Sir Thomas More–the brilliant nobleman, lawyer, humanist, author of such works as “Utopia” — was a long-time friend and favorite of Henry VII, ascending to the position of Lord Chancellor in 1529. Yet he was also a staunch Catholic, and when Henry broke with the Church in 1531 after the Pope had refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, More resigned the Chancellorship. In 1534, Parliament passed a bill requiring all subjects to take an oath acknowledging the supremacy of England’s king over all foreign sovereigns–including the Pope. More refused, was imprisoned, and finally executed in 1535.
Bolt’s classic play is a brilliant dramatization of this historic confrontation, but first and foremost, it is a compelling portrait of a courageous man who died for his convictions, whom Samuel Johnson described as the “person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced.”