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INTRODUCTION

Thomas More’s sainthood has been under great controversy even after a century of his death. It was not until 1866 that he was declared a saint. This declaration came about after many debates and votes of acceptance both by the people and by the church. While the English Church was still bound by King Henry VIII’s Supremacy Act, Thomas More was rumored to have been a deceitful character of the court. He was declared unorthodox who went against the Church (Roper, 1935). He was also said to have gone against the doctrines of the church because he went against the King of England.

In modern times the portrayal of, partially, Richard the III and Thomas More is seen to be compassionate and kind to their people. In many historical books, such as Shakespeare, Richard III was portrayed as evil and cruel. This paper hopes to show both Thomas More and Richard the III’s characters through the space of time, and why the people’s opinion changed towards them.

THOMAS MORE IN MAN OF ALL SEASONS

Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s book A man for All Seasons is shown as a devoted family man, a supporter of the Catholic Church, and scholar. He is also shown to be a strong man of conscience who cannot compromise his faith even to save his life.

In Robert Bolt’s play Henry the VIII is the King who wanted to divorce his wife to marry someone else. At the time the Church did not allow divorces, Henry

decided to assign himself as the Supreme order, overriding the Pope. To More what the king was doing was terrible and against Christian Doctrines. He declared that it was against the ethics of the church and will not swear the Supremacy Act:

I’m not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you

find such plain sailing, I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I’m a forester. I doubt if there’s a man alive who could follow me there, thank God…. [Bolt, 45]

To keep himself out of trouble, he decided to keep his mouth shut on the matter. Morally, he was obligated to protect his friend and King for he was the chancellor of the court. Religiously he had a duty to God which he could not deny. He did not want to go against God’s rules; therefore, he chose the middle course. Despite all of this, he was prosecuted and killed.

MORE’S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

There seems to be little doubt that More did consider at one point becoming a priest. In this play More says, “God’s my god…But I find him rather too subtle…. I don’t know where He is or what He wants.” When his sentence was read out, More spoke freely and revealed that he was totally unable to see the sense of the oath of supremacy. “I am able to produce

against one bishop which you can produce, a hundred holy and Catholic bishops for my opinion; and against one realm, the consent of Christendom for a thousand years.” (Bolt, 63) This conflict with the Church, and his feelings towards the holy bishop shows that he was attached to his beliefs. Perhaps the contradiction between the two great men (Richard and More) originated within the church.

By not obeying King Henry, he also fell from the king’s list of good men. This only made is powerful position is society decrease. Despite all this, he did not allow himself to swear to an oath of allegiance to the king making him the Supreme authority. It also shows that morally, as well as ethically, More was a strict follower of the Christian doctrines. When he was convicted on the basis of perjury, he again did not back away from his original beliefs till the day he was beheaded.

More’s Utopia

In 1515, Thomas More published Utopia, in which he theorized about the perfect world. In Utopia, More foresaw cities of 100,000 inhabitants as being ideal. In his Utopia, there was no money, just a monthly market where citizens bartered for what they needed. Persons engaged to each other were allowed to see each other naked before marriage so that they would know if the other was “deformed.” This deformity seems to have a direct reference to Richard III who is famously thought of as a deformed figure.

In Utopia, Thomas More imagined the perfect state in which social life was governed by reason and equality unlike the conditions in Europe where it had been dominated by greed. More did not intend us to live in Utopia so much as he wanted us to reflect on it. It is difficult to believe that the author of Utopia was the same man who in the mid-1520s personally broke into Lutherans’ homes and sent men to the stake (Snider).

Thomas More, given Sainthood after 400 years

Saints are persons who are able to be in direct contact with God at least in moments of intense concentration. There are different approaches to judge who is a saint. Most saints known have been officially moved into sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, which has a very long and complicated process of declaring someone a saint. Thomas More also struggled for many years until he achieved perfect devotion. (Sykes)

Thomas More is the complete English saint. He is seen as a Catholic martyr, but he is also seen as a lawyer-layman who nobly gave his head to forces beyond his control (Roper). As Thomas More died believing in God and in the authority of the pope and the Catholic Church, he was awarded Sainthood.

RICHARD THE III AS IN SHAKESPEARE’S PLAY

Despite the fact that he only ruled for two years, Richard III is one of the best-known kings in history. Because of their treatment of Richard III, scholars are constantly trying to frame a portrait of the real Richard. Despite the false

claims about Richard, he is still alive and well in the hearts and minds of many historians. The debate over whether he was a good man or a bad man continues to rage. Like all men, Richard the III had his faults, but unlike most men, his faults were available to all those that chose to focus on them (Cassidy).

Shakespeare, who is by far the person most responsible for Richard’s reputation, felt no need to research the period about which he was writing. Shakespeare’s Richard III with all his deformities, both of body and mind, stands as a physical manifestation of the evil, corrupt state of the English monarchy (Washington Weekly).

RICHARD III AS IN DAUGHTER OF TIME BY JOSEPHINE TEY

The mystery of Richard III prompted Tey to write The Daughter of Time. It is a compelling version of the story of Richard III. Teys book was pro-Richard bias; although not entirely accurate. This made the book good because it brought out a different view of Richard. None of the things in this book prove that Richard III was guilty, any more than the opposite proves his innocence. Rather, Josephine Tey portrays him to be wise and a generally good man.

“It’s an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant, not with the teller but with you. They don’t want to

have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much

stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed. Very odd, isn’t it? – Letter from Laura to Alan Grant in [Te]

MODERN DAY RICHARD

When speaking of Richard III, one must remember that this is Shakespeare’s history, because Richard III is more Shakespeare’s creation than a true historical figure. There are many different versions of Richard III, and while Shakespeare’s may be the most enduring, it is not the most factual. “One must separate Shakespeare’s dramatic characterization of Richard III from the historical English king whose controversial life and reign have sustained a 500 year debate.” (Lakowski, 93)

There are two sides to the debate over Richard in modern times. The people for Richard say that he can best be described using his motto, “Loyalty Binds Me.” His supporters do, however, realize his faults and say he was a man put into a position he could not handle. The people against Richard, on the other hand, paint a very different image of Richard. They have the Tudor image of him. For them, Richard is an evil man, “who is the personification of a man of evil vengeance” (Roper).

CONCLUSION

People’s opinion of Thomas More did not change due to his portrayal by many contemporary historians, unlike Richard the III. In fact there is plenty of

evidence to show that he was a true saint who deserved his title. Richard’s character is still doubtful, because there was no one who would vouch for him.

For Shakespeare, drama was art, a representation of reality, not reality itself, even if the plot was based on history. Though it may never be known who

the real Richard was, no Richard has had so much imagination as much as the character created by Shakespeare. It has been admitted that Shakespeare owed his representation of Richard III to St. Thomas More, and that although More tended toward exaggeration, Shakespeare took it a step further. In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More is shown to be in direct conflict to Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard the Third. There are no right or wrong answers to what More did. What is right for More isn’t necessarily right for everyone else. The point, ultimately, is to obey your conscience.

v Bolt, Robert. A Man For All Seasons. 1996

v Cassidy, Michael. When most I play the devil: An Examination of the

Historical and Theatrical Richard III. 1997

v Cheetham, Anthony. The Life and Times of Richard III. 1972; reprinted

1992.

v Lakowski, Ronald. A Man For All Seasons. Sir Thomas More and the Art

of Dialogue. 1933

v Roper, William. The Life of Sir Thomas Moore, knightedm (London:

Humphrey Milford, Oxford UP,) 1935

v Snider Edward. A Man For All Seasons, review. Published in the Daily

Herald on January 24.

v Sykes, Gary. The Spirit of All Laws, New York. Copyright 1996

v The Washington weekly. letter to the editor of the austin american-

statesman, published on Oct. 12. 1998

v Tey, Josephine mystery novel The daughter of time. 1995

v What is Sainthood? http://www.self-realization.com/sainthood.htm


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