While A Man For All Seasons focuses heavily on the social downfall and moral strength of Sir Thomas More, it also covers the inverse process involving a number of other characters - most specifically the identifiable corruption of Richard Rich, who throughout the course of the play loses his innocence. It is ironic that while it is he who recognizes the possibility of corruption with the writings of Machiavelli, "Every man has his price", he fails to apply this knowledge to his own life. At times, it may seem that only those in More's family are impervious to the temptations of money, power, and position - the Common Man, serving as a symbol for the "average" in humanity as a whole, is very willing to take petty bribes in order to betray a trust. .
The literary focus, however, is placed on the sacrifice of goodness in Richard's self. From the beginning, Rich is seeking desperately, ambitiously, to jumpstart his rise to power, pleading with Thomas More for even an entry-level position in England's bureaucracy. However, Thomas More recognizes Rich's possible weaknesses, or perhaps is simply concerned with his moral fiber, as Thomas advises Rich to teach. Thomas then introduces the symbol of the silver cup, telling Rich that, "[he] should go where he won't be tempted" (Bolt 7) and that since the cup is a bribe and tainted, More cannot keep it. In this, More is attempting to set an example for Rich. More does tell Rich that if he feels the cup is tainted, he need not take it. Rich begins to show a difference in intentions and opinions than More, selling the cup for money and a new set of fashionable clothes, symbolically showing the beginning of his acceptance of corruption. The cup comes into play numerous times throughout the play, this attempt at teaching Rich about vice quite ironically assisting Cromwell into convicting and persecuting More. .
Rich's first active show of corruption rears its hideous head at the end of Act I in the devious face of Cromwell.