More More

Via The Revealer, a piece in the Guardian in which the author works out his frustrations with two plays about Sir (that’s Saint to you, bub) Thomas More.

A snippet from the author’s argument with himself:

More: That’s what makes him “a man for all seasons”, a Renaissance man. He could do more than one thing.
Less: But neither play admits that. Neither mentions his career of browbeating, brutalising, and burning his opponents. The plays turn him into a tragic hero by suppressing the tragedies he created. They show you his family’s grief; they don’t show you the grief of the families of his victims.
More: No play can include everything.
Less: But these plays cut the most important part. They make us admire More by focusing on his virtues and removing his defects. That isn’t tragedy; it’s marketing. That isn’t the real world. It’s –
More: Utopian?
Less: Udopian.

“That isn’t tragedy; it’s marketing.” Well, I can understand the opinion, but I would say that A Man for All Seasons is neither tragedy nor marketing. It’s a meditation on what playwright Robert Bolt called “a hero of the self.” He wasn’t interested in More as religious figure, nor with More as tragic hero. He was interested in More as a man of integrity, who was willing to lose his head before he lost himself. If the result left out some of More’s less savory aspects, I would argue that a play, even one about an historical figure, is not a biography. If people treat it as such, then they are at fault, not the play.


  1. Notrelatedtoted says

    Just to chime in with what everybody may already know, I believe Bolton was an atheist. So, at a minimum, he wasn’t religously motivated to paint a one-sided portrayal. And assuming that the critic is correct, would the play be any better if More’s faults were included? To the post-modern mind, perhaps; it becomes more believable. But it is more believable only because we no longer believe in saints….

    By the way, I couldn’t open the link to the article, so I didn’t read it. Lucky for me that I never let things like that get in the way of wild speculation and baseless opinion.

  2. Actually a play can be a biography of a historical person. “I would argue that a play, even one about an historical figure, is not a biography”. ??? Hey bub, ya got that one wrong!

  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Yes, it can be. But that doesn’t mean it has to be.

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    And usually, it isn’t – some liberty is taken with the historical record for the sake of what the artist is trying to convey. Shakespeare did this all the time.

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