A Man For All Seasons: Act 2, Scene Nine
Margaret and Roper appear with the news that there is a new Act of Parliament. They will administer an oath about the marriage. All who refuse commit treason. More asks the wording. They know nothing about the wording, but More says that an oath is made of words, and he must know. They decide to go home and see the wording of the bill. More tells them a little sermon as they go. God made angels for splendor and animals for innocence and plants for simplicity but man is to serve God “wittily, in the tangle of his mind” (126). If he cannot escape, well, that is God’s doing, but for his part, he must try to escape.
Act Two, Scene Nine: Commentary
This is a serious blow, for it is obvious More will not perjure his soul with a false oath. He is hoping the wording is something he can live with. This is a modern view of his predicament. He is a lawyer and knows the implications of words, at least for himself. He knows what lines he can cross and cannot cross and still feel honest. There is something relative instead of absolute in his morality. It is he, Thomas More, who decides whether or not he honors God. It is not an external body or person or doctrine that must be obeyed, but the God spark within himself. Humans are not like angels, animals, or plants. They must use their brains to serve God. More refers here to the Renaissance image of the Great Chain of Being in which every creature had its part to play, its place, and special virtue. Humans come between angels and animals in the divine hierarchy, and through free will, they can rise or fall. The men around King Henry are acting fearful as animals; they do not use their intelligence to serve God and King. More is proud of his learning and virtue as a way to serve God and Man, and be at peace with himself.