Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: “…but for Wales?”

 

Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales? A Man for All Seasons (1966)

This is my favorite line in a script filled with jewels. I have always loved the way Paul Scofield delivered that line with such delicate irony. Richard Rich lies to help convict Thomas More and is rewarded with the post of Attorney General for Wales. The clip of that scene can be seen here.

The temptation to replace “Wales” with “to elect Joe Biden” or the like and thus begin a rant is hereby resisted. I will leave that to inventive respondents in the comment section. I will instead discuss Richard Rich, a fictionalized rendition of an actual person. In the movie, he has academic credentials, a craving for fame and wealth but is lacking in both practical skill and character. He is a type, a permanent figure in every age, lurking around government and policymaking centers. In my days as a lobbyist, one or more Richard Riches was in attendance at most meetings. Richard Riches grab more than their share of peripheral congressional staff jobs. Rich would kill to be a regular commentator on cable channels and often succeeds in that ambition.

Early in the movie, Rich begs Thomas More for a political appointment of some kind. More recognizes that a position anywhere near the intrigues and temptations of court would instantly corrupt and destroy someone as weak as Rich. More advises him to be a teacher:

More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher, perhaps a great one.
Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?
More: You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that.

Richard Rich instead acts on his insecurity and ambition and agrees to help the Machiavellian Cromwell bring down Thomas More. Cromwell (played brilliantly by Leo McKern) himself has wonderful lines in the scene in which Rich succumbs to the temptations of wealth and position:

Richard Rich: I was lamenting. I’ve lost my innocence.
Cromwell: Some time ago. Have you only just noticed?

 And after the agreement to betray Thomas More is consummated:

Cromwell: There. That wasn’t too painful, was it?
Richard Rich: No.
Cromwell: No. And you’ll find it easier next time.

A truly insightful remark. Conscience does dull with repeated violations. And yet a lie always necessitates an ongoing escalation of a personal war against the truth to protect itself. Dishonesty has a peculiar momentum.

Richard Rich, the actual historical figure was a complete weasel by all accounts so naturally, he managed to rise to the position of Lord Chancellor during the brief reign of Edward VI. He also managed to get into high positions with both Catholic Queen Mary and Protestant Queen Elizabeth without missing a beat. When still under Henry VIII, when England was negotiating with powerful Catholic monarchs and it served the political needs of the moment to suppress dissident Protestants, Rich even took a turn at the rack wheel to help torture Protestant martyr Mary Askew. A significant part of his own personal fortune was derived from lands and property stolen from abbeys, monasteries, and convents. What a guy.

His life story puts me in mind of the time one of my favorite grade-school teachers, a wonderful, energetic nun was asked why God allows bad people to get wealthy and live without apparent suffering. Her answer was that God sometimes shows his kindness and generosity in this life to people He already knows He will not be able to help in the next. A wonderful, memorable answer even if theologically silly.

Sixteenth-century England was a bad place and time to have consistent and sincere beliefs of any kind but a golden age for self-seeking weasels like Richard Rich. Although come to think of it, that is probably the case in most times and places.

As a youth, I believed that newswires, a plethora of prominent opinion magazines, TV, radio, and that emerging internet thing would forever block the weasels from getting over on us. The truth would have too many outlets to be able to silence it. That alone would make for a better world. It never occurred to me that the weasels would unite and actually own all of that. And they do appear to find it easier each time they betray us.

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  1. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One of the greatest films ever, just in terms of its screenplay. It was doubly fortunate in that the acting, and the production values were spectacular (that’s not always the case). Robert Bolt was a genius. I mean, really? A Man for All Seasons. Lawrence of Arabia. Doctor Zhivago (not one of my faves, to be sure). The Mission. And one of Mr. She’s best-loved movies, the one Bolt wrote for his then-and-future wife, Ryan’s Daughter?

    My mother always had a bit of a proprietary interest in Paul Scofield, having grown up seeing him in person in his very early Birmingham Repertory performances.

     

    • #1
    • November 20, 2020, at 6:06 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  2. MarciN Member

    I’ve watched this movie twice in the past year. It is so rich with wisdom. 

    Loved this post. Thank you. 

    • #2
    • November 20, 2020, at 6:19 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  3. Ekosj Member

    Great film. Great post. Thanks

    • #3
    • November 20, 2020, at 7:00 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Old Bathos: As a youth, I believed that newswires, a plethora of prominent opinion magazines, TV, radio, and that emerging internet thing would forever block the weasels from getting over on us. The truth would have too many outlets to be able to silence it. That alone would make for a better world. It never occurred to me that the weasels would unite and actually own all of that.

    Reading things like this reminds me that I was apparently neither young nor innocent at any time in this life.


    If you would like to participate in the Quote of the Day series, our sign-up sheet for November awaits. There is one more opening this month the 26th.

    If, on the other hand, you want to share with Ricochet the thanks you have to give, you might consider Group Writing, for which the theme this month is: Cornucopia of Thanks.

    • #4
    • November 20, 2020, at 8:21 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: As a youth, I believed that newswires, a plethora of prominent opinion magazines, TV, radio, and that emerging internet thing would forever block the weasels from getting over on us. The truth would have too many outlets to be able to silence it. That alone would make for a better world. It never occurred to me that the weasels would unite and actually own all of that.

    Reading things like this reminds me that I was apparently neither young nor innocent at any time in this life.


    I always liked the Buddhist notion of an “old soul” as an elegant and polite alternative to “grouch”, “curmudgeon” or “crank.”

    • #5
    • November 20, 2020, at 9:15 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    That is clearly up there with the Devil Speech as the greatest line from that movie.

    • #6
    • November 20, 2020, at 9:48 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. Arahant Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    I always liked the Buddhist notion of an “old soul” as an elegant and polite alternative to “grouch”, “curmudgeon” or “crank.”

    Me, too.

    • #7
    • November 20, 2020, at 10:25 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Leo McKern was also the lead in “She who must be obeyed.” “Rumpole of the Bailey” which I owned and watch periodically.

    • #8
    • November 20, 2020, at 6:45 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    Leo McKern was also the lead in “She who must be obeyed.” “Rumpole of the Bailey” which I owned and watch periodically.

    Rumple was a brilliant series. Loved it.

    • #9
    • November 20, 2020, at 7:16 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    Leo McKern was also the lead in “She who must be obeyed.” “Rumpole of the Bailey” which I owned and watch periodically.

    Rumple was a brilliant series. Loved it.

    I remember Leo McKern from The Prisoner.

    • #10
    • November 20, 2020, at 9:17 PM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Richard Easton Member

    One of my history professors, David Underdown, thought that Thomas More did not deserve his high reputation.

    • #11
    • November 20, 2020, at 10:06 PM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    One of my history professors, David Underdown, thought that Thomas More did not deserve his high reputation.

    He was more of a practical politician which involves some moral compromise. But his end was clearly avoidable and thus a matter of principle.

    • #12
    • November 21, 2020, at 6:50 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    Leo McKern was also the lead in “She who must be obeyed.” “Rumpole of the Bailey” which I owned and watch periodically.

    Rumple was a brilliant series. Loved it.

    I remember Leo McKern from The Prisoner.

    McKern was one of the best #2s.

    • #13
    • November 21, 2020, at 8:10 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    His life story puts me in mind of the time one of my favorite grade-school teachers, a wonderful, energetic nun was asked why God allows bad people to get wealthy and live without apparent suffering. Her answer was that God sometimes shows his kindness and generosity in this life to people He already knows He will not be able to help in the next. A wonderful, memorable answer even if theologically silly.

    She probably should have gone with David’s words in Psalm 37:

    Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
    2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

    3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
    4 Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

    5 Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
    6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

    7 Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
    do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

    8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
    9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

    • #14
    • November 21, 2020, at 8:14 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  15. Sisyphus Coolidge
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Richard Easton (View Comment):
    One of my history professors, David Underdown, thought that Thomas More did not deserve his high reputation.

    Safely from his classroom surrounded by students jockeying for favor, far from the tensions and intrigues of court life. So terribly courageous of him.

    • #15
    • November 21, 2020, at 6:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes