There is always a role for challenging the orthodoxies of history – what we have was written or recorded via the filter of the culture and prejudices of the author no matter how scrupulously they claim otherwise. These are fine books and the TV adaptation is excellent, but we need to remember they are a fictionalised account of what happened – written by a brilliant author at the peak of her powers – but still fiction based on one interpretation of the history.
Wolf Hall is filmed and acted in such a naturalistic style, you might be fooled into thinking it was true By Andrew M Brown 12:00PM GMT 31 Jan 2015
Poor Wolsey has gone. Jonathan Pryce was pale and blotchy enough by the end, with those nasty-looking pustules on his face. Wolf Hall is filmed and acted in such a naturalistic style, it is hard not to assume that you are watching the truth. Would it matter if the characterisation was all wrong, as the historian Suzannah Lipscomb claimed on the radio?
Take my father-in-law: he read Hilary Mantel’s novels when they came out and his view was completely changed. Until that point, the Thomas More of his imagination had been Paul Scofield in the Robert Bolt play and film: the man of conscience and high principle, but also popular and loved by his family. Wolf Hall’s More, on the other hand, as played by Anton Lesser, is a sour, sarcastic, desiccated prig who’s horrid to his wife.
Meanwhile Thomas Cromwell, revealed in Holbein’s famous portrait to be a narrow-eyed, malignant schemer, sitting toad-like with his paperwork, is rendered by Mark Rylance as practically a saint. We experience with him the loss of his wife and daughters, his childhood suffering, and the death of his dear patron Wolsey. He is even kind to animals. Of course we empathise.