In the film version of A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More (the character) gives several magnificent speeches. The real More was in fact a prolific writer, so I wonder whether the character’s lines are More’s own words.

I looked around on the web, and some pages treat as historical the words More speaks in the trial at which he is condemned to die.

What about the speech about giving the Devil the benefit of law, one of the most memorable in the film? And what about all of the other great scenes?

If these stirring words are not from his own writings, are there other records of his conversations with people who seem to be of little historical interest (like More’s son-in-law)? Or were the rest of More's lines purely the inventions of Robert Bolt?

A version of the play's script appears here: Act 1 -- Act 2. The speech about the Devil and the benefit of the law appears in Scene 1, and according to this script it goes like this:

ALICE (Exasperated, pointing after RICH) 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 (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on ROPER) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) 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? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

  • Hello! Great question! I am a huge Tudor enthusiast and I find Thomas More fascinating. I admit that I have only seen this movie a few times, so I am not familiar with the speech that you are referring to. Could you provide a link to the dialogue from the film and maybe edit it into your question? – steelersquirrel Mar 3 '17 at 17:13
  • Given the lack of response here, you might get some better answers to this question over on History. – Michael Seifert Jun 17 '19 at 15:02

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