A Man for All Seasons | Study Guide

Robert Bolt

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Course Hero. "A Man for All Seasons Study Guide." Course Hero. 14 Dec. 2017. Web. 28 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Man-for-All-Seasons/>.

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Course Hero. "A Man for All Seasons Study Guide." December 14, 2017. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Man-for-All-Seasons/.


Course Hero, "A Man for All Seasons Study Guide," December 14, 2017, accessed September 28, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Man-for-All-Seasons/.

A Man for All Seasons | Act 1, Section 5 : The Common Man Reads to the Audience | Summary



The Common Man puts on a pair of glasses and reads to the audience from a book. His reading reveals that Cardinal Wolsey died in November 1530 from an illness caused by "the King's displeasure." Wolsey was in prison awaiting trial when he died. Sir Thomas More became England's next lord chancellor. He tells the audience that More was a scholar, as people can tell by his writings and "by popular repute, a saint" because of "his willful indifference to realities."


The reading glasses create an image of the Common Man as a scholar of history. He knows what other characters don't, and he can take the audience into the future, transcending the boundaries of the play.

The last section ended with Sir Thomas More and Margaret More speculating about Cardinal Wolsey's fall from power. The audience doesn't have to wait long to find out what happened. Wolsey was imprisoned for failing to secure the king's divorce. This fact raises the stakes for the remaining characters. The danger the king poses increases. Many cases of imprisonment, violence, and transfers of power happen offstage, feeding the audience's imagination.

The passage the Common Man reads makes More's "saintliness" seem ominous. Throughout the play "saintliness" will be a liability, not an asset. A saint can rise above everyday concerns and follow the guidance of a higher power, but they have to ignore, deliberately, the "realities" everyone else negotiates. Ordinary people find saints inconvenient and incomprehensible. Though the play empathizes with More's stance, it shows how the bewildered reactions of his contemporaries are understandable too.

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