MARGARET: We’ve brought you some things. (Shows him. There is constraint between them) Some cheese . . .
MARGARET: And a custard . . .
MORE: A custard!
MARGARET: And, these other things . . . (She doesn’t look at him)
ROPER: And a bottle of wine. (Offering it)
MORE: Oh. (Mischievously) Is it good, son Roper?
ROPER: I don’t know, sir.
MORE: (Looks at them, puzzled) Well.
ROPER: Sir, come out! Swear to the Act! Take the oath and come out!
MORE: Is this why they let you come?
ROPER: Yes . . . Meg’s under oath to persuade you.
MORE: (Coldly) That was silly, Meg. How did you come to do that?
MARGARET: I wanted to!
MORE: You want me to swear to the Act of Succession?
MARGARET: “God more regards the thoughts of the heart than the words of the mouth.” Or so you’ve always told me.
MARGARET: Then say the words of the oath and in your heart think otherwise.
MORE: What is an oath then but words we say to God?
MARGARET: That’s very neat.
MORE: Do you mean it isn’t true?
MARGARET: No, it’s true.
MORE: 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. (He cups his hands) 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.
MARGARET: In any State that was half good, you would be raised up high, not here, for what you’ve done already. It’s not your fault the State’s three-quarters bad. Then if you elect to suffer for it, you elect yourself a hero.
MORE: That’s very neat. But look now . . . If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we’d live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all . . . why then perhaps we must stand fast a little—even at the risk of being heroes.
MARGARET: (Emotionally) But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonably want?
MORE: Well . . . finally . . . it isn’t a matter of reason; finally it’s a matter of love.
ALICE: (Hostile) You’re content, then, to be shut up here with mice and rats when you might be home with us!
MORE: (Flinching) Content? If they’d open a crack that wide (Between finger and thumb) I’d be through it. (To MARGARET) Well, has Eve run out of apples?
MARGARET: I’ve not yet told you what the house is like, without you.
MORE: Don’t, Meg.
MARGARET: What we do in the evenings, now that you’re not there.
MORE: Meg, have done!
MARGARET: We sit in the dark because we’ve no candles. And we’ve no talk because we’re wondering what they’re doing to you here.
MORE: The King’s more merciful than you. He doesn’t use the rack. (Enter JAILER)
JAILER: Two minutes to go, sir. I thought you’d like to know.
MORE: Two minutes!
JAILER: Till seven o’clock, sir. Sorry. Two minutes. (Exit JAILER)
MORE: Jailer! (Seizes ROPER by the arm) Will—go to him, talk to him, keep him occupied— (Propelling him after JAILER)
ROPER: How, sir?
MORE: Anyhow! Have you got any money?
ROPER: (Eagerly) Yes!
MORE: No, don’t try and bribe him! Let him play for it; he’s got a pair of dice. And talk to him, you understand! And take this— (He hands him the wine) and mind you share it—do it properly, Will! (ROPER nods vigorously and exits) Now listen, you must leave the country. All of you must leave the country.
MARGARET: And leave you here?
MORE: It makes no difference, Meg; they won’t let you see me again. (Breathlessly, a prepared speech under pressure) You must all go on the same day, but not on the same boat; different boats from different ports—
MARGARET: After the trial, then.
MORE: There’ll be no trial, they have no case. Do this for me, I beseech you?
MORE: Alice? (She turns her back) Alice, I command you!
ALICE: (Harshly) Right!
MORE: (Looks into the basket) Oh, this is splendid; I know who packed this.
ALICE: (Harshly) I packed it.
MORE: Yes. (He eats a morsel) You still make superlative custard, Alice.
ALICE: Do I?
MORE: That’s a nice dress you have on.
ALICE: It’s my cooking dress.
MORE: It’s very nice, anyway. Nice color.
ALICE: (Turns. Quietly) By God, you think very little of me. (Mounting bitterness) I know I’m a fool. But I’m no such fool as at this time to be lamenting for my dresses! Or to relish complimenting on my custard!
MORE: (Regarding her with frozen attention. He nods once or twice) I am well rebuked. (He holds out his hands) Alice—
ALICE: No! (She remains where she is, glaring at him)
MORE: (He is in great fear of her) I am faint when I think of the worst that they may do to me. But worse than that would be to go with you not understanding why I go.
ALICE: I don’t!
MORE: (Just hanging on to his self-possession) Alice, if you can tell me that you understand, I think I can make a good death, if I have to.
ALICE: Your death’s no “good” to me!
MORE: Alice, you must tell me that you understand!
ALICE: I don’t! (She throws it straight at his head) I don’t believe this had to happen.
MORE: (His face is drawn) If you say that, Alice, I don’t see how I’m to face it.
ALICE: It’s the truth!
MORE: (Gasping) You’re an honest woman.
ALICE: Much good may it do me! I’ll tell you what I’m afraid of: that when you’ve gone, I shall hate you for it.
MORE: (Turns from her, his face working) Well, you mustn’t, Alice, that’s all. (Swiftly she crosses the stage to him; he turns and they clasp each other fiercely) You mustn’t, you—
ALICE: (Covers his mouth with her hand) S-s-sh . . . As for understanding, I understand you’re the best man that I ever met or am likely to; and if you go—well, God knows why I suppose—though as God’s my witness God’s kept deadly quiet about it! And if anyone wants my opinion of the King and his council they’ve only to ask for it!
MORE: Why, it’s a lion I married! A lion! A lion! (He breaks away from her, his face shining) Say what you may—this custard’s very good. It’s very, very good. (He puts his face in his hands; ALICE and MARGARET comfort him; ROPER and JAILER erupt onto the stage above, wrangling fiercely)
JAILER: It’s no good, sir! I know what you’re up to! And it can’t be done!
ROPER: Another minute, man!
JAILER: (Descending; to MORE) Sorry, sir, times up!
“A Man For All Seasons”