A Man for All Seasons

Water, Tides, and the Sea Symbol Analysis

Water, Tides, and the Sea Symbol Icon

Bolt uses many forms of water and water-related objects (the ocean, tides, the currents of the river, boats) to represent the often unknowable nature of religion and morality. Unlike human laws, which are represented by dry land, good and evil, like the ocean, are impossible to fully understand. Thomas More describes the law as a forest in which he is a competent forester. In contrast, when describing “the currents and eddies of right and wrong,” More claims that he cannot navigate and is no voyager.

Water, Tides, and the Sea Quotes in A Man for All Seasons

The A Man for All Seasons quotes below all refer to the symbol of Water, Tides, and the Sea. 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

The great thing’s not to get out of your depth…What I can tell them’s common knowledge! But now they’ve given money for it and everyone wants value for his money. They’ll make a secret of it now to prove they’ve not been bilked…They’ll make it a secret by making it dangerous…Mm…Oh, when I can’t touch the bottom I’ll go deaf, blind, and dumb. (He holds out coins) And that’s more than I earn in a fortnight!

Related Characters: Steward (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water, Tides, and the Sea, Dry Land
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proi

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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!

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dol

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit es

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit a

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est l

Then it’s a poor argument to call it “neat,” Meg. When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then—he needn’t hope to find himself again. Some men aren’t capable of this, but I’d be loathe to think your father one of them.

Related Characters: Sir Thomas More (speaker), Margaret More
Related Symbols: Water, Tides, and the Sea
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillu

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat c

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat c

Get the entire A Man for All Seasons LitChart as a printable PDF.
A man for all seasons.pdf.medium

Water, Tides, and the Sea Symbol Timeline in A Man for All Seasons

The timeline below shows where the symbol Water, Tides, and the Sea 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
The scene changes to the banks of a river. More calls for a boat and the Common Man appears dressed as a Boatman. More... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...can start on his 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... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
More turns to the Boatman, who agrees to row him home. They discuss the river. More wonders if it is filling with dirt, but the Boatman replies “not in the... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...More tells Margaret that Roper is like his father, who just liked being contrary and “swimming in the opposite direction” of popular opinion. (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...ask him for another answer regarding the divorce. The King will travel in his own new ship , built to his specifications, and which the King will steer himself. Chapuys is surprised,... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...secrets. He says it is important “not to get out of your depth,” for “when I can’t touch the bottom I’ll go deaf, blind, and dumb.” (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 his visit has surprised... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
...about the “great experience” he had steering his eponymous ship, “The Great Harry,” down the river. Finally, he turns to court affairs, and tells More he is grateful he has “a... (full context)
Financial vs. Moral Richness Theme Icon
The Meaning of Silence Theme Icon
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
...and cannot respond. Although he had planned to stay for dinner, Henry observes that “the tide will be changing,” and leaves early. (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...finds man’s law simple to follow, whereas God’s law is too complicated. He explains, “The currents and eddies of right and wrong…I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets... (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...safe and Roper will not be able to woo her with his constantly changing “ seagoing principles .” More repeats that he believes he is entirely safe, as he is not on... (full context)
Act 2
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...Parliament.” Still, despite the relatively peaceful transition, he warns that those who are “against the current of their times” risk imprisonment and torture. (full context)
Conscience, Integrity, and Reputation Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Waiting at the banks of the river, More is upset that he cannot get a boat to take him home. He runs... (full context)
Man’s Law vs. God’s Law Theme Icon
...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 that he will serve as the... (full context)