“We feel – we know – the self to be an equivocal commodity. There are fewer things which, as they say, we ‘cannot bring ourselves’ to do. ” Apply this quotation to three characters in the play. A Man for All Seasons is a play, which focuses on the theme of convenience versus conscience. Robert Bolt in this historical play about the live of Sir Thomas More examines the concept of human nature, and conscience being malleable to its circumstances.
In a sense the play is being used as an allegory of present times, with the Common Man illustrating directly its relevance to today.The Common Man also creates distance and is a good use of the alienation effect, as it makes it clear this is just a play yet he still manages to bridge the gap between the characters in the play and the audience. “The Sixteenth Century is the Century of the Common Man . Like all other centuries. ” (page 2) The historical setting was chosen to in Bolt’s own words to enable him, “to treat my characters in a properly heroic, properly theatrical manner. “Three characters who ever increasingly find fewer, and fewer things that they are unwilling to do in the play are the Common Man, Richard Rich and Thomas Cromwell. The Common Man is seen as a rather worldly, self-serving character.
Throughout the course of the play he appears to be perfecting the art of self-preservation; “when I can’t touch the bottom I’ll go deaf blind and dumb. ” (page 25) Easily bribed as we see in his role as Matthew, the steward. He fails to ever take a firm stand, and is constantly shirking away from any kind of trouble.
His constant objective is to please himself, and therefore as Matthew he refuses to accept a lower salary although Thomas more cannot afford to pay him as much and longer, and instead quits. He is suspicious and fails to accept that More will genuinely miss him. The Common Man takes on many guises in the play to illustrate the fact that he represents us all. As innkeeper he pretends to have an understanding of anything in order to keep himself out of trouble; “I’m a plain simple man and just want to keep out of trouble.
” (page 88)Then as jailer he once again does all he can to stay out of trouble. He even carries out the role of foreman of the jury and executioner as to not do would get himself in trouble. He takes on these roles being perfectly aware that Thomas More the man suffering is good, honest and entirely undeserving of such a fate. But he refuses to make a stand as he does not want to go against those such as Cromwell who could cause him trouble; “Only an unhappy few were found to set themselves against the current of their times, and in so doing to court disaster. ” (page 47)Richard Rich is a man who desperately wants to achieve something better out of life. he feels in order to be successful and gain respect he needs a high position in society, he certainly does not feel that a teaching post as Thomas More suggests to him would achieve him suitable status. He is the only character in the play that actually seems to like Cromwell as can be seen from Alice More’s comment; “He’s the only man in London if he does! ” (page 7) He is a weak character and easily corrupted by Cromwell. We see his gradual moral downfall occur throughout the play.
As is as he becomes more and more corrupt that he rises up in society. He is a greedy and ambitious character and very susceptible to bribery if it allows him to progress in any manner; “But every man has his price! ” (page 2) He quite obviously lacks integrity, yet a conscience is observed at occasions throughout the play, “It would depend what I was offered. ” (page 43), and Cromwell offers enough and his conscience is quickly and rather easily overcome. He is willing to perjure himself to the secure the post of Attorney – General for Wales.This is even more shocking as he once claimed to have a friendship with the man he brings to death, Thomas More. Although admittedly this friendship was more about what Rich could get out of it than anything else and when he realised he would gain nothing he desired from it he joined Cromwell, in bringing about More’s downfall as this way he knew he’d succeed in climbing the social ladder.
He has a great ability for compromise of conscience as he willingly secures worldly success and security at the seemingly small expense of perjuring his soul.