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A
man for all Seasons

 

In
the second half of the fifteenth century, England appears as a country being in
full recovery after a period of historical events such as “The 100 Years
War” (1339-1453) or the War of the “Two Roses” (1455-1485). Regarding
the political control from this period, the highest position is occupied by
Henry VII (1485-1509), who had a stabilizing role in society, using his crown
to consolidate the kingdom, the period of his reign being one of relative peace.
From a religious point of view, following the Great Schism of 1054, England had
a Catholic religion, being under the leadership of the papal authority in Rome.
For several centuries, the papal authority has imposed itself quite enough in
front of England, but since the sixteenth century the Roman church courts have
lost  almost all authority in England.

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In
1509, following the death of his second son and Elisabeth of York, Henry VIII,
the entire peace atmosphere in England was destroyed, the religious factor
being the one that will occupy a primordial place, and which will stand at the
bottom of future conflicts. Thus, Henry VIII, a complex personality who was
born in Greenwich on June 28, 1491, at the age of 17 and
ten months, on 21 April 1509 became King of England. In the same year he will
marry Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of the king of Spain, Ferdinand II of
Aragon and his brother Arthur’s wife, Prince of Wales, since she remained a
widow after his death.

The
movie A man for all Seasons presents
the story of Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King
rejected the Roman Catholic Church to get a divorce and remarriage. Thus, the
whole film is centered on highlighting the relations between the political
world and the church at that time. Also, the personality of King Henry VIII is
being pursued, more precisely his attitude towards the other important
representatives of state who do not want to fulfill his wish.

The
King’s discontent to his marriage can be seen quite clearly by invoking a quote
from Leviticus, Chapter 18, verse 16: “Thou shalt no uncover the nakedness
of thy brother’s wife!” (00:37:52-00:37:55).  Henry’s decision to divorce by his wife,
Catherine, is a decisive one, based on two essential reasons: the lack of a boy
to follow him to the throne and his unconditional love for Anne Boleyn. In
order to get the divorce, in the film can be identified two stages in the
actions of the king. Because in the first part of his reign,
the king did not directly exercise his power, but left himself at the hands of
the cardinal, first it can be seen that he used a series of pressures on the
pope, indirectly exercised by Cardinal Wolsey, afterwards , one can notice the
direct action of the king by applying extreme measures.

In
this case, the movie begins with the moment when Cardinal Wolsey writes a
letter to Thomas More, who at that time was a member of the King’s High
Council, asking him to come to Hampton Court as soon as possible. The cardinal
called Thomas More to him, because he was the only one who opposed him to the
Council that day, and now he tried to persuade him to support him in getting
the king’s divorce. However, Thomas More, being a just man
who respects the church very much and who he acts for the honor of his own
conscience, does not accept to support the king in his divorce despite the
cardinal’s arguments to convince him. Among the most important arguments of the
cardinal is mentioned that according to which the king needs a son, and his
wife is sterile as a brick, and in this case without an heir there could get to
a change of dynasty that could cause the appearance to dynastic wars again, or
to some bloody barons who to devastate the country from one chap to another.

Thomas
More’s refusal to support him on Cardinal in the pressures on the pope is
highlighted quite clearly by statements such as: “When statesmen forsake
their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead
their country on the shorter route to chaos” (00:14:34-00:14:41), “The church
has its church property” (00:13:26)

From
now on, in order for divorce to be accepted, all attention is directed to
Thomas More’s conviction to accept this. A first step in his
conviction is represents by Wolsey’s death and his appointment as Lord
Chancellor in his place by the King through the Duke of Norfolk: “I am
straightly charged by the king himself, here openly to declare how much all
England is beholden to his man.And now worthy he is to have the highest room in
the realm. And how dearly the king’s grace doth love and trust him not only for
much good council, deliberate council, but for better council yet that which is
privy to the king’s person. This same Sir Thomas More, here made before you all
to be Lord Chancellor of the Realm”(00:28:11-00:28:55). Despite
the hope that if he occupies an important position in the state, Thomas will be
more easily convinced; this, in fact, remains as firm in his decision, fact
which will enrage the King  and he will
resort to series of direct actions in his favor. The King needed Thomas because
he was an honest, very faithful man and especially because he always showed his
respect for the people and the king. Respect for the King is illustrated in
this quite clear film when, alongside his wife, Lady Alice and his daughter,
Margaret, say the evening prayer, saying the words: “Bless our lord, the
King!”(00:07:23). Also the faith in God is highlighted quite well when he
refuses to his daughter, Margaret, marrying Will Roper because he was a
heretic, a Lutheran passionate.

Because
the king has not managed to resolve anything by pressure, he acts on his own to
obtain his divorce by applying extreme measures.

A
first step is the parliamentary approval of the Act of Supremacy , whereby the
King became the Supreme Leader of the Church of England, a statute which is
submitted to the Lords for acceptance: “His Majesty acknowledges your humble
admission of many grievous errors for which he accepts the manumission of £
100,000 in token. Mindful for the well-being of the realm and the quietness of
his subjects, His Majesty requires that you do now straightly renounce your
pretended allegiance to the See of the Rome and admit the statute passed
through parliament acknowledging the king’s good title Supreme Head of the
Church in England”(00:55:38-00:56:11). By this title, the King opposes the Rome
Pope very clearly, despite the fact that in June 1521, through his book
“Defense of the 7 Prayers,” which was against Martin Luther, he
received from the Pope the title of “Defender of the Faith”. So,
through this title, the schism between Rome and the Church of England is
triggered, which has led Thomas More to resign from his position that he
occupied in the state: “This isn’t reformation. This is war against the Church.
Our King has declared war on the Pope, because the Pope will not declare that
our Queen is not his wife”(00:58:13-00:58:20), the Pope ” is also the
descendant of the St. Peter, our only link with Christ”(00:58:59).

The
second measure of the king is the endorsement of the Act of Succession through
which it was to be established a oath related to marriage ,more exactly which
it cancels the first marriage and which it deprives the children from this
marriage to their rights to the crown. In this case, everyone
swore to observe this act, except Thomas More, who categorically refuses to
take this oath: “God made the angels to show him splendor. As he made animals
for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But man, he made to serve him
wittily, in the tangle of his mind”(01:24:57-01:25:10). The
price of this denial is first paid by closing him in a tower and then by
executing of this. Because he remained silent all the time, he avoided
expressing his views, the final accusations that are brought to him, it refers
to the fact that he would have denied and he would deprived the King Henry of
the title of Supreme Chief of the Church in England. Thomas More’s silence is
interpreted on the principle that silence means approval.

Thus,
in the case of the relations between the political world and the church from
that time, one can see an absolute control of the state in front of the church.
The church reached to be deprived of any right of expression, its opinion being
imposed, namely what the king said, the church was needed to accept. An example
in this case may be the moment when Henry announces the Lords of the law that
gave him the title of Supreme Leader of the Church in England.

On
the other hand,at a more in-depth analysis of this film, it can reach a
parallel look between the personality of King Henry VIII and of the lawyer
Thomas More.

Between
the two can identify some similar elements, among which the intelligence of the
two. An example that can highlight the king’s intellectual abilities is his
discussion with Margaret, the daughter of Thomas More when he speaks to her in
another language to see how she is learned. In the same order,
Thomas More turns out to be a learned man with superior intellectual abilities,
as evidenced by the answers he gives in various situations, such as in the
discussion with Cardinal Wolsey, or when he presents his arguments before the
seventh commission investigating his case. On the other hand, we could say that
the two have similar characters regarding their firm decisions. Thus, Henry
tries different ways to get Catherine’s wife’s divorce, but he will not be
defeated until he manage to obtain this thing and to marry Anne Boleyn, and
Thomas More, being a perfect believer, does not give up until the last moment
when he pays with the price of his life, to respect the church, and does not
change his opinion irrespective of the situation and the consequences of which
he is conscious.

As
for the differences between the two, the most important is represented by the
denial of the Bishop of Rome. As far as Henry is concerned, at
first it can be noticed that he was a believer, he was against Luther’s reform,
fact evidenced though the book, “Defense of the Seven Prayers,” which
will bring him the title of the Defender of the Faith, but then he gets up
against the church just to obtain his divorce. Instead, Thomas
More’s faith is an incontestable one. From the beginning to the moment of his
execution, Thomas More remained devoted to the Church, preferring to die with
consciousness rather than losing faith. This decision, to keep our only
connection to Christ, had consequences for his family, who reached into
poverty, but despite this, the close ones there were alongside with him.

The
title of the film can be interpreted as a direct reference to the actions of
King Henry, which had an effect for eternity, namely, this breaking by the
obedience of the papacy from Rome, led to a decentralization of the state, that
it has hardly been rebuilt.

So,
the background of this film represents a part from England’s history, more
precisely it is about the period of time when England was under the leadership
of King Henry VIII. At this period of time, the most important moment is
represented by the schism between the Church of England and Rome, the reason
being the king’s divorce of his wife, Catherine of Aragon and the acceptance of
the new marriage with Anne Boleyn.

To
fulfill his desire, the king raises the state against the church, which can be
remarked in the film from the very beginning though Cardinal Wolsey’s reply:
“There is much in the Church which needs reformation”(00:14:14), “but necessary
to get us an heir”(00:14:21). In this case, the King being a supreme authority,
the whole people obeys and they accepts this divorce, except for lawyer Thomas
More, who does not want to give up his own consciousness in order to achieve
the wishes of the state. This wise decision of Thomas More, who accepts with a
clear conscious the sentence of execution, there is in contrast with the
personality of the other representatives of the state and of the church. Both
the state and the church are corrupted by the influence of the king, all who at
first had faith in God and the church, finally they sustaining the king and
agreeing with the denial of the Pope from Rome.

The
rupture of the Church of England of the Church of Rome led to the creation of a
total chaos in England, and all those who turned against the church had an end
to life quite cruel. Thus, Cardinal Cromwell, who condemned
Thomas More to death by bringing unfounded evidence, he was beheaded to five
years after More’s death, for high treason. He had the same punishment as
Thomas More. The Duke of Norfolk, Count Marshal of England, who
at first seemed to be Thomas’s boyfriend, and then because he had joined
Cromwell and he participated in More’s punishment,he should need to have an end
of life like his facts,but before him the king paid, he died of syphilis the
night before. As for church representatives, the archbishop, who accepted the
King’s title as the Supreme Leader of the Church in England, who it allowed
him  to obtain the divorce, was burned at
the stake. Thomas More, even though he always was on the side
of the church and in the proper service of the king, after his execution, his
head remained stuck in the Traitors’ Gate for a month, after which, only then,
it could be taken by Margaret’s daughter.

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