Breaking the Law in A Man for All Seasons and The Hangman

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Laws are created to help govern a society with peace and order. They are emplaced to protect citizens and their well-being, along with the assurance of protecting those from the abuse of power by agencies, organizations, and from the people itself. However, is it ever okay to break the law? Breaking the law can be morally justifiable and acceptable when the law in itself is unfair and if that law violates human rights and conscience. Without a doubt, rules are established for civilians to follow but as human beings should be able to differentiate between right and wrong. In rare cases, laws need to be violated for the right cause even with hard consequences, breaking the law can be justified; considering the situations and the purposes. As shown in a class discussion, in Crito, Plato used his knowledge about how the law works and what happens to those who go against it and symbolizing that two wrongs may not make a right. In The Hangman by Maurice Ogden, the discussion in class led to believe that the main message of poem was, the arraignment of those who stand idly by while others commit grave evil or injustice, such as The Holocaust, can be that if nothing is done agaisnt the law or higher power, then nothing will change. Another exemplar to point out, A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt. A character named More, mentions that he is not God, he will not go against the legal system just to prove a point, and will even give the devil the benefit of the law. He believes in what is legal, not righteous by God’s law. All three texts go into depth about how the law works in their separate societies and how it can affect someone who chooses to go against it or follow it with severe consequences.

In the story Crtio by Plato, a seventy-year old man named Socrates was found guilty of a crime in refusing to recognize the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own; he is further guilty of corrupting the young. Socrates student, Crito, visits him while he is imprisoned after his sentencing. Crito tries to convince Socrates to escape imminent death, telling him that his death will hurt his friends’ reputation, which the trial has shown can bring fatal consequences; escape would be considerably cheap and easy; he will have safe places to seek refuge while in exile, and by submitting to the sentence he is advocating an injustice to himself and committing a greater injustice against his sons and friends. However, the main message some can produce from this story is that, is it ever okay to correct a wrong by creating another wrong to fix it? Can two wrongs make a right? For Socrates, he mentions to Crito, “In leaving the prison against the will of the Athenians, do I wrong any? Or rather do I not wrong those whom I ought to least to wrong? Do I not desert the principles which were acknowledged by us to be just?”. Socrates possibly thinks of escaping as wrong and unjustly to what he has done against the state and God itself. He might as well suffer the consequences of his actions, but sadly death is imminent in Socrates case. In the end, two wrongs will not make a right, it could make matters worse. To answer the question, is it ever okay to break the law? For Socrates, breaking the law against God and the state, ended with him being sentenced to death. Therefore, if someone chooses to break the law, they must be prepared to face the consequences.

In The Hangman by Maurice Ogden, a man named the Hangman, comes into a town with an intention of executing the citizens one by one. As each citizen is executed, the others are afraid to object out of fear that they are next. Picture it if you will, imagine as the Hangman as God or the higher law and the citizens are obviously the objective followers. In this case, those who go against the Hangman will be executed in the courthouse square. As people are executed one by one, the aliens, the Jewish, criminals, etc, there is one man left standing. The narrator is the last civilian alive left in the town, he had felt lied to by the Hangman after he had helped execute everyone in the town. However, the Hangman answers the narrator with a chilling response, “I did no more than you let me do.”. What the Hangman is trying to say is that the people of this town did nothing to stop him from executing people, so why would the narrators ending be any different from those who were executed. The message conveyed from this story could be that being a bystander has a big effect. If you do not stand up to someone in a position of tyranny, they will cause ultimate destruction to your way of life, like the Hangman did to the poor town he executed. However, does this answer, is it ever okay to break the law? In this case, is it ever okay to go against the Hangman who may be seen as the law? If the narrator or someone else in the town were to step up and overthrow the person in power, they could have saved the town from the unnecessary executions of innocent people. Instead, they stood by while idly watching everyone die and doing nothing about it. In rare cases like this, when tyranny takes over the lives of a society, something must be done about it, even if it means going against the law and breaking it to save the innocent lives of the citizens living in the town.

In the story A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt can give an insight on how some may believe in the legal system more than God’s law itself. Roper demands for Rich to be apprehended after he is deemed as dangerous or a spy by both Alice and Roper. Another character named More, believes that there is no legal way to arrest without proper cause, but if willing so, God can arrest Rich instead if he sees fit. More is aware of what is legal and not what is right, but he would still stick to what is legal. As shown in A Man for All Seasons, is it ever okay to break the law? More puts it into sheer simplicity, that he would give the devil the benefit of the law, until he commits a crime. Although the devil may be considered evil in the eyes of Roper and Alice, the devil never committed anything illegal against the state. In reality, the law requires everyone to be treated equally and fairly, and to be free of wrongful imprisonment. In this case, Roper believes that Rich should be imprisoned, for what? Possibly moral obligations are aligned in areas of belief. Without a doubt, you cannot go against the legal system and defy odds by taking matters into your own hands. More recants that he would give the devil the benefit of the law, to ensure his own safety, because if you had treated anyone else differently than what the law was made for, then anarchy and tyranny could arise and cause immense chaos.

To answer the ultimate question, “is it ever okay to break the law?” Shown in all three sources of text studied in the beginning of the course, they all tie into if breaking the law is okay. Two out of three texts advise no, it is not okay to break the law under any circumstances, for one, if you cannot handle the consequences of the first offence another crime will not fix the first, for example, two wrongs do not make a right. Second, legal system should not be questioned by those who believe that one person can do harm to others, but fails to provide a factual argument and making the use of God’s law an excuse to get a point across. However, the odd one out, being The Hangman, points out that if nothing is done about the corruption of government, then nothing will be done to fix it nor stop it. Therefore, in rare cases like The Hangman, the law or higher government should be broken to protect the future of their society instead of being a bystander and letting innocent people die. To conclude, the law should not be broken because it is there to protect us, our rights, and right to life. However, if that law is disturbing the peace of a society then it should be broken to protect those rights and freedoms for the future of society. Laws are set in stone for a reason, but if broken, the impact can be either positive or negative, depending on how one chooses to view it.


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