Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Notes on the Feast of SS. John Fisher and Thomas More.

The Catholic Church remembers Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More as heroic martyrs who chose to undergo imprisonment and execution rather than affirm King Henry VIII's claim of supremacy over the English Church. As is often the case with canonized martyrs, both men did much more than merely die for their faith - Fisher made his mark not simply as Bishop of Rochester but as a scholar and administrator at Cambridge, and More wrote the provocative and influential Utopia before being called to royal service. Nowadays, More is the much better known of the duo, thanks in no small part to Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons. I've watched the 1966 film version of A Man for All Seasons countless times, and on repeat viewings I still look forward to particular scenes I regard as favorites. To some extent, A Man for All Seasons has to be considered bad history; Bolt's play fudges a few facts and presents a highly selective look at Thomas More's life - and, for that matter, ignores entirely the life of More's sadly neglected fellow martyr John Fisher. That said, A Man for All Seasons must also be considered a sterling example of intelligent and perhaps inadvertent hagiography, a work that brings the sacrifice of a 16th century Christian saint to a modern audience that deserves to hear his message. So if you haven't seen A Man for All Seasons, do yourself a favor and rent it now. AMDG.


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