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The Common Man

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A man for all seasons by Robert Bolt, The character of the common man seems to carry traits of disloyalty and selfishness when he appears in the play portraying different characters. This seems to relate greatly to the works of Bertolt Brecht whose main focus was to distance viewers from the characters as to give better acknowledgement to the social problems being displayed.

In this essay Bertolt Brecht’s influence will be critically discussed by explaining Brecht’s aims in plays, how it is captured in the common man and how it seems to alienate viewers from the play although the common man draws the viewers into the play as Bolt intended. The common man’s effectiveness in the play will also be discussed by referring to his roles of Steward Matthew, the Boatman and the Jailer. His characteristics will be compared to that of Sir Thomas More to clearly light that his role is indeed effective.

According to Kincaid (2010) Brecht was a German writer who wrote plays that distance viewers from the action so they would be able to respond more critically to the social problems being portrayed in his plays. Brecht’s influence can be clearly seen in the role of the common man as he constantly changes roles, sets the scenery and speaks directly to the audience, which allows him to be both inside and outside of the play. Kincaid mentions that the Common man’s main purpose was to bring alienation into the play so that viewers can place more focus on the social events rather than getting attached to the characters. On the contrary the Common man draws the audience closer to the play instead of pushing them away, Taylor (1969) comments on this by saying “the device of the Common Man really owes more to Bolt’s radio experience than it does to Brecht. Taylor mentions here that although Brecht might have had an influence in A man for all seasons it is clearer that Bolt brings in the common man so that viewers can be drawn into the play.

On the surface it might seem that the Common man’s role is to disengage viewers from the action but in a deeper sense, the Common man is a disloyal, selfish character simply to bring to light the good nature of Sir Thomas More.

Turnier (2009) comments on the character of the Common man by saying “the Common Man is seen as someone who has been pushed around and has become, by being bullied, a vice ridden creature who often uses Sir Thomas More, the epitome of moral goodness and upstanding men, for the outlet of his vice”. In his role as the House Steward Matthew, he immediately decides to leave when Sir Thomas More when he hears that his salary will be cut. Although it depicts him as a disloyal man, More still says that he will miss him. This shows that More has a good heart and is a caring person.

As the Boatman, the Common man decides to try and force more money out of More by charging him more than the usual fare. This shows that the common man will exploit the wealthy in order to gain more money. The effectiveness of this role is to bring to light that Sir Thomas More stands for what he believes is right by refusing to pay more than he usually does.

As the Jailer, the common man illustrates cowardice when he refuses Sir Thomas More more time with his family. Sir Thomas More accepts that he cannot risk the life of the Common man and this brings to light the integrity that Sir Thomas More shows.

In conclusion it can be said that the role of the Common man was indeed effective as it managed to bring viewers into the play by getting them more attached to Sir Thomas More. The Common man is simply selfish and disloyal as to put Sir Thomas More through trails which tests his loyalty and integrity and shows the viewers that he is indeed the hero that they expect him to be.


Turnier. C. 2009. The Common Man in Everyday Life. . Date of access: 12/03/2014

Kincaid. A. 2010. Theatrical Emphasis for Robert Bolt’s Play A Man For All
Seasons. . Date of access: 12/03/2014

Russell. T, J. 1969. Anger and After: a Guide to the New British Drama. London: Methuen,

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