The Winslow Boy

by

Terence Rattigan

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Sir Robert Morton Character Analysis

Sir Robert is a notorious barrister hired by Arthur to fight the Winslow case, and is widely held to be the best in the business. He comes across as rude, impersonal, and a little intimidating; furthermore, Catherine objects to his politics and initially thinks him unprincipled (she sees him as almost inhuman and “fish-like”). He has the air of a man little moved by emotion. Take, for example, when Catherine reminds him that someone he recently defeated committed suicide soon after the case; Sir Robert says only that the man was nonetheless guilty. His methods, too, are unconventional—he reduces Ronnie to tears when he questions him about the alleged innocent. Though Catherine does have her initial suspicions of him, Sir Robert appears to hold strong principles about doing “Right,” which he sees as something different from doing “justice”—justice is the administering of the law, whereas “Right” is a more universal morality. As the play goes on, Catherine and Sir Robert come to respect each other, especially as Catherine learns that he has turned down the most prestigious job in British law in order to stay on the Winslow case. Furthermore, the victory brings Sir Robert to tears, showing that beneath his stern exterior there lurks an emotional life. Though he admires and is possibly attracted to Catherine by the play’s end, his inability to see her as his equal ultimately proves to the reader/viewer that there remains a lot of work to be done to bring about equality between the sexes—especially if someone so committed to “Right” as Sir Robert can’t see things the way Catherine does.

Sir Robert Morton Quotes in The Winslow Boy

The The Winslow Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Sir Robert Morton or refer to Sir Robert Morton. 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:
Principles and Sacrifice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Nick Hern Books edition of The Winslow Boy published in 2000.
Act 2  Quotes

CATHERINE: I suppose you heard that he committed suicide a few months ago?

SIR ROBERT: Yes. I had heard.

CATHERINE: Many people believed him innocent, you know.

SIR ROBERT: So I understand. As it happens, however, he was guilty.

Related Characters: Catherine Winslow (speaker), Sir Robert Morton (speaker)
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

ARTHUR: I know exactly what I’m doing, Grace. I’m going to publish my son’s innocence before the world, and for that end I am not prepared to weigh the cost.

GRACE: But the cost may be out of all proportion –

ARTHUR: It may be. That doesn’t concern me. I hate heroics, Grace. An injustice has been done. I am going to set it right, and there is no sacrifice in the world I am not prepared to make in order to do so.

Related Characters: Arthur Winslow (speaker), Grace Winslow (speaker), Ronnie Winslow, Sir Robert Morton
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

CATHERINE: Not a verbal protest. Something far more spectacular and dramatic. He’d had his feet on the Treasury table and his hat over his eyes during most of the First Lord’s speech – and he suddenly got up very deliberately, glared at the First Lord, threw a whole bundle of notes on the floor, and stalked out of the House. It made a magnificent effect. If I hadn’t known I could have sworn he was genuinely indignant –

ARTHUR: Of course he was genuinely indignant. So would any man of feeling be –

CATHERINE: Sir Robert, Father dear, is not a man of feeling. I don’t think any emotion at all can stir that fishy heart –

Related Characters: Arthur Winslow (speaker), Catherine Winslow (speaker), Sir Robert Morton
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

SIR ROBERT: It seems decidedly wrong to me that a lady of your political persuasion should be allowed to adorn herself with such a very feminine allurement. It really looks so awfully like trying to have the best of both worlds –

CATHERINE: I’m not a militant, you know, Sir Robert. I don’t go about breaking shop windows with a hammer or pouring acid down pillar boxes.

Related Characters: Catherine Winslow (speaker), Sir Robert Morton (speaker)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

SIR ROBERT: What are my instructions, Miss Winslow?

CATHERINE: (In a flat voice.) Do you need my instructions, Sir Robert? Aren’t they already on the Petition? Doesn’t it say: Let Right be done?

Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4 Quotes

SIR ROBERT: Goodbye, Miss Winslow. Shall I see you in the House then, one day?

CATHERINE: (With a smile.) Yes, Sir Robert. One day. But not in the Gallery. Across the floor.

SIR ROBERT: (With a faint smile.) Perhaps, Goodbye.

Related Characters: Catherine Winslow (speaker), Sir Robert Morton (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Winslow Boy LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Winslow Boy PDF

Sir Robert Morton Character Timeline in The Winslow Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Sir Robert Morton appears in The Winslow Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2 
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Reading the letter page, Arthur wonders if he could sue “Perplexed.” Catherine asks him if Sir Robert Morton is coming to the house. Sir Robert is considered the best barrister in the business.... (full context)
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...for the shock. Dickie had been kind of expecting it anyway—especially with the knowledge that Sir Robert Morton is to get involved in the case. He admits, though, that it’s “a bit of... (full context)
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...and was judged by someone involved in the Navy. That’s why he is now hiring Sir Robert Morton . Miss Barnes seems more interested in the Winslows’ curtains. (full context)
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Relieved at Catherine’s attitude, Arthur says that they have to “pin all their faith” on Sir Robert Morton . After an awkward silence, Catherine complains about Sir Robert. She thinks he’s untrustworthy and... (full context)
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...goes to get the door, thinking it will be John; instead, it’s Desmond Curry with Sir Robert Morton . Sir Robert is elegantly dressed and has a refined, formal manner. He bows to... (full context)
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Desmond stresses how short Sir Robert is on time, so Catherine instructs Desmond to go upstairs and get Arthur. She offers... (full context)
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Catherine and Sir Robert strike up awkward conversation. She expresses surprise that he’s even interested in the case. She... (full context)
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Arthur and Grace come down. Arthur introduces himself to Sir Robert and tells him that Ronnie will be down soon. Sir Robert just wants to ask... (full context)
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Sir Robert explains that he thinks they need to apply for a “Petition of Right.” This gives... (full context)
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Ronnie comes in. Arthur explains that Sir Robert will ask Ronnie a few questions, and Sir Robert insists that nobody interrupt him. Sir... (full context)
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Sir Robert quickly begins interrogating Ronnie. Ronnie explains that he did go to the Post Office on... (full context)
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Sir Robert ’s questions intensify. He gets Ronnie to admit that he had practiced the signature of... (full context)
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Ronnie is increasingly tearful, asking Sir Robert whose side he is on. Sir Robert keeps pressing him on the details of that... (full context)
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Sir Robert says that by continuing to lie, Ronnie is bringing great strain upon his family. Catherine... (full context)
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Arthur tells Sir Robert that he is being “outrageous.” John enters, clearly taken aback by the scene he walks... (full context)
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With an air of indifference, Sir Robert asks Desmond to drop off the materials relevant to Ronnie’s case at his office in... (full context)
Act 3
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...the First Lord admits he “was as moved as any honourable Member opposite by [ Sir Robert ’s] use of the words ‘Let Right be done’ … nevertheless, the matter is not... (full context)
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Arthur asks Catherine if Sir Robert protested when the First Lord refused them their trial. She tells him that Sir Robert... (full context)
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Catherine admits that Sir Robert has done better than she expected, though she still doubts his motivations. She thinks he’s... (full context)
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Sir Robert has come to update Arthur on the day’s events. Catherine asks if he had noticed... (full context)
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Arthur reads the letter brought in by Violet, while Catherine and Sir Robert continue chatting. When he has finished, Arthur says he thinks they should drop the case.... (full context)
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Catherine finishes the letter too, and tells Sir Robert that, contrary to what her father says, the case will go on. The letter is... (full context)
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Arthur reiterates that they should end the case, but Sir Robert says that Catherine is clearly willing to take the risk. Catherine has a cigarette, looking... (full context)
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Sir Robert tells Catherine again how much he likes her hat. But, he adds, “it seems decidedly... (full context)
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...the door, saying that John has arrived asking to speak privately with Catherine. Arthur and Sir Robert go to the dining room to let the other two speak. John looks depressed and... (full context)
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The phone rings. Catherine answers it and then shouts to Sir Robert that it’s for him. He comes out of dining room and apologizes for interrupting. He... (full context)
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Arthur appears in the doorway, wanting to know what the phone call was about. Sir Robert tells him that one of his fellow barristers apparently gave a scathing attack on the... (full context)
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Sir Robert asks whether in light of the new information Arthur still wants to cease action. Arthur... (full context)
Act 4
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...“you never saw such crowds in your life.” She says even though she doesn’t understand Sir Robert and the Crown’s representative’s technical arguments, the fact that they are so heated makes it... (full context)
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...the Attorney-General (the Crown’s representative) was easier than two minutes interrogation at the hands of Sir Robert . (full context)
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...after the trial, though she doesn’t really believe him. She says at least Catherine and Sir Robert managed to convince him to stay away from the court. (full context)
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...hugs Dickie, and says she thinks the judge is against the Winslows. According to her, Sir Robert is worried about the case’s outcome. Apparently, the Attorney-General made a speech that implied that... (full context)
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Catherine informs Arthur that Sir Robert did a great job examining the witness who identified Ronnie as the thief. Without bullying... (full context)
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...if they are going to lose—they both know it’s their last chance. He asks what Sir Robert thinks, and wonders whether Catherine was right to doubt the barrister. She says they “couldn’t... (full context)
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Arthur read in the papers that proceedings began earlier with Sir Robert telling the judge he felt he was getting ill. Catherine says that was just a... (full context)
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Catherine changes the subject to Sir Robert , whom they agree is a strange and brilliant man. Once again, Catherine calls him... (full context)
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...none of the family was actually there—the Winslows won the case. She describes jubilant scenes; Sir Robert was in tears and the jury jumped over the box to congratulate him and shake... (full context)
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Violet enters again, announcing the arrival of Sir Robert . He walks into the room “calmly and methodically,” and says he thought Arthur might... (full context)
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Arthur thanks Sir Robert , saying it is hard for him to find the right words. Sir Robert says... (full context)
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Sir Robert turns to Catherine and says it was a pity she wasn’t in court. He says... (full context)
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...the press in his “ridiculous chariot.” He tries out some different phrases with Catherine and Sir Robert as he figures out what to say in his statement. He says maybe he should... (full context)
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Sir Robert asks Catherine if he could have a little whiskey. She goes into the dining-room to... (full context)
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...she has both a confession and an apology to make to him, neither of which Sir Robert thinks is necessary. She insists and tells him that she misjudged his attitude to the... (full context)
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Catherine says she knows that Sir Robert has made great sacrifices for the case (i.e. the Chief Justice role). He says the... (full context)
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Catherine asks Sir Robert why he is so keen to stop people knowing about him. He says it’s “perhaps... (full context)
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If Sir Robert is so anti-emotion, Catherine follows up, then why did he weep in court earlier? He... (full context)
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Catherine asks whether Sir Robert means “right” as opposed to “justice.” He thinks it easy to do “justice” but hard... (full context)
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Mischievously, Sir Robert asks Catherine why she doesn’t abandon the “lost cause of women’s suffrage” and work in... (full context)
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Ronnie comes in and apologizes to Sir Robert , saying he didn’t know anything was going to happen. He was at the cinema.... (full context)
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Sir Robert tells Ronnie that they were victorious. He asks Catherine whether he will, then, see her... (full context)