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Webster\'s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary defines conscience as "the
sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one\'s own
conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do
right or good." In A Man for All Seasons, each character\'s conscience plays the
ultimate role in the outcome of the story. "Individual conscience" is trait
that each character possesses. This trait differs in intensity throughout the
play in each of the main characters. Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII show
their unchangeable conscience, by their actions. More refuses to accept the
King\'s divorce of Catherine, and marriage to Anne. The King appoints More to
Lord Chancellor, hoping to persuade Sir Thomas to accept his marriage. King
Henry wants everyone to accept his divorce. He believes he is right for going
against Pope\'s ruling, and he wants all his royal subjects, and men of
popularity to accept his decision. This is the King\'s "individual conscience"
talking . He fears that without the acceptance from Thomas, Lord Chancellor,
that he has made God angry, and he will pay for his unsupported decision.
Sir Thomas More was the only character that believed and stuck with his
conscience, by doing so, it cost him his life. Sir Thomas was a very prominent
member of the King\'s council, he was the only member whom did not take bribes to
sway his decision. Sir Thomas had always trusted in his conscience. He
believed that the right way, and God\'s way lies in the conscience. Sir Thomas
was separated between church and state, and he stuck with his decision. The
King liked More, he liked him so much, that he promoted Sir Thomas to Lord
Chancellor. This decision was also to help sway More into accepting his
marriage to Anne. However, when the King comes to More asking for his blessing,
More refuses, and resigns as Chancellor. The King becomes furious and storms
off. More now has the hardest decisions to make. He has to choose between
saying he accepts the King\'s marriage, or sticking with his conscience and
paying the ultimate cost, the cost of loosing his family and his life.
Alice More, Sir Thomas\' wife has a conscience much weaker than that of
he husband\'s. She is willing to accept the King\'s marriage to Anne, for this
marriage means nothing to her or her family, nor does this affect her life in
any major way. This is why she is so demanding of Thomas to go against his
conscience, and save himself, and the well being of the family. Thomas\'
stubborn actions caused Alice to become angry and frustrated with him. She did
not understand how Thomas could allow himself to be persecuted and executed for
not accepting the King\'s marriage.
Thomas\'s daughter Margaret wasn\'t a strong as her father with her
conscience. She could say something without meaning it in the heart. Margaret
was all forgiving, when Sir Thomas resigned as Chancellor, no one would remove
the chain from his neck. She removed it for him, even though she thought he
should just accept the King\'s marriage. She believed it was more important for
Thomas to be there for his family than the church. In a last effort to convince
her father to take the oath, Margaret said to Thomas "God more regards the
thoughts of the heart than the words of the mouth."
The play shows a wide variety of individual consciences, Sir Thomas
More and the King have the strongest ones. Margaret and Alice More were more
easily disposed, they could go against their morals, and say something. Just
because they say something does not mean that they mean it. This is the message
they were trying to pass along to Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas\' decision to stick
with his morals, cost him his life, his family, but not his pride.
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Anti-war, Conscience, Nonviolence, Personality, Philosophy of mind, Social philosophy, A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More, Henry VIII, Lord Chancellor
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