CROMWELL Treason enough here!
NORFOLK The death of Kings is not in question, Sir Thomas.
MORE Nor mine, I trust, until I’m proven guilty.
NORFOLK (Leaning forward urgently) Your life lies in your own hand, Thomas, as it always has.
MORE (Absorbs this) For our own deaths, my lord, yours and mine, dare we for shame enter the Kingdom with ease, when Our Lord Himself entered with so much pain?
(And now he faces CROMWELL, his eyes sparkling with suspicion)
CROMWELL Now, Sir Thomas, you stand upon your silence.
MORE I do.
CROMWELL But, Gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man when he is dead. Let us say we go into the room where he is lying; and let us say it is in the dead of night-there’s nothing like darkness for sharpening the ear; and we listen. What do we hear? Silence. What does it betoken, this silence? Nothing. This is silence, pure and simple. But consider another case. Suppose I were to draw a dagger from my sleeve and make to kill the prisoner with it, and suppose their lordships there, instead of crying out for me to stop or crying out for help to stop me, maintained their silence. That would betoken! It would betoken a willingness that 1 should do it, and under the law they would be guilty with me. So silence can, according to circumstances, speak. Consider, now, the circumstances of the prisoner’s silence. The oath was put to good and faithful subjects up and down the country and they had declared His Grace’s title to be just and good. And when it came to the prisoner he refused. He calls this silence. Yet is there a man in this court, is there a man in this country, who does not know Sir Thomas More’s opinion of the King’s title? Of course not! But how can that be? Because this silence betokened-nay, this silence was not silence at all but most eloquent denial.
MORE (With some o f the academic’s impatience for a shoddy line o f reasoning) Not so, Master Secretary, the maxim is “qui tacet consentire.” (Turns t0 COMMON MAN) The maxim of the law is (Very carefully) “Silence gives consent.” If, therefore, you wish to construe what my silence “betokened,” you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.
CROMWELL Is that what the world in fact construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?
MORE The world must construe according to its wits. This Court must construe according to the law.
CROMWELL I put it to the Court that the prisoner is perverting the law-making smoky what should be a clear light to discover to the Court his own wrongdoing!
(CROMWELL’s official indignation is slipping into genuine anger and MORE responds)
MORE The law is not a “light” for you or any man to see by; the law is not an instrument of any kind. (To the FoREMAN) The law is a causeway upon which, so long as he keeps to it, a citizen may walk safely. (Earnestly addressing him) In matters of conscience
CROMWELL (Smiling bitterly) The conscience, the conscience . . .
MORE (Turning) The word is not familiar to you?
CROMWELL By God, too familiar! I am very used to hear it in the mouths of criminals!
MORE I am used to hear bad men misuse the name of God, yet God exists. (Turning back) In matters of conscience, the loyal subject is more bounden to be loyal to his conscience than to any other thing.
CROMWELL (Breathing hard; straight at MORE) And so provide a noble motive for his frivolous self-conceit!
MORE (Earnestly) It is not so, Master Cromwell-very and pure necessity for respect of my own soul.
CROMWELL Your own self, you mean!
MORE Yes, a man’s soul is his self!
CROMWELL (Thrusts his face into MOREPs. They hate each other and each other’s standpoint) A miserable thing, whatever you call it, that lives like a bat in a Sunday School! A shrill incessant pedagogue about its own salvation-but nothing to say of your place in the State! Under the King! In a great native country!
MORE (Not untouched) Is it my place to say “good” to the State’s sickness? Can I help my King by giving him lies when he asks for truth?