Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Man for All Seasons

We went to see A Man for All Seasons with Martin Shaw last night with my parents, who are visiting from the U.S. It was excellent. I only dimly remember the film and never saw it on stage before, but my father watched the play in the early 1960s, with Paul Scofield, and he enjoyed this production as well. If you get a chance, catch it before it closes on April 1st.

My favorite part of the play is when More defends the law against the ultimate in "the end justifies the means" arguments. The character Roper and More's daughter Alice beseech More to have his eventual betrayer arrested before he leaves the house, even if he has to make up some pretext. More argues that doing that would be a very bad idea:

Alice: While you talk, he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

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's 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 - d'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.

Roper's sentiment is as strong as ever. Terrorism, or whatever the evil du jour, may seem to justify sweeping away inconvenient laws, as long as it makes us safer. But it has the opposite effect in the long run.

Tags: ,