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A Man for All Seasons
SUBJECTS — World/England and the Renaissance; Religion; Drama;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Courage; Male Role Model;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness.
Age: 12+; MPAA Rating: G; Drama; 1966; 120 minutes; Color.
A Man for All Seasons is not an accurate biography of Sir Thomas More. The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to this film will show how its historical inaccuracies can be turned into strengths.
The basic theme of A Man for All Seasons: that a man should look to his personal conscience to determine what he will believe and how he will act is the modern view of conscience. It was not the view of Sir Thomas More. He sacrificed his life for the medieval view of conscience, one that was not independent of others, but which derived its legitimacy from his community and the tradition to which he subscribed. In Sir Thomas More's case, this was the community of believers in the Roman Catholic Church, which had lasted for a thousand years and spanned the continent of Europe. Sir Thomas More would have thought the view of conscience described in the film to be radical and subversive. He would probably have had anyone subscribing to the modern view of conscience burned at the stake (as he had ordered Protestants burned at the stake when he was Chancellor of England).
So why recommend a A Man for All Seasons when its basic thesis is historically inaccurate and would have been abhorred by the real Sir Thomas More? A number of people, including a biographer of Thomas More and college professors, prevailed upon us to recommend the film. They argued that Thomas More was an important historical figure, a man to be greatly admired, and a leader of the Renaissance while at the same time a proponent of many medieval beliefs. We also became aware that many teachers were using the film, both in the U.S. and in England. And so, we figured out ways to turn the inaccuracies of the film into strengths.
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A Man for All Seasons describes a most fascinating man, but needs substantial historical correction.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below the first two sections from the Learning Guide to A Man for All Seasons.
Description: This film depicts the events leading to the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More (1478-1525). More was a judge and a royal official, as well as an author and a leading figure of the Renaissance. More was beheaded by King Henry VIII because he opposed Henry's actions in taking control of the Church in England, thereby separating it from the Catholic Church. In 1935, More was made a saint by the Pope. The screenplay for the film was written by Robert Bolt, who also wrote the play on which the film was based.
Benefits: This film shows a man sacrificing high office, his position in society, and finally his life for religious principle. It introduces Sir Thomas More, a most extraordinary man. The film also provides an introduction to the history of England in the sixteenth century.
The Learning Guide to the film A Man for All Seasons contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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