Tag Archives: Thomas Cromwell

“The Mirror and the Light” by Hilary Mantel and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 25

This book is #3 in Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy about Thomas Cromwell (1485 to 1540), who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England. The title of this book is perfectly clear – King Henry is the light and Thomas Cromwell is the mirror. Reading this book and knowing Thomas Cromwell was executed by order of King Henry, I kept wanting to yell out a warning. “Get out! Now! While you can!”

Serious question: Was hereditary monarchy worse or better than the democratic chaos we now face? Trump will not hold office as long as Henry VIII. What kinds of change can a leader impose? How can those around a powerful leader maintain both sanity and self-respect? Will any Trump cabinet member be beheaded?

For your consideration, I offer Shakespeare’s Sonnet 25:

Let those who are in favour with their stars

Of public honour and proud titles boast,

Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,

Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.

Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread

But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,

And in themselves their pride lies buried,

For at a frown they in their glory die.

The painful warrior famoused for fight,

After a thousand victories once foil’d,

Is from the book of honour razed quite,

And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:

Then happy I, that love and am beloved

Where I may not remove nor be removed.

If you don’t want to entertain yourself with historical fiction, why not memorize a sonnet? And share it with someone you love!

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The “Wolf Hall” Trilogy by Hilary Mantel, books 1 and 2

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are books one and two of an as yet unfinished trilogy. They are in a category I find utterly irresistible, namely historical fiction about the Tudors. What makes that crazy family so fascinating?

I found this trilogy on a list of “Novels All Educators Should Read” by Richard Trama. “Especially educators who want to be effective advisors.” Okay, now I begin to get it. A student, or any other young adult, needs to develop his or her “voice”, which is a reflection of identity. The Wolf Hall trilogy, set in the Tudor era, is about Thomas Cromwell, whose rise from blacksmith’s son to most important councilor to the throne of England is (at least as interpreted by Mantel – the historical record is sketchy) a stunning example of a person who “made himself up”. Certainly Cromwell was bold, intelligent and socially adept. Lucky, too. These two books bring us as far as the fall of Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII. Having peeked at Wikipedia, I know that the third book will show us Cromwell’s downfall and death.

Mantel writes some eerie descriptive prose. Best, perhaps, is her description of an incident in which Cromwell’s patron unwittingly triggers Cromwell’s defenses. Cromwell is suddenly, unintentionally, ready to sink a knife into his employer. Both manage to back off. But we don’t learn how Cromwell became such a dangerous man.

So… how does Mantel compare to Philippa Gregory? I’ve read half a dozen of Gregory’s novels. I find the two authors equally compelling. I’ll eagerly read the third book of the Wolf Hall trilogy, even though I know how it will end.