It seems that each week this BBC 2 series gets better and better. In this week’s Wolf Hall episode I found that the focus was on the political turmoil in response to Henry VIII’s break from Rome, and coronation of Anne Boleyn. We are told that Anne gave birth to a girl, to Henry’s disappointment. We also see her pregnant again, but suffers a miscarriage. In reaction to this, Cromwell is given orders to create what we now know as the Act of Succession 1533.
One thing I must comment on is the portrayal of women in the series. We know from our history lessons from school that Tudor society was one of patriarchal hegemony. The characters in wolf hall continuously stress that women are the weaker sex. Yet, at the same time, the women in this episode seem to be the strongest. Of course theres Anne Boleyn, who’s been portrayed as strong willed throughout history. In a few scenes in this episode it is Anne who is telling Cromwell what to do, even going as so far to talk over the king. We also have the Holy Maid of Kent, Elizabeth Barton. She doesn’t hold her tongue to the table full of men as she gives her statement, and while it leads to her execution, she is adamant on her views. I appreciate this technique. There is a saying, ‘Behind every great man, is an even greater woman.’ I’m glad they don’t keep to the conventional stereotypes of gender, but instead delve into the other possibilities behind the major storyline.
I cannot seem to find any fault with Mark Rylance in his portrayal of Cromwell. While I have always found him as a power hungry misogynist from my reading, I’m pleasantly surprised with the way the writers have given his character more depth, as well as invest in his apparent interest in Jane Seymour. I had wondered why the show was titled, Wolf Hall. Now its been revealed that Jane’s family home is called Wolf Hall, I’m wondering if the focus is on her, and possibly her relationship with Cromwell, rather than her relationship with the king?
Another actor that must be commended, particularly because of his performance this week is Anton Lesser who plays Thomas More. Viewers are shown More’s execution, but it is his speech in court after he is pronounced guilty that was truly amazing. I have always found it interesting how he refused to sign the oath that declared Henry the supreme head of church and Anne his rightful wife, despite how he knew it would lead to his execution. He is depicted as a strong willed, clever, and deeply religious in history and it’s a relief that he has been depicted as such in the show. RIP Thomas More. You were a great enjoyment to watch every Wednesday.