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ACT ONE, SCENE EIGHT
In this scene the Common Man is a publican (a keeper of a tavern or hotel). He works in a tavern or pub called “The Loyal Subject.” He tells us that people like he cannot be expected to be like Sir Thomas More.
Thomas Cromwell enters the pub. He lets the publican know that he wants a private place for a meeting, one with no nearby places for spies to hide and listen to the conversation that he will be having. When the publican acts innocent, Cromwell suspects that the publican is not being honest with him. He sees someone like himself in the publican. Cromwell tells the publican to get out of the private room.
As the publican leaves the room, Cromwell goes to the doorway and calls Richard Rich. When Rich sees the bottle in his hand he, hangs back by the doorway, Cromwell tells him that he is not drunk on alcohol, only on success. When questioned about what he means, he tells Rich that the Secretary to the Council, Sir Thomas Paget, is retiring.
Rich says that he will keep the secret. He would not repeat anything said in friendship. Cromwell questions whether Rich actually believes that he would never tell a friend’s secret. It seems to Cromwell to be an impossible promise to keep. With a little introspection, Rich realistically admits that it would depend on what he was offered. Cromwell is pleased with his answer.
Then Cromwell congratulates him. The position of Collector of Revenues for York Diocese will be his. Immediately Rich wants to know what he must do to get the position. But, Cromwell lets him know that is not the way it works. It is a matter of administrative convenience. Their job as administrators is to make what needs to be done as convenient as possible. What needs to be done includes whatever the king wants done. And, in this case, that means obtaining a divorce and marrying Anne Boleyn.
Rich seems gloomy and Cromwell comments on it. Rich makes light of the fact that he is no longer innocent. Cromwell reminds him that he hasn’t been innocent for a while. If he didn’t already notice his loss if innocence, it must be of little importance to him. Rich agrees. And, the position of Collector of Revenues sounds good.
Cromwell says that Sir Thomas More is an example of someone who is innocent. But Sir Thomas is, unfortunately, also an example of someone who is an administrative inconvenience.
Cromwell brings up the subject of the cup that Sir Thomas gave to Rich as a gift. How much did Rich receive for it? And, where is the cup now? Cromwell has more questions. Who gave More the cup? It was from a litigant in which court?
Cromwell tells Rich that is all he needs from him. Next time, Rich will find the telling easier. Rich wants to know how the information will be used. Probably it won’t be, but it could be used to move obstructionist types out of the way. Usually the fact that things are known about them will move people out of the way. Heaven is an alternative for those who will not be moved. But, Sir Thomas should not be that difficult to move out of the way. Rich disagrees. Sir Thomas will, instead, be difficult to frighten.
Cromwell, who had started to depart, returns to Rich. He puts Rich’s hand in the flame of a candle that is on the table, as an example of how easy it is to frighten someone.. In shock, Rich accuses Cromwell of enjoying what he did to Rich.
The publican, like the Common Man that he is, goes along to get along. He willingly ignores the wrongdoing of others so that he can stay out of trouble and get by without too much trouble.
Thomas Cromwell seems to lack both a conscience and a heart. He is, in one word, evil. Putting Rich’s hand in the candle’s flame at the end of scene eight seemed to put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence. Another example of his wickedness is his willingness to send someone who is in the way to his or her death. And, he seems to enjoy teaching his pupil, Rich, how best to be evil.
In Cromwell’s opinion, good men who do not “go with the flow” and who get in the way of administrative convenience, are to be trampled, cast aside, or killed.
Rich is in over his head by now. He has sold his soul to Thomas Cromwell, who makes a good stand-in for the devil, for a position of power where he can acquire riches.