A Man for All Seasons

Thomas Cromwell Character Analysis

He begins the play as Secretary to Cardinal Wolsey, but primarily acts as an agent of the King. His job is to carry out any and all of the King’s requests. Although his campaign against More is initially purely political, Cromwell begins to personally dislike More. Cromwell understands that the King’s anger will put his life in danger if he cannot convince More to cooperate. Although Cromwell ends the play as a “victor,” he was later executed for treason and heresy.

Thomas Cromwell Quotes in A Man for All Seasons

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

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More: …I’m not a 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…
Alice; While you talk, he’s gone!
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d like to give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Alice More (speaker), William Roper (speaker), Richard Rich, Thomas Cromwell
Related Symbols: Water, Tides, and the Sea, Dry Land
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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I’m a prominent figure. Someone somewhere’s collecting information about Cromwell. Now no more shirking; we must make a start. There’s a stuffed swan if you please. Will, I’d trust you with my life. But not your principles. You see, we speak of being anchored to our principles. But if the weather turns nasty you up with an anchor and let it down where there’s less wind, and the fishing’s better. And “Look,” we say, “look, I’m anchored! To my principles!”

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Thomas Cromwell, William Roper
Related Symbols: Water, Tides, and the Sea
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

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Norfolk: But he makes no noise, Mr. Secretary; he’s silent, why not leave him silent?
Cromwell: Not being a man of letters, Your Grace, you perhaps don’t realize the extent of his reputation. This “silence” of his is bellowing up and down Europe!

Related Characters: Duke of Norfolk (speaker), Thomas Cromwell (speaker), Sir Thomas More
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapuys: Goodness can be a difficulty.
Attendant: Excellency?
Chapuys: In the long run, of course, all good men everywhere are allies of Spain. No good man cannot be, and no man who is not can be good…
Attendant: Then he really is for us.
Chapuys: He is opposed to Cromwell, is he not?
Attendant: Oh, yes, Excellency.
Chapuys: If he’s opposed to Cromwell, he’s for us. There’s no third alternative?
Attendant: I suppose not, Excellency.

Related Characters: Chapuys (speaker), Chapuy’s Attendant (speaker), Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Act 2 Quotes

Cromwell: I put it to the Court that the prisoner is perverting the law—making smoky what should be a clear light to discover to the Court his own wrongdoing!
More: The law is not a “light” for you or any man to see by; the law is not an instrument of any king. The law is a causeway upon which, so long as he keeps to it, a citizen may walk safely. In matters of conscience—
Cromwell: The conscience, the conscience…
More: The word is not familiar to you?
Cromwell: By God, too familiar! I am very used to hear it in the mouths of criminals!

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Thomas Cromwell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Tides, and the Sea, Dry Land
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Thomas Cromwell Character Timeline in A Man for All Seasons

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas Cromwell 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
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...told him to read Machiavelli—it seems out of character for him. Rich admits that Thomas Cromwell recommended it. Rich says that Cromwell has promised to help him, presumably with his social... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...turns to philosophy. Rich again praises Machiavelli’s The Prince, and defends it, along with Thomas Cromwell, whose aggressive political strategies both Norfolk and More dislike. (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
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Now that they are on the topic of Thomas Cromwell, Norfolk reveals to the group that Cromwell has been promoted to the Cardinal’s Secretary. Everyone... (full context)
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...suggests a man named Tunstall, but says he would rather be Cardinal than allow Thomas Cromwell to take the position. Wolsey tells More that they are enemies for the moment, and... (full context)
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...the Boatman to take him home, but the Boatman is off duty. As they’re talking, Cromwell steps out from behind an arch on the stage. He’s on his way to talk... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...sets change and the stage becomes Hampton Court, the royal palace. Richard Rich passes Thomas Cromwell in a stairwell, and the two begin to talk. Cromwell wants to know what Rich... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
Rich doesn’t answer Cromwell’s question because Chapuys and his Attendant interrupt their conversation. Chapuys wonders what exactly Cromwell’s job... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
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More’s Steward enters. Clearly both Cromwell and Chapuys want to talk to him. The two men end their conversation, and each... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...confession often. Chapuys knows the Steward is serving as an informant to both him and Cromwell, and he tells the Steward it is impossible to be loyal to both of them.... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...want to hear. As Rich turns to go, the Steward points out the direction that Cromwell went, assuming Rich would want to follow him. Angrily, Rich purposefully exits the stage in... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...like Norfolk, or else because they see the ways that he can benefit them, like Cromwell. But More, Henry explains, isn’t like that, and is sincere and honest, and can be... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...a strange mood, and complains that he feels unwelcome in More’s house. He confesses that Cromwell has been asking questions about More. Rich says that More’s Steward has been questioned both... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...jokes that he can barely understand what More is saying because he is so common. Cromwell enters the pub and asks for a private room. Rich joins him, and they meet... (full context)
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Cromwell offers Rich a position as Collector of Revenues for York Diocese, if Rich will help... (full context)
Act 2
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Later, presumably in the palace (although it is not stated), Norfolk and Cromwell talk in a private corner. Norfolk wants to leave More to his silence, but Cromwell... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
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Cromwell believes More can be blackmailed for once taking a bribe. Norfolk believes that More is... (full context)
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Before Norfolk leaves, he tells Cromwell that he isn’t interested in persecuting More. Cromwell tells Norfolk that the King is aware... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
Once Norfolk has left, Cromwell and Rich begin to scheme. Rich explains he is “only anxious to do what is... (full context)
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...enters and announces that More must go to Hampton Court to answer charges brought by Cromwell. Roper comments that Cromwell is a devil. More responds that Cromwell is only a lawyer.... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The scene changes to Cromwell’s office. More has come to hear Cromwell’s accusations, and Richard Rich has joined them. More... (full context)
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Cromwell explains that the King is displeased both by More’s silence and his resignation as Chancellor,... (full context)
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Cromwell next brings up up a treasonous woman More once wrote to, but More explains he... (full context)
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Cromwell tries a final strategy to pressure More into approving the King’s divorce. He brings up... (full context)
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Alone in Cromwell’s office, Cromwell and Rich scheme together. More had said he was not scared because he... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...and he opens it and reads—it contains the fates of various characters from the play. Cromwell will be found guilty of High Treason and executed in 1540, and Norfolk will be... (full context)
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Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
At one o’clock in the morning, the Jailer wakes More up. Cromwell, Norfolk, and Thomas Cranmer have come to visit. Cromwell presents More with the Act of... (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... (full context)
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Frustrated, Cromwell, Norfolk, and Cranmer eventually leave. Cromwell asks the Jailer if he has heard More say... (full context)
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On their way out, Rich and Cromwell talk. Rich wants a new, better, job, specifically that of the retiring Attorney-General of Wales.... (full context)
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...and More complains that hearing her speak is more torturous than anything the King or Cromwell has come up with. (full context)
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...are costume pieces from roles he has played, including the Steward, Boatman, Innkeeper, and Jailer. Cromwell enters, praising “The Canvas and Rigging of the Law.” He then reminds the Common Man... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
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...that if More were to repent 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... (full context)
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Cromwell counters that there are many kinds of silences. Although More did not speak, he made... (full context)
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Cromwell accuses More of using legal jargon to make the case more complicated. More argues that... (full context)
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...opportunity to speak before the jury deliberates, but his fate is already sealed. He accuses Cromwell of persecuting him not for his actions, but for his thoughts, and he calls out... (full context)