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A Man for All Seasons | Study Guide

Robert Bolt

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A Man for All Seasons | Motifs



Silence adds another dimension to the meaning of law and oaths. What does silence mean? Why does Sir Thomas More use silence to protect himself? Can information be dangerous if it's hidden?

More believes "in silence is my safety under the law." Not only does More use silence, he encourages others' silence. He refuses to hear any disloyalty toward the king. He insists the family "govern our tongues" for their own safety. Silence means no one else knows the truth. As resistance to an oath it's the most powerful political weapon More has.

Silence allows for multiple interpretations, however. Characters like Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII fill in the space More's silence leaves. They interpret his silence as a clear statement. Instead of concealing the truth, silence is revealing the truth: "bellowing up and down Europe" as Cromwell says. The play shows how silence can reveal both true beliefs and true character.


"Wit's what's in question!" Sir Thomas More says of his interrogation and trial. In the play wit means the deliberate and intelligent choice of words. More takes language seriously, and he uses wit to interpret the law.

A short phrase can make all the difference. A few words in the Act of Supremacy, "as far as the law of God allows," permit More to accept the act. When More investigates the Act of Succession's wording, he's hoping a similar phrase will save him. More uses wit as defense, making sly jokes to cheer his family or catch a colleague off guard. He believes his case hinges on wit or the intelligent interpretation of legal statutes. He also employs wit in his precise definitions of concepts like oaths or "words we say to God." Wit is key to the way More sees the world.

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