Cromwell, Norfolk, Cranmer, and Rich linger in the Tower, speaking of the situation. Cromwell is worried. He says the King is getting impatient. Norfolk mentions that the King is impatient with Cromwell. Cranmer and Norfolk leave and Rich uses the opportunity to ask Cromwell for the post of Attorney-General of Wales. Cromwell says, not now. He goes over the torture device, the rack, as though considering his options. With More still alive, the King’s conscience is uneasy, but Cromwell realizes that he has to handle it right. If he kills More, then the King might kill him. He has to persuade More to give in, through some gentler means.
Act Two, Scene Eleven: Commentary
The scene shows Rich at his creepy best, thinking only of promotion, even while in the Tower among torture devices. Suddenly, however, the arrogant and powerful Cromwell appears humbled. He is in trouble over Sir Thomas More. He worries that if he is too brutal, torturing and killing More, the King might have his head, but he has not been able to find a way to coerce his cooperation. He speculates on his own future ironically while examining the rack. He himself is being stretched thin. He thinks he needs to try gentler methods, and in the next scene, More’s family is permitted to visit. They might be able to persuade him.