Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Wolf Hall: Episode 2- Entirely Beloved

"The Pope will learn his place"

It's December 1529. Cromwrll is stubbornly loyal to the doomed Wolsey in spite of the total lack of hope. Wolsey is a tragic, declining figure, and his metaphorical death inevitably translates into a real death before the end of the episode. It's interesting to see how Cromwell re-aligns his allegiances- to his co-religionist Anne Boleyn- without betraying his principles. This is also a sign, of course, of the growing impact of the Reformation in England. More may still be burning heretics, but the King's desire for a divorce that the Pope will never give is a huge opportunity for the Protestant cause, and they know it.

Rylance continues to give us a masterclass in acting, with every gesture and every expression suggesting a depth and inferiority. Thomas Cromwell is a fascinating and multi-layered character. Awkward but loving with his son, bold (but not too bold) with his admiring King, this is a man who is humble in his personal life and yet bold, if not foolhardy, when it comes to his beliefs. 

Mark Gatiss' Gardiner is deliciously slimy, although I'm not sure that Anton Lesser gives us a sufficiently principled More. This is the episode where he resigns as Lord Chancellor out of deep principle; I'm not sure that Lesser's playing the part as a blustering hard man quite works.

The episode climaxes with Cromwell's being summoned into the Royal presence in the dead of life. This is the court of Henry VIII, and such a summons can mean death, but no: this is opportunity. Cromwell's interpretation of the King's dream to mean that he,not the Pope, should be head of the Church manages to further both Cromwell's own interests and those of this cause.

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