The Knife is not a great fan of the theatre, although I’ve tried it often enough. Despite that, one literary work which continually produces examples for our present day is a play: Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons. It’s probably no surprise that it’s too good a work to be tied down to a dreary stage, and in its finest manifestation it’s actually a truly wonderful – and Oscar winning – film, by Fred Zinnemann, from 45 years ago. Read the reviews. It’s a great movie not just because of numerous superb performances, and its authentic evocation of Tudor England, but because of its resonant, memorable dialogue. It places Thomas More firmly at the head of the greatest Englishman list.
It crops up all the time, but it sprang to mind today while watching the Dale Farm evictions, with numerous “activists”, ie. not the travellers, fulminating about how the law is wrong. Here’s the dialogue, see if you see the relevance:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas 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 is 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, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!