“A Man For All Seasons shows the triumph of pragmatism over idealism. Discuss”
Robert Bolt’s, A Man for All Seasons, depicts a society in which pragmatism is favoured over idealism. It is a society in which Machiavellian principles are widely valued, and those that reject them are “constant regret[s ]” to those who do. Playwright Bolt, through his play, shows the triumph of pragmatism over idealism. Bolt embodies this triumph in four characters; The Common Man’s strategy to “keep out of trouble”, the King’s actions in achieving what he desires, and Rich and Cromwell’s rise in power. A Man for All Seasons, however, also demonstrates that idealism provides self-contentment as well as spiritual well-being through the struggle of Sir Thomas More.
The Common Man believes that “[it’s] better [to be] a live rat than a dead lion” and consequently he acts to survive, whether moral or otherwise. His role as boatman emphasizes this as he pleads to More to “make it (the boat trip) worth [his] while” evidently suggesting his desire to survive. The Common Man is seen to undertake any task, whether it is to be a “publican” or an “executioner” he does not refuse in fear of punishment and in longing for payment. Essentially, The Common Man sees any position as a “job like any other job” that will sustain him and aid him in his pursuit for survival. “It isn’t difficult to keep alive friends” says The Common Man, suggesting that the audience not “make trouble”, as well as alluding to the fact that he managed to survive throughout the play and if his example is followed, they are sure to “keep alive”. Bolt’s exploration of The Common Man’s pragmatism allows him to demonstrate that in order to survive one must do what is “convenient” and “forsake [their] private conscience”.
Robert Bolt’s characterization of King Henry VIII allows him to explore the most extreme form of pragmatism; manipulation of laws and rules, as well as intimidation, to achieve his desires. When Henry...