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Act Two, scenes three–four

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Summary: Scene three

Norfolk protests Cromwell’s intention to pursue More, claiming that since More does not actively oppose Henry’s divorce, they do not need to bother him. But Cromwell contends that everyone understands More’s silence to be disapproval. Since More has shown himself to be a patriot by passing on information about Chapuys’s rebellion, Cromwell contends, More should have no problem swearing an oath of loyalty to the administration.

When Norfolk protests again, Cromwell points out that he has instructions from the king to get More to consent. Cromwell plans to use the information Rich provided about the silver cup to blackmail More into submission. When Norfolk refuses to believe that More has ever accepted a bribe, Cromwell brings in Rich and the woman who gave More the cup. Though the woman did not get the judgment she wanted from More, she nonetheless admits that she sent him the silver cup. Rich attests that More received the cup, and Cromwell has enlisted Matthew to corroborate the fact that More gave the cup to Rich. Norfolk, however, remembers the night that Rich received the cup, and he reminds Rich that he got the cup the same month that More did. Thus, Norfolk asserts, as soon as More realized the cup was a bribe, he got rid of it. Cromwell admits that the scenario Norfolk proposes is possible, but he promises to find some better gossip that he can use to force More’s hand.

When Norfolk insists he wants nothing to do with Cromwell’s campaign to discredit More, Cromwell mentions that the king particularly wants Norfolk to participate because Norfolk is known to be More’s friend. Norfolk’s involvement will make Cromwell’s campaign look less like malicious prosecution and more like a fair investigation of facts. When Norfolk exits, Cromwell turns on Rich and rebukes him for not remembering that the duke was present the night More gave Rich the cup.

Just as Cromwell and Rich are leaving, Matthew appears and reminds Rich that he said that he might need a steward. Rich hesitates since he feels that Matthew treated him poorly back when he was More’s servant. But Matthew insists that Rich’s memories are incorrect, and as he follows Rich offstage, he announces that he thinks Rich will be a good match for him.

Summary: Scene four

Back at More’s home, the family’s fortunes have dwindled. Chapuys has come to pay a visit, and he and his attendant chat about how cold and poor More’s house suddenly seems. Chapuys speculates that More supports Spain and seems to be against Cromwell.

When More arrives, Chapuys promises that his fortunes are sure to change, implying that an alliance with Spain could be very profitable. He hands More a letter from the king of Spain, but More refuses to take it. Chapuys assures More that no one saw him coming to his house, but More feels that opening the letter would be unseemly and that he would feel obliged to take it straight to Henry. He warns Chapuys not to be so sure about More’s views on the divorce and points out his patriotism. More even has Alice witness that he has not accepted the letter or broken its seal. Departing, Chapuys announces that he suspects his king will admire More all the more for having refused the letter.

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Study Questions

by AutumnTime22, September 11, 2013

How does Thomas More differ from Thomas Cromwell on religion and politics?
Why do the characters in the reading react as they do to Richard Rich reading Machiavelli and knowing Cromwell?
How does More differ from Wolsey in his opinion on the King’s divorce?
How does Thomas More feel towards Henry VIII?
How does Henry VIII try to persuade More to change his mind?
How does More resemble Henry VIII?
How do Cromwell’s words and actions with Richard Rich demonstrate his political and moral Machiavellianism?... Read more


31 out of 39 people found this helpful

qui tacet consentire

by joziejane, December 15, 2015

"He maintains that if he does not speak his opinion concerning his disapproval of the king’s intention to divorce his wife, then, according to the Bible, his silence will connote consent, not dissent."

This scene is from late in act 2, in his trial. But the argument about qui tacet consentire - silence gives consent - is not a matter of the Bible, but a matter of law: “’The maxim is “qui tacet consentire”…. “Silence Gives Consent”. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence “betokened”, you must construe tha

a man for all season

by alleei, November 08, 2016

a man for all season

See all 5 readers' notes   →