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ACT TWO, SCENE EIGHT
It is morning. The jailer brings Margaret to visit Sir Thomas More. Sir Thomas wakes up and is happy. Then an unsettling thought crosses his mind. Is Margaret to be jailed? No, it is just a visit.
More is allowed to leave the cell. Alice and Roper join them for the visit. Alice, like More, has aged and does not look well. In answer to Alice’s query regarding how he is, More simply says that, now that he sees them, he is happy. Then, he tries to minimize the harshness of the setting. They show him the food and wine that they brought for him.
More wants to know why this visit has been allowed to take place. They admit that they are there because Margaret promised to try to persuade him to change his mind regarding the oath.
More cannot change his mind. Margaret reminds him of something that he told her once. What we feel inside is more important than what we say. More cannot take an oath in which he doesn’t believe. An oath is said to God. Margaret will not give up on convincing her father to take the oath. He has done so much already, as much as God could require.
Alice is upset that More chooses to stay in that rat-hole of a jail when he could, just by uttering a few words, be home again with her and the rest of the family.
Margaret takes another approach. She describes how bleak their home is at night without him.
The jailer interrupts. He says that it is time for the visitors to leave. More asks Roper to keep the jailer occupied for a few minutes. He can share the wine with him and gamble with the dice that the jailer has. Hopefully, that will keep him busy.
More turns to Margaret. He has plans for the family. They cannot see him again, so there is no reason that they should stay where they are. They should all leave England. They should not go via the same route, however they should depart on the same day. Margaret wants to wait until after the trial. More says that there is no case and therefore, there can be no trial. They should not wait. Margaret agrees to the plan.
More turns his attention to Alice. He tries to compliment her on the custard that she made for him and on her dress. She will have none of it. He tells her that he could not bear it if he goes without her understanding his reasons. She responds by telling him that all this is unnecessary. She goes to him and he tells her that she must not hate him. He wants her to understand him. What she does understand is that he is a wonderful man, the best man she has ever known or ever will know. She adds that she will tell anyone who asks what she thinks of the king. He calls her a lion.
The jailer returns, insisting that they must all leave now. They all attempt to gain more time, but to no avail. The jailer says that he himself must stay out of trouble because they are all being watched.
This scene shows us that, even while separated, Sir Thomas, Alice, Margaret and Will, remain a close-knit family. They care deeply for each other. Sir Thomas is no longer living with the others in Chelsea, but his spirit is constantly with them.
Margaret feels very strongly the need to get her father out of jail. She even took an oath that she would persuade her father to accept the Act of Succession. Then she tried her best to actually talk him into doing so. While she has absorbed his ideology through all of his teaching, she still cannot help trying to bring him back into their lives.
Alice has been suffering through bad conditions brought on by being poor. She lacks an understanding of why her husband refuses to accept the Act of Succession like all the other people in England are willing to do. She is upset and disgruntled. Yet she loves Sir Thomas. She recognizes his exceptional characteristics.
More always hopes to find some of his characteristics in the people that he meets, but he seldom does. The jailer, like the other Common Man characters, is shallow. But, they are not the only characters that are. Richard Rich and Thomas Cromwell also show concern for themselves alone. Alice is right when she says that More is the best man she ever knew or ever will know.