Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Not a bad public, that"

Last Friday I watched A Man for All Seasons with a friend who had never seen it. On Facebook he reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of dialogue in the film. A young poor student, Richard Rich, has asked Sir Thomas More for a position. More is willing, but not to provide the kind of position Rich really wants:
Rich: What post?
More: At the new school.
Rich: A teacher! [….]
More: Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher. Perhaps a great one.
Rich: lf I was, who would know it?
More: You! Your pupils. Your friends. God. Not a bad public, that.
Toward the end of the film More is on trial and that same Richard Rich — who has advanced considerably in the world — provides false but damning testimony against More. More now knows he will be executed. Before Rich is excused from the court:
More: There is one question I would like to ask the witness. .... That's a chain of office you're wearing. May I see it? .... The Red Dragon. What's this?
Cromwell: Sir Richard is appointed Attorney General for Wales.
More: For Wales. .... Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. .... But for Wales...
The film and the play on which it is based is about very good dialogue delivered by very good actors about very important principles.

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