A Man For All Seasons
For a truly Christian man, nothing is more important than preparing the immortal soul for the next life. In the play, “A Man For All Seasons,” Sir Thomas Moore is a devout Christian–apparent due to his unceasing prayers, vast humbleness, devotion to his family, and his ardency in maintaining the truth. His refusal to obey King Henry VIII shows that he believes strongly in life after death, for going against the King of England in Renaissance Era ensured swift, lethal retribution. The only way that Sir Thomas might have remained alive was to swear to the Act of Succession, which violated his deepest convictions about religion. Being a Christian, Sir Thomas decided to let God be the judge of those who endorsed the oath to avoid the wrath of King Henry and remain on earth for an amount of time that would surely pass. Fearing not for his life but for the verdict on his immortal soul, Sir Thomas Moore decided to defend the truth.
The corruption of Renaissance England is obvious all the way from the church to the monarchy–clutching cardinals, lords, bishops, and even kings in its nearly inescapable grasp. Wishing to gain greater material wealth, those in high places often bent the rules, told lies, and threatened underlings to attain that which they desired. Sir Thomas Moore, however, made no false pretenses–he truly believed in Christianity and its siblings honesty, charity, and integrity. He was not one to compromise his beliefs to gain wealth and earthly possessions, but to live an honest life in preparation for the next. Moore’s commitment to religion is evident even in his abstaining from using threats of eternal damnation toward his prosecutors. Believing that this was not man’s duty, he kept to himself with the knowledge that whilst he was put to death on earth, the truth and his integrity remained alive.
Sir Thomas Moore was a stronghold of integrity, which is why he didn’t falter under the enormous amount of pressure that was placed upon him by his fellow noblemen.
When faced with the choice between life without honor and death with it, he chose the latter, unwilling to believe that anything he could accomplish in the remaining years of his life would make up for sanctioning the oath required of him to take. To do so would violate his personal beliefs about how the monarchy should behave and how one man could not go against the will of heaven above. With confidence that no earthly punishment could damage his soul, Sir Thomas decided to refrain from taking the oath.
Though he treated his family with love and respect, Sir Thomas did not consider staying alive for them. While in captivity, they visited him for a few minutes to try and sway him from his standpoint so that he might return and life would be able to resume itself.
More: You want me to swear to the Act of Succession?
Margaret: “God more regards the thoughts of the heart than the words of the mouth.” Or so you’ve always told me.
Margaret: Then say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.
More: What is an oath but words we say to God?
Margaret: That’s very neat.
More: Do you mean it isn’t true?
Margaret: No, it’s true.
More: Then it’s a poor argument to call it “neat,” Meg. When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then–he needn’t hope to find himself again. Some men aren’t capable of this, but I’d loathe to think your father one of them. (Bolt, page 81)
Margaret, Sir Thomas Moore’s daughter, is desperate to find a way to have her father released from incarceration, attempting to reason him out of it. Moore realizes that his family cannot understand his convictions about the Act of Succession, for he believes that an oath is something to be taken seriously. Were he to take seriously the Act of Succession and swear to it, he felt that, despite his true feelings, he would not be fit to enter heaven.
Religous convictions are ultimately why Sir Thomas Moore did not swear to the Act of Succession.