After the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, his secretary, Thomas Cromwell, finds himself amongst the treachery and intrigue of King Henry VIII's court and soon becomes a close advisor to the King, a role fraught with danger.
In 1533, Anne Boleyn has given birth to a daughter, much to King Henry VIII's disdain. As Anne's paranoia over her inability to produce a son grows, Thomas Cromwell tries to convince Sir Thomas More ...
In 1535, King Henry VIII's attempt to be declared Head of the Church in England has been denied by the Holy Roman Emperor. Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn's failure to produce a male heir leads Henry toward ...
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the King dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope and most of Europe oppose him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer, and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph? Written by
Imagines the past, instead of merely reflecting the present
Hilary Mantel's superb novels 'Wolf Hall' and "Bringing Out of the Bodies' manage to execute an extraordinary balance. On one hand, they rehabilitate the reputation of Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII's advisors, who received wisdom portrays as a man of viciousness and ambition; according to Mantel, this picture dates only from Victorian times, and Mantel rehabilitates Cromwell as a surprisingly humanistic working class hero. But as the same time, she never strays into the territory of ascribing modern motives to the characters she wishes she have our sympathy, and "primitive" attitudes to the ones we're supposed to hate. Instead, she brings us inside the morality of the times: the fact that it doesn't map cleanly onto our own is precisely what makes the books interesting. This BBC television adaption can't quite replicate the stream-of-consciousness from inside Cromwell's head provided by the novels, and almost inevitably it's a bit more Tudors-by-numbers. But it doesn't do a bad job either, avoiding the obvious clichés and giving us a convincing realisation of Mantel's work that captures most, if not quite all, of its inherent subtlety. Mark Rylance is simply superb as Cromwell, and most of the other actors offer a convincing interpretation of their roles, especially Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, the minor noblewoman who punches above her weight all the way to the chopping block. What's still to come is the third (as yet unwritten) book of the trilogy, and the fall that follows Cromwell's rise. I look forward to it as novel and television alike.
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