A Man for All Seasons

by

Robert Bolt

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The Common Man Character Analysis

A character that plays all of the other minor, “common” roles in the play. First, he acts as Matthew, Thomas More’s Steward. He later becomes the Boatman, Jailer, Foreman, Innkeeper and Headsman. Robert Bolt describes him as being in his late middle age, dressed all in black so that he can easily assume the roles of his alter egos. The “common” in his name, according to Bolt, represents “what is common in us all.” The Common Man is supposed to be a character the reader can identify with. He isn’t a saint or a king or a member of the upper class; he’s just an ordinary guy. He’s a reminder that most people in history were not the protagonists, but were instead the innkeepers, the servants, etc.—supporting characters that nonetheless influenced history.

The Common Man Quotes in A Man for All Seasons

The A Man for All Seasons quotes below are all either spoken by The Common Man or refer to The Common Man. 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

It is perverse! To start a play made up of Kings and Cardinals in speaking costumes and intellectuals with embroidered mouths, with me.
If a King or a Cardinal had done the prologue he’d have the right materials. And if an intellectual would have shown enough majestic meanings, colored propositions, and closely woven liturgical stuff to dress the House of Lords! But this!
Is this a costume? Does this say anything? It barely covers one man’s nakedness? A bit of black material to reduce Old Adam to Common Man.
Oh, if they’d let me come on naked, I could have shown you something of my own…The Sixteenth Century is the Century of the Common Man. Like all other centuries. And that’s my proposition.

Related Characters: The Common Man (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Common Man Character Timeline in A Man for All Seasons

The timeline below shows where the character The Common Man appears in A Man for All Seasons. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The curtain rises to reveal the Common Man sitting on a dark stage with a basket full of props. He admits that he... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Common Man calls himself “Old Adam,” and assembles the Steward’s costume from his basket. As he speaks,... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...scene changes to the banks of a river. More calls for a boat and the Common Man appears dressed as a Boatman. More tries to get the Boatman to take him home,... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...brings him tea, reminding him that all men, both great and poor, can get sick. The Common Man then enters the stage and announces that Wolsey has died, and Thomas More has been... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The scene changes to a pub. The Common Man enters as himself, but then dresses himself from a basket on stage, and sets up... (full context)
Act 2
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
The Common Man enters and explains that two years have passed since the play’s first act. In the... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
The Common Man enters an empty stage. He explains that he is now a Jailer, and is in... (full context)
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
The scene changes from the jail cell to a courtroom. The Common Man changes out of his Jailer’s costume. He constructs a makeshift jury out of hats, each... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
The scene changes. The courtroom disappears and a chopping block replaces it. The Common Man dons a new costume, becoming the Headsman. More approaches the Headsman, but is intercepted by... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
There is a total blackout, during which the Headsman executes More. Then the Common Man , who has changed out of his of his Headsman costume, comes out of the... (full context)