

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The Common Man in his Steward guise remains on stage to explain that Sir Thomas More has come down a bit. We are at the More house in Chelsea, but it is cold and dark.

 

Chapuys and his attendant enter in cloaks, with Alice above, wearing an apron over her dress. She says her husband is coming down and wishes Chapuys would leave before he does. Chapuys says he has a Royal Commission to perform. Chapuys remembers when the rooms were warm. The attendant says this is the result of angering a King. Chapuys agrees but says Sir Thomas is a good man. Chapuys makes pleasantries with More and then gives him a letter from the King of Spain. More says he has taken no stand, and he will not accept the letter. More says his views are guessed at but not known. It would be his duty to take the letter to the King of England. Chapuys is shocked.

 

Margaret enters with an armload of bracken for fuel to warm the house. More shows Margaret and Alice that he has not opened the letter from the King of Spain and asks the visitors to leave. Chapuys says to his man that Sir Thomas is unreliable.

 

More explains to his family that he can’t take the money from the bishops. Alice is exhausted and says apparently they are not worthy to know why a man in poverty cannot take four thousand pounds. He tries to tell her this is not poverty, but she reminds him they don’t know what they will eat tonight. He says, they will eat parsnips and mutton, but they will be together. Margaret says he should take the money, but he says if the Church pays him, it buys his consent.

 

Roper enters and says that Cromwell is summoning him now to answer some charges. More says it was to be expected and makes light of it. Margaret wants to come with him, but he says he’ll be back for dinner because his case is watertight. Alice says Cromwell is a skillful lawyer. More dismisses Cromwell, calling him a mere “pragmatist” (113).

 

Act Two, Scene Five: Commentary

 

Both Cromwell and Chapuys believe they can read More’s politics from his silence. Cromwell says if he hasn’t said anything against the King then he must be for him. Chapuys gives the same argument. If More is keeping quiet about the King, it must mean he is for Spain. More’s silence confuses both his enemies and his family, but gives him protection for a while. With this summons to Cromwell, one imagines the game is up because he will have found some law with which to trap More into playing his hand.

 

More tries to be philosophical with his family, saying they are not in poverty. They have the riches of virtue and each other. Alice resents however, that the family must pay for More’s conscience, especially since he won’t explain his view on things. He is increasingly isolated by his choice.

 

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