Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall is a British television serial first broadcast on BBC Two in January 2015. The six-part miniseries is an adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel’s novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, a fictionalised biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More, followed by Cromwell’s success in freeing the king of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Our review follows…

King Henry VIII of England reigned from 1509 to 1547 and certainly is a monarch that has always captured the imagination of modern audiences with his six wives (two of whom were executed) and infamous duplicity. The most recent being The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry. Wolf Hall casts Henry VIII in a supporting role (with Damian Lewis), choosing to focus on one of his right hand men, Thomas Cromwell (played by Mark Rylance).

Wolf Hall

Whereas The Tudors was a sensationalist sex and murder cable series (with little concern for historical accuracy),  Wolf Hall series – based on Hilary Mantel’s books Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bones – prioritises realism above all else and for that reason is the superior. In addition, the six-parter narrates primarily the rise of Cromwell in the English court and his role in a traumatic time in English history – the breakaway from the Roman Catholic Church to facilitate the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Wolf Hall

Even a viewer highly familiar with English history will find Wolf Hall compelling for its characterisations of the main players. There is nothing remotely flashy about the manner in which the story is told. Rylance is brilliant as the morose and reserved Cromwell, who keeps his emotion under lock and key, slowly but surely manipulating his way into the good graces of the King but perhaps at the cost of his conscience.

Only caveat is that the series is short of Mantel’s final instalment of the Cromwell trilogy and concludes with an ominous smile from Henry as Cromwell delivers the King’s desire – the death of Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy). But that is a minor complaint considering the magnificence achieved on Wolf Hall.

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