More's Skill

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9 Widener J. Pub. L. 295 (1999-2000)


Robert Bolt chose a phrase from a sixteenth century poet named Robert Whittinton for the title of his modem play about Thomas More: "[A] man of an angel's wit and singular learning; I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness, and affability? And as time requireth a man of marvellous mirth and pastimes; and sometimes of as sad gravity: a man for all seasons."

Bolt's title suggests that he took a gamble on the possibility that More would have modern, universal appeal. I have been interested in how that gamble worked out. If you look at it from the other side-that is, not from More's personality but from the modem personalities that have found More to be a hero—you notice something interesting: We usually come up with the heroes we need. Our hero stories tell more about us than about our heroes. There is also evidence in the fact that the Roman Catholic Church did not do much about More until the late nineteenth century.



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