ENG 4U Research Topics: Historical Background

Research Topics: Historical Background to A Man For All Seasons
In groups of 3-4, choose ONE topic each. You will be given ONE library period during
which to research the material indicated; you will then be given some time in class (half a
period) to ready a seminar for the class. It is to be no more than 5 minutes in length.
You must also prepare a handout (typed, please) which I will photocopy for the class.
There will be a QUIZ on this material at the end of the seminars. You will also need to
submit to me, with a copy of your handout, a separate Works Cited, in MLA format,
listing a minimum of three sources.
Content (K)
Presentation (C)
Handout (A)
Works Cited (K)
1. Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation
What were some of the “abuses” in the Roman Catholic Church for which some
people were seeking reform? What does “Reformation” mean? Who was Martin
Luther? What were his “95 Theses”? What was the reaction of Church authorities to
criticisms voiced by Luther and other “Protestants”? What on earth is a Diet of
Worms? What happened to Luther here? What was the net effect, of the
Reformation? How long did this effect last?
2. The Life of Henry VIII (reigned 1509-1547)
What sort of man was Henry? In the play, he is depicted as vain, mercurial, vital,
emotional, headstrong, determined to get his own way (“I’ll have no opposition,
Thomas!” p. 33); he fancies himself as a scholar, musician, and dancer. How
accurate is Bolt’s portrait of the young king? What was he like later? Find out about
him. Why was he was given the title “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope?
3. Henry’s Six Wives and Their Children
Find out about Catherine of Aragon (daughter, Queen Mary, ruled 1553-1558
“Bloody Mary”), Anne Boleyn (daughter, Elizabeth I, ruled 1558-1603); and briefly
about Jane Seymour, (son, Edward VI, 1547-1553); Anne of Cleves, Catherine
Howard, and Catherine Parr. Examine especially the central role played by Henry’s
marriage to his brother Arthur’s widow (see p. 110, text). and subsequent divorce
from her. See also Old Testament: Leviticus 18:16 and Deuteronomy 25:5. How are
these two verses in conflict with each other and why?
4. Henry’s Break with Rome and the Governing of the Church of England
What was the ‘break with Rome’? Explain. How serious was such an action in the
context of its time? What were the political implications of Henry’s divorce? What
were the Act of Succession and Act of Supremacy? What was the “dissolution of the
monasteries”? What happened to their lands and wealth?
5. The Life of Sir Thomas More
In the play, More is presented as extremely cautious, very aware of the great
temptations of power; a man of integrity, a lover of his family, tolerant, yet deeply
principled, wise and widely respected (even and perhaps especially, by the King
himself). Is this an accurate portrait? What sort of man was he in real life? Has Bolt
omitted anything significant? added anything?
6. The King’s Ministers
What exactly was a “chancellor”? What powers did he have? Thomas Wolsey,
Thomas More, and Thomas Cromwell, all mentioned in the play, were Henry’s
Chancellors. Find out how each rose to power, and how each eventually incurred the
displeasure of the King. (With his dying breath, Wolsey, played in the film by Orson
Welles, says “If I had served God half as well as I have served the King, God would
not have allowed me to die in this place.”) What was a cardinal? An archbishop?
Why and how was Wolsey both of these? What conflict did this raise? Thomas
Cranmer also makes a brief appearance in the play. He was Henry’s Archbishop of
Canterbury between 1532 and 1556, and thus the first archbishop answerable only to
the King, and not to the Pope. Was he, too, merely a tool of the King? What was his
first act?
7. Renaissance Scholarship
Henry VIII, Thomas More, and Desiderius Erasmus (mentioned in the play as a friend
of More) were all lovers of knowledge. More’s esteem as a scholar and statesman
had spread across Europe. Find out about their individual achievements as scholars,
(including especially More’s Utopia, Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly and The Education
of a Christian Prince.) Find out about Erasmus’ argument with Luther.
8. Religious Intolerance and Martyrdom in 16th Century England
After Henry’s death in 1547 came a period of bitter hatred between Protestants and
Catholics, especially during the reign of Henry’s (Catholic) daughter Mary (called
“Bloody Mary”), but also during the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I, his other
children. Give details of these turbulent years. Who were martyred? How? How
many? When and where? What legacy did the break with Rome leave England?
9. Bolt, Brecht, and Macchiavelli
Find out who the playwright, Robert Bolt, was, and what form of drama he was
espousing. Find out who Brecht was and what theory of theatre he created; what did
he consider to be the ‘defamiliarization effect’ and what was the ‘representation of
reality’ that he was trying to achieve. Finally, who was Macchiavelli and why were
his writings so immensely influential both to his generation and to the content of
Bolt’s play? Lastly, decide on an organized format to present these three disparate
Remember: keep your handout concise, clear, and visually appealing.
Check grammar and spelling meticulously. Be sure to know your material
and to present it in an interesting, compelling format.