March 3rd, 2004

A Man For All Seasons

by Robert Bolt, is a well-known play that was made into an even better-known movie. I saw the movie when it first came out, in the Sixties, and as I recall I was still a believing Catholic. The movie made such a great impression on me that as I read the play I kept visualizing Paul Scofield, who played the hero in the movie.

The hero, Thomas More, author of "Utopia," the political philosophy classic. As far as I know he coined the word "utopia," which is some kind of claim to fame. In Latin it means "no place."

He is also a saint of the Catholic Church, and he died because he died for refusing to denounce Catholic doctrine, namely that the Pope is the supreme spiritual leader on earth, and that only with his permission may a marriage be annulled.

He didn't actually want to die. He seemed to have little interest in being a martyr or even a rebel as such. He simply refused to agree to what King Henry VIII was up to as he pulled the Church of England away from the Bishop of Rome.

I admired his lawyerly wit as he danced around the question, trying not to lie, while trying not to commit himself to any particular position in public, so as not to be found guilty of treason. It is impossible not to admire his courage and dedication to what he saw as the truth.

But for me Bolt's Thomas More is a frustrating sort of hero. He is gutsy and brilliant, but he spends most of the play carefully NOT saying what he things, and then, at the end, dying for phantoms he believes in.

The play is a favorite of many Objectivists, or perhaps I should say the movie is. More has some great lines, including "A man's soul is his self." It is a play about a man under tyranny refusing to give his sanction to wrongdoing, and I suspect this is the key to its favor among Oists.

More on More

This is a followup to my previous posting, about Robert Bolt's portrayal of Thomas More.

I realized that while I enjoyed the portrayal of More, I was sort of wishing for a different play completely, a play like Cyrano de Bergerac, where the brilliant hero is allowed to express himself freely, unafraid of offending.

Then it occurred to me, that I am more like More than like Cyrano. I have a lawyerly disposition, and a strong irenic (peace-making) streak runs through my personality. So perhaps I want more to see Cyrano because I already have a lot of More in me, but I would admire Cyrano as something really different than my own character type.

Rhyme of the day:

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