A Man For All Seasons

If you know anything about the Book of Job, you know that he went through times of troubles, and in J.B., Archibald Macleish creates a character you might not think about in the Book of Job—the man who keeps running onto the stage telling about all the troubles. I must confess that I resisted this character all the way through the play, but after the play was over I had to agree that somebody has to report in with all the troubles and it might as well be the same man; at least this was Macleish’s solution.

In A Man for All Seasons we have the creation of a more fulsome character; he is the sort of a man who is always there. Before the play is over he is pretty close to being the most important character on the stage and is beginning to look deadly familiar—like some of my friends or even my friend me. At one time he is a kind of general stagehand; at another time he is a jailor or a headsman (a man who chops off heads), a butler or a valet, and in and around everything he does he is a kind of endless gossip. Chief among his gifts is his ability to evade decisions, especially those which might put him “in the middle.” He is a great hand-wringer over the dismal conditions which surround him, but he never quite puts his hand to resolving any. He looks a little like the women on the road to Golgotha who threw dust into the air and beat on their breasts and probably thought it was a pity that such a nice man was being crucified. He also looks a little like the men who nailed Jesus to the cross: it Wasn’t their business to inquire into the niceties of the legalisms around the crucifixion. There was always someone else to blame for their dirty work.

I think the character in J.B. is really outclassed by that wonderful ...

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