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A Man for All Seasons

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  9,345 Ratings  ·  368 Reviews
The classic play about Sir Thomas More, the Lord chancellor who refused to compromise and was executed by Henry VIII.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 14th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1960)
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This was one of my favorite movies growing up. The rapid fire repartee left me longing for subtitles or ‘pause’ and ‘rewind’ buttons before I even knew what they were; that’s how much I longed to know exactly what was said. Repeated viewings ensured eventual clarity; living in the Catholic city of St. Louis one was sure to catch this on late night reruns several times a year.

The book is a quick read. I polished it off in two long sittings, but will read it again. I gobbled it this time, partial

A Man For All Seasons is a play concerned with morality, politics and the common man. It is a play that though written decades ago, holds great wisdom for the individual of today and in its own particular way utilises a known historical event to address particular issues.

The core argument of this play is whether morality and law or religion and law must be separated. Whether it should or should not be is a separate debate to this review, however Robert Bolt's argument appears to be that a man or
Dec 07, 2014 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast-man's laws, not God's-and if you cut them down-and you're just the man to do it-d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Several years ago I did something stupid, not sure what. It is near certain that I knew at the time. My wife yelled at me. I deserved that, I'm sure of that in hindsight. I sat and read this in one go. It isn't histori
James M. Madsen, M.D.
This is two gems in one: The play itself is unforgettable, and Bolt's introduction is equally so. As Bolt, explains, why did he, a rationalist who is Christian only in the broadest cultural sense of the term, take as his hero a Catholic saint? The answer is More's simultaneous enthusiasm for life in the here and now with his immovable commitment to an idea and to ideals for which it would be no question in his mind to sacrifice the life that he loved so dearly. Bolt thinks that the key lies in M ...more
I'm not going to lie. After reading this book, I'm a little bit in love with Sir Thomas More.

You can't help it after reading Robert Bolt's play, though. He's so witty and charming and kind and gentle, yet so passionately certain of what is right and wrong and what things are worth dying for. King Henry VIII is such a great character in this play, such an overly-jovial spoiled baby, that More looks even more noble by comparison. (In my head I picture him looking a little bit like Clark Kent. I d
Eric Kibler
Feb 20, 2016 Eric Kibler rated it it was amazing
One of the great stories about conscience. Would you give up your life on principle for what you believe is right?

Whether from our 21st century point of view, Thomas More was right or not matters little. The play has value as a psychological portrait of a man who digs in his heels and refuses to sign an oath for reasons of conscience, though he knows that doing so will mean his death. He doesn't want to die, and as a lawyer he tries every semantic and legalistic way to avoid his fate. But that f
Ben Loory
Jan 03, 2012 Ben Loory rated it liked it
this is a very famous play and i'm not really sure why. thomas more makes an inspiring main character but neither he nor anybody else ever changes and there's not a single surprise or twist in the whole play. just a straight line to martyrdom from page one. it's like one long speech about standing up for principles. it's a well-written speech, but still.
Mitra Nazem
Sep 27, 2007 Mitra Nazem rated it it was amazing
Shelves: play
در پایان کرامول و شاپیس به دو قسمت روشن چپ و راست صحنه وارد می شوند. با دیدن یکدیگر بر جا میمانند به وضعی سرد و دشمنانه.نور کم کم صحنه را روشن می کند.کسی جز این دونفر در صحنه نیست.بعد همزمان با یکدیگر با سرهای افراشته و یک بر به جلو می خرامند و در وسط صحنه از برابر یکدیگر می گذرند.اما همینکه به در خروجی می رسند مکث میکنند پابپا کنان و به ارامی بر میگردند.به حالت تفکر و پرسه زنان به سوی یکدیگر می ایند.کرامول سرش را بالا می گیرد و مبادرت به لبخندی می کند.شاپیس پاسخش را می دهد.بازو در بازوی هم می ا ...more
Cassandra Lê
Jan 06, 2015 Cassandra Lê rated it liked it
3.5 stars If anybody petition for Goodreads to create a rating system with half star in it, I will be the first to sign.
Format: Play
Favorite characters : Thomas More - the witty, saintly guy who (view spoiler) to preserve his selfhood, rather than suffer himself under the whims and wishes of his society, and betray his conscience by swearing to a lie.
What's good about this? :
The play is short, the dialogue had a lot of quotable quotes, clever uses of symbol
Jan 12, 2008 Andrea rated it it was amazing
As Claire says in her review, I too fell for Sir Thomas More while reading the script and have a lasting fondness for Paul Scofield after seeing his portrayal of More in the 1966 movie. Though I am not Catholic and am not a believer in organized religion and am saddened beyond reason when I think of anyone killing over such an issue, for More to be so clever while being so staunch in his convictions and to stand for his principles -- to argue in fact that it is the principle of standing on his p ...more
Mar 14, 2015 Maxwell rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, drama, 2015
This was excellent. If you're at all interested in Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More, or any of the goings-on of the English court in the early 1500's, this is a good one to read.

I was particularly intrigued by how differently Thomas Cromwell is portrayed in this, as a sort of villainous side character, as opposed to him as a main character in Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

4/5 stars and I wish I could see it live, but I'll just have to settle for the film right now.
Jul 18, 2007 Mari rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: dear-friends
Well written and thoughtful. With a unique perspective as a non-Catholic, Bolt shows the beautiful rationality of Sir Thomas More's decisions that lead to his death at the hands of English King Henry VIII. The same decision that gained More sainthood in the opinion of the Catholic Church earns him the respect of all rational and principled people through the writing of Bolt.
Apr 03, 2009 Walter rated it it was amazing
When I read this play back in school, I was asked what the meaning of it was by my teacher.

“Some men die in their bed, some lose their head.”

I was keeping with this earned resignation of its protagonist as to the world, but not his beliefs. Yet, it didn’t quite come across at the time.

No matter, the play is still a great read. Bolt doles out true wit without sarcasm or cutting down another person, while also garnished with wisdom.

One great line that I forgot (and which isn’t in the movie)...

Andrew Georgiadis
Sep 05, 2012 Andrew Georgiadis rated it it was amazing
Best. Play. Maybe Ever.

Sir Thomas More was a man of principles inviolable, (view spoiler). He was a family man, a religious man - Saintly, even - and could not be tricked, bullied, or altogether coerced to break an oath he had made in good faith, even at the behest of Henry VIII.

Robert Bolt's introduction to the play enriches the entire experience. We get to understand why More's story was so compelling to him, and what he hoped to achieve w
Apr 20, 2007 Ellis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this. It provides an interesting perspective on the formation of the Anglican Church. Also, interesting is how the Church of England, in its attempt to escape the "oppression" of the Catholic Church in fact instituted its own sort of Inquisition and, as we all know, executed Sir Thomas More for refusing to give up Catholicism (the excuse for execution is that More committed High Treason because not swearing allegiance to the Church of England is the same as not swearing allegiance ...more
I love St. Thomas More but I generally detest reading plays so I wasn't quite sure of how I would feel about it. Thankfully, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable school books in a long time. It was meaningful and ponderous, but witty all the same throughout. And I loved the idea of the Common Man, and how he tied most of the scenes together.

Though I am still unsure why plays are published as books when they should obviously just be watched like they were meant to be...
Dhanaraj Rajan
Oct 02, 2012 Dhanaraj Rajan rated it it was amazing
Want to say only this much:
If you are a Catholic and do not know much about St. Thomas More, after reading this play you would end up loving him.
If you are a Catholic and knew about St. Thomas More, you would begin to love him much.
If you are a Non-Catholic, you might be tempted to fall in love with St. Thomas More and the Catholic Church.
Mar 07, 2015 Jodi rated it it was amazing
sounds boring and history-y, right? Ya well, it's also very, very interesting. It really made me think about... well a lot of stuff. Morality, matyrdom, how people become famous and reputed... Idk. It's good.
Magnificent play showing More's life and his trial under Henry VIII's reign.
Jul 17, 2017 Tess rated it really liked it
It was hard to rate this...the meaning of the story itself of course deserves five stars, but the book itself seemed like three I decided on four stars. :)
Jacob Lines
Feb 05, 2015 Jacob Lines rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
One of my favorite plays. Robert Bolt tells the life of Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor who lost his life over his refusal to agree to Henry’s takeover of the Church. This play portrays More (correctly, I think) as an uncompromising man of conscience – a Christian who took Christ’s words seriously and was not satisfied to just go with the status quo.

As a lawyer and person of faith, I especially loved his words about law as Richard Rich leaves his house and his family tells him to have
Joy H.
Jul 04, 2013 Joy H. marked it as watched-film-only
Added 7/4/13.
A Man for All Seasons (play) by Robert Bolt (first published in 1960)
NOTE: I did not read the book but I watched a film adaptation.

On 7/4/13 I enjoyed the engrossing 1966 film adaptation of this play (via a Netflix DVD). Wonderful performances!
"The story of Thomas More*, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage."
"When Henry VIII (
Jan 21, 2010 Brittany rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: If you're studying Thomas More or Henry VIII
How I Came To Read This Book: I’m struggling to remember what play block I read this in during my advanced English studies. Is it a comparison to MacBeth or Hamlet? I believe the former, so I’ll stick with that.

The Plot: The play takes a look at the real-life character of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-Century Chancellor of England who refused to let Henry VIII divorce Catherine (for lack of offspring) so he could get together with Anne Boleyn. The story makes More out to be something of a hero, bel
Alyn Rumbold
Oct 16, 2012 Alyn Rumbold rated it it was amazing
One of the great dramatic studies of the nature of personal integrity, I sometimes think that this work is in danger of being forgotten -- and it shouldn't be. One wonders at the degree of corruption in Thomas More's time that he should have been so highly regarded for his honesty -- and how he might have been thought of today. The great quotes of the play ("Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the entire world...but for Wales?" "When you are sent to heaven for doing your c ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-teach, drama
I have seen this movie a couple of times, and loved it--if for nothing else than the actors involved. But what surprised me reading this was how different the play was from the movie. The movie fleshes out the time, place and characters in velvet and brocade, heavy furniture and hautboys. The play, however, is spare and philosophical. I found myself remembering how different the two art forms are: literature and film, playwriting and performance.
Today, we judge a film by how well it honors a wr
Apr 06, 2012 Lea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, plays
You always hear about those people who courageously speak openly about their beliefs at the cost of their lives and the others who give up their beliefs to save their lives. Yet, this book brought a new person to light that I have rarely encountered before. It is a man who stands up for his beliefs but will not, in a sense, throw his life away until needed. He is very intellectual and can find loop holes in arguments that no one would have noticed or used. In fact, I think he is one of the smart ...more
Joshua Guest
Jul 01, 2012 Joshua Guest rated it it was amazing
Two of my best friends, Nat Harward and Derek Senior, got me Thomas More-themed Christmas presents one year. I ended up with "Utopia", a DVD of the movie Man For All Seasons, and the script. I quote this play every week, maybe every day. I don't mind most of the time when the people I love don't share my taste in art. But I am saddened every time I try to get other people to watch this particular film with me and they walk away 15 minutes in because they just don't seem to understand how great a ...more
Jun 09, 2010 Becca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Fascinating book, especially the title and its significance. It is set during the reign of Henry VIII who of course is known for his *ahem* great, personal life, but also for founding the Anglican church. This describes the conflict between him and Thomas More the Lord Chancellor. The philosophy in this book is fascinating. More refuses to give in to pressure and finds "the law" as his refuge. There are some interesting topics that are brought up and that the reader must wrestle with. It's also ...more
Jun 04, 2012 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
This is a terrific play (terrific in the second act, anyway) set during the time of the whole Henry VIII/Queen Catherine/Anne Boleyn debacle when Henry founded the Church of England with himself as its head in order to get around the Catholic church's refusal to annul his marriage--which he had pretty much forced the church into granting in the first place since he was in fact marrying his brother's widow. The story revolves around Sir Thomas More's refusal to condone the King's actions, a refus ...more
Jan 09, 2017 David rated it liked it
Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons is a tale of strength, dedication, and perverseness of one's beliefs. To fully grasp the intensity of the situation that is at hand, one must study the history of time, particularly the War of the Roses. Other than the historical grounding of the play, this is an entertaining read with a wide variety of characters: good; confused; frightened; nefarious. This band of misfits trying to work through a troubled time allows for an enticing story that I recommend to ...more
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Son of a small shopkeeper, he attended Manchester Grammar School. He later said that he made poor uses of his opportunities there. He went to work in an insurance office, but later entered Manchester University, taking a degree in History. A post-graduate year at Exeter University led to a schoolmaster's position, first at a village school in Devon, then for seven years at Millfield.
More about Robert Bolt...

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“Thomas More: ...And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you--where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast--man's laws, not God's--and if you cut them down...d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.” 47 likes
“If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that /needs/ no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all... why then perhaps we /must/ stand fast a little --even at the risk of being heroes.” 29 likes
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