Any lawyer, regardless of specialty or religion, should enjoy excerpts quoted at length below from A Man For All Seasons, about the life of St. Thomas More. The source of the quotes is www.imbd.com; and thanks to Vic Fleischer at the Conglomerate blog for the tip.
Memorable Quotes from
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
King Henry VIII: Thomas. I chose the right man for chancellor!
Sir Thomas More: I should in fairness add that my taste in music is reputedly deplorable.
The Duke of Norfolk: Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!
Sir Thomas More: And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?
Cromwell: Now, Sir Thomas, you stand on your silence.
Sir Thomas More: I do.
Cromwell: But, gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man who is dead. Let us suppose we go into the room where he is laid out, and we listen: what do we hear? Silence. What does it betoken, this silence? Nothing; this is silence pure and simple. But let us take another case. Suppose I were to take a dagger from my sleeve and make to kill the prisoner with it; and my lordships there, instead of crying out for me to stop, maintained their silence. That would betoken! It would betoken a willingness that I should do it, and under the law, they will be guilty with me. So silence can, according to the circumstances, speak! Let us consider now the circumstances of the prisoner’s silence. The oath was put to loyal subjects up and down the country, and they all declared His Grace’s title to be just and good. But when it came to the prisoner, he refused! He calls this silence. Yet is there a man in this court – is there a man in this country! – who does not know Sir Thomas More’s opinion of this title?
Crowd in court gallery: No!
Cromwell: Yet how can this be? Because this silence betokened, nay, this silence was, not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!
Sir Thomas More: Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim is “Qui tacet consentiret”: the maxim of the law is “Silence gives consent”. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.
Cromwell: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?
Sir Thomas More: The world must construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law.
Margaret More: Father, that man’s bad.
Sir Thomas More: There’s no law against that.
William Roper: There is: God’s law.
Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
Sir Thomas More: 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?
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!
Sir Thomas More: You threaten like a dockside bully.
Cromwell: How should I threaten?
Sir Thomas More: Like a minister of state. With justice.
Cromwell: Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.
Sir Thomas More: Then I am not threatened.
Sir Thomas More: I am commanded by the king to be brief, and since I am the king’s obedient subject, brief I will be. I die His Majesty’s good servant, but God’s first.
Sir Thomas More: [to executioner, handing him his wages]
Sir Thomas More: I forgive you, right readily. Be not afraid of your office: you send me to God.
Archbishop Cranmer: You’re very sure of that, Sir Thomas?
Sir Thomas More: He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.
Cardinal Wolsey: That… thing out there; at least she’s fertile.
Sir Thomas More: She’s not his wife.
Cardinal Wolsey: No, Catherine’s his wife and she’s barren as a brick; are you going to pray for a miracle?
Sir Thomas More: There are precedents.
Sir Thomas More: I think that when statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos.
Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.
Sir Thomas More: I trust I make myself obscure.
Sir Thomas More: Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world… but for Wales?
Cromwell: I have evidence that Sir Thomas, during the period of his judicature, accepted bribes.
The Duke of Norfolk: What? Goddammit, he was the only judge since Cato who didn’t accept bribes! When was there last a Chancellor whose possessions after three years in office totaled one hundred pounds and a gold chain?
Sir Thomas More: They’ll think that somewhere along your pedigree a bitch got over the wall!
Sir Thomas More: [to Will Roper] Now, listen, Will. Two years ago you were a passionate churchman. Now you’re a passionate Lutheran. We must just pray that when you’re head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.
Sir Thomas More: God made the angels to show Him splendor, as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. If He suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and, yes, Meg, then we can clamor like champions, if we have the spittle for it. But it’s God’s part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping.
[after King Henry VIII leaves]
Alice More: What’s this? You crossed him?
Sir Thomas More: Somewhat.
Alice More: Why?
Sir Thomas More: I couldn’t find the other way.
Alice More: You’re too nice altogether, Thomas.
Sir Thomas More: Woman, mind your house!
Alice More: I am minding my house!