A Man for All Seasons

Often referred to only as the King, Henry was the ruler of England from 1509-1547. He had six wives, although the play only refers to two—Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. He wanted to marry Catherine, although the Bible forbade men from marrying their brother’s wives, so he wrote a letter to the Pope asking for an exception. He married Catherine, but expected her to have a son, which she did not. He then decided he wanted to marry Anne, who promised to give him a male heir. The Catholic Church refused to annul his first marriage, so he created a new church, the Church of England, of which he was the highest-ranking member, which would allow him to go through with his divorce. Henry requires absolute devotion from his subjects, and has difficulty handling dissent.

King Henry VIII Quotes in A Man for All Seasons

The A Man for All Seasons quotes below are all either spoken by King Henry VIII or refer to King Henry VIII. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A Man for All Seasons published in 1990.
Act 1 Quotes

Cromwell: Oh no—they’ll talk about the divorce. The King will ask him for an answer.
Chapuys: He has given his answer!
Cromwell: The King will ask him for another.
Chapuys: Sir Thomas is a good son of the Church!
Cromwell: Sir Thomas is a man.

Related Characters: Thomas Cromwell (speaker), Chapuys (speaker), Sir Thomas More, King Henry VIII
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other A Man for All Seasons quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

Norfolk:…d’you propose to meet the King disguised as a parish clerk? A parish clerk, my Lord Chancellor! You dishonor the King and his office!
More: The service of God is not a dishonor to any office. Believe me, my friend, I do not belittle the honor his Majesty is doing me.

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Duke of Norfolk (speaker), King Henry VIII
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Roper: You are denying the Act of Supremacy!
More: No, I’m not; the Act states that the King—
Roper: —is Supreme Head of the Church in England.
More: Supreme Head of the Church in England—“So far as the law of God allows.” How far the law of God does allow it remains a matter of opinion, since the Act doesn’t state it.
Roper: A legal quibble.
More: Call it what you like, it’s there, thank God.

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), William Roper (speaker), King Henry VIII
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Alice, it’s a point of law! Accept it from me, Alice, that in silence is my safety under the law, but my silence must be absolute, it must extend to you.

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Alice More, King Henry VIII
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Chapuys: I have a personal letter for you.
More: From who?
Chapuys: My master, the King of Spain. You will take it?
More: I will not lay a finger on it.
Chapuys: It is in no way an affair of State. It expresses my master’s admiration for the stand which you and Bishop Fisher of Rochester have taken over the so-called divorce of Queen Catherine.
More: I have taken no stand!
Chapuys: But your views, Sir Thomas, are well known—
More: My views are much guessed at…

Chapuys: But, Sir Thomas, your views—
More: Are well known you say. It seems my loyalty to my King is less so!

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Chapuys (speaker), King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Cromwell: The King’s a man of conscience and he wants either Sir Thomas More to bless his marriage or Sir Thomas More destroyed.
Rich: They seem odd alternatives, Secretary.
Cromwell: Do they? That’s because you’re not a man of conscience. If the King destroys a man, that’s proof to the King that it must have been a bad man, the kind of man a man of conscience ought to destroy—and of course a bad man’s blessing’s not worth having. So either will do.

Related Characters: Richard Rich (speaker), Thomas Cromwell (speaker), Sir Thomas More, King Henry VIII
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Cromwell: …But, gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man when he is dead. Let us say we go into the room where he is lying; and let us say it is in the dead of night—there’s nothing like darkness for sharpening the ear; and we listen. What do we hear? Silence. What does it betoken, this silence? Nothing. This is silence, pure and simple. But consider another case. Suppose I were to draw a dagger from my sleeve and make to kill the prisoner with it, and suppose their lordships there, instead of crying out for me to stop or crying out for help to stop me, maintained their silence. That would be betoken! It would betoken a willingness that I should do it, and under the law they would be guilty with me. So silence can, according to circumstances, speak. Consider, now, the circumstances of the prisoner’s silence. The oath was put to good and faithful subjects up and down the country and they had declared His Grace’s title to be just and good. And when it came to the prisoner he refused. He calls this silence. Yet is there a man in this court, is there a man in this country, who does not know Sir Thomas More’s opinion of the King’s title? Of course not! But how can that be? Because this silence betokened—nay, this silence was not silence at all but most eloquent denial.
More: Not so, Master Secretary, the maxim is “qui tacet consentire.” The maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent.” If, therefore, you wish to construe what my silence “Betokened,” you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Thomas Cromwell (speaker), King Henry VIII
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 2 Quotes

Norfolk: Have you anything to say?
More: Yes. To avoid this I have taken every path my winding wits would find. Now that the court has determined to condemn me, God knoweth how, I will discharge my mind…concerning my indictment and the King’s title. The indictment is grounded in an Act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the Law of God. The King in Parliament cannot bestow the Supremacy of the Church because it is a Spiritual Supremacy! And more to this the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and the King’s own Coronation Oath!
Cromwell: Now we plainly see that you are malicious!
More: Not so, Master Secretary! I am the King’s true subject, and pray for him and all the realm…I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live…I have, since I came into prison, been several times in such a case that I thought to die within the hour, and I thank Our Lord I was never sorry for it, but rather sorry when it passed. And therefore, my poor body is at the King’s pleasure. Would God my death might do him some good…Nevertheless, it is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood—but because I would not bend to the marriage!

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Duke of Norfolk (speaker), Thomas Cromwell (speaker), King Henry VIII
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire A Man for All Seasons LitChart as a printable PDF.
A man for all seasons.pdf.medium

King Henry VIII Character Timeline in A Man for All Seasons

The timeline below shows where the character King Henry VIII appears in A Man for All Seasons. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...Wolsey has More read over a dispatch to a Cardinal in Rome, in which the King requests that the Pope annul his marriage to his wife, Catherine. More doesn’t believe the... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
More and Wolsey hear the trumpet announcing the King. He’s returning from an evening with his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Wolsey asks how More is... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...way home, the diplomat Chapuys appears on the bank of the river. Chapuys represents the King of Spain’s interests, and reminds More that the King of Spain will be insulted by... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...he is currently working for Norfolk, who came to the castle to hunt with the King. Cromwell comments on changing fortunes; Wolsey was once high-powered but died a traitor, and Rich,... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...conversation. Chapuys wonders what exactly Cromwell’s job entails, and Cromwell explains that he is the “King’s Ear,” and that “when the King wants something done, I do it.” He explains that... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
 Cromwell reveals that the King will soon visit More in his home and ask him for another answer regarding the... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
The scene transitions to More’s house. Alice, Margaret, and Norfolk are looking for More. The King is arriving soon on an unofficial visit (that everyone nonetheless knows about) and More cannot... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
King Henry arrives by boat, which he himself navigated. More, Margaret, and Alice all pretend that... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
The King finally turns his attentions to More. At first he doesn’t talk about politics. Instead he... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Henry and More discuss the late Cardinal Wolsey. More comments that Wolsey was “a statesman of... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
Although he has promised not to, Henry once again brings up his divorce. More says that although he’s been thinking about it... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
More wonders why, if Henry is so sure of himself, he needs More’s approval. The King explains that many of... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
The King tells More his “conscience is [his] own affair,” and that he, the King, will leave... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
...has not been more cooperative. She asks him to “Be ruled!” or else rule the King by actually stating his opinion. More explains that although he is the King’s loyal subject,... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...Rich a position as Collector of Revenues for York Diocese, if Rich will help the King secure his divorce. Cromwell explains that his role as a royal administrator is to make... (full context)
Act 2
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
More and Roper discuss the new Act of Supremacy, which makes Henry “Supreme Head of the Church in England.” More is glad that it clarifies that the... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
...understands that he is really here on business. Chapuys is upset that More is allowing Henry to divorce Catherine, and argues that More, by being associated with the King, is being... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...the (true) Catholic Church, and he believes that the war has been waged only because Henry wanted to marry Anne, instead of for some deeper moral reason. (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
...and More points out that Norfolk is then breaking an oath of obedience to the King. Norfolk accepts More’s resignation on behalf of the King and tells him that his fear... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Alice is upset. She is worried the King will punish More. Roper appreciates More’s gesture, though More says he didn’t mean for his... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
...he tells Cromwell that he isn’t interested in persecuting More. Cromwell tells Norfolk that the King is aware of his friendship with More, and for that reason wants Norfolk to persecute... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...on how cold the house is. They understand that since More stopped actively supporting the King he’s become much poorer. They then discuss More’s goodness. Chapuys thinks that because become More... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
More enters and greets Chapuys. Chapuys delivers a letter from the King of Spain. He insists it isn’t political; it is just a thank-you to More for... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Clergy from the Catholic Church have collected money to thank More for opposing the King. Alice wants More to accept their charity, but he is worried that it will appear... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Cromwell explains that the King is displeased both by More’s silence and his resignation as Chancellor, but says the King... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...witnesses and a copy of the letter that prove he was not conspiring against the King. (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Cromwell tries a final strategy to pressure More into approving the King’s divorce. He brings up the King’s book, which More co-wrote many years ago, called A... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...something incriminating in More’s past that would frighten him. Cromwell explains to Rich that “the King’s a man of conscience and he wants either Sir Thomas More to bless his marriage... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...found guilty of High Treason in 1547, although he will not be executed because the King will die before he can sign the order. Rich, in contrast, will continue to rise... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...come to visit. Cromwell presents More with the Act of Succession, which states that the King’s marriage to Catherine was unlawful because the Pope didn’t have the power to approve it,... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
Cromwell calls More out for honoring his doubt more aggressively than he has honored the King of England. More neither agrees nor disagrees, and asks to go to bed. More also... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...Cromwell ignores Rich’s request and explains to Rich that time is of the essence. The King is impatient, because More’s continual refusal to sign the Act makes him feel illegitimate. More... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...without him, and More complains that hearing her speak is more torturous than anything the King or Cromwell has come up with. (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
...now, he would be pardoned. More rejects the offer. Cromwell accuses More of denying the King his title of Supreme Head of the Church of England. More is upset because he... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...but it is as loud and as well known as a spoken rejection of the King. More reasserts that if silence is taken to mean anything, then “silence gives consent.” (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...and people who serve their consciences are more selfish and less interested in serving the King and the State. More explains that he sees conscience as a personal loyalty, but one... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...in jail, and while he was there he asked More why he wouldn’t accept the King’s title as Supreme Head of the Church of England. He says More verbally rejected Henry’s... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...only gets to defend himself once he’s already been declared guilty. More explains that the King’s Act of Parliament goes against the “Law of God,” because the King, a man, cannot... (full context)