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A Man for All Seasons | Study Guide

Robert Bolt

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A Man for All Seasons | Act 1, Section 3 : More Talks with Cromwell and Chapuys | Summary



At the boatyard Sir Thomas More seeks a boatman to take him home, and the Common Man, now costumed as the Boatman, offers his services. At the same moment, More runs into Thomas Cromwell, who's on his way to see the cardinal. Cromwell hopes More left the cardinal in a good mood. More admits he didn't.

As More and the Boatman walk toward the boat they meet Signor Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, and his assistant. Chapuys knows that More is returning from a visit to the cardinal, and he has a good guess what they discussed. He pulls More aside and tells him the king of Spain would be insulted if Queen Catherine is treated badly. More agrees that this makes sense. Chapuys then asks if More and the cardinal parted "in agreement." "Amicably" is all More says. Chapuys tells More he's a good man. On the boat ride home More makes distracted small talk with the Boatman.


Though More and Cromwell's dialogue is friendly, the audience can immediately sense the tension. Cromwell may resent how the Boatman clearly likes More, enough to know More will tip him well. When Cromwell tells More "I am one of your multitudinous admirers" his resentment is clear, and so is the superficial nature of his flattery. Cromwell is not well-liked but he's good at his job.

The two men's anxiety over Wolsey's mood and its implications is palpable. Chapuys's motives also make More nervous. Chapuys represents Catholic Spain's significant role in the affairs of England. He's devoted to Queen Catherine, who is of Spanish origins. Though Chapuys understands the need for delicate diplomacy, he's not very discreet. Bolt says he walks "a mental footpath as narrow as a peasant's." His blatant flattery of More is contrasted with Cromwell's more intelligent and harmful politics. Chapuys is a lay ecclesiastic, an extremely religious layperson. Hoping to secure More's support he attempts to bond with More over their shared faith. He says goodbye with a Catholic phrase in Latin—Dominus vobiscum, or "The Lord be with you."

More is a discreet politician, so he tells Chapuys that he parted with Wolsey "amicably" to hide the men's disagreement. But More is unsettled and disturbed by the events of the night. This is more conflict than he bargained for.

As More steps into the boat and prepares to go home, he notices that "the river looks very black tonight," hinting at the rising conflict in the plot.

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