Wolf Hall Episode 1


Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    Wait, why did you hate The Tudors? It wasn’t that bad!

    I do NOT like to watch movies/TV that is based on books. I still can’t bring myself to watch The Hobbit or the last few Harry Potter movies. If I get an itch, I scratch it by reading the books again. But… You’re kind of making me want to see this one.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Miss Mary says:

      @miss-mary I don’t know why Rose hated it, but I stopped watching it b/c it was SO historically inaccurate. They merged royal princesses!!!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Maribou says:

        They… merged Elizabeth and Mary? That… is a whole hell of a lot worse than I’d have expected…Report

      • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to Maribou says:

        They didn’t merge Elizabeth and Mary. Rather, they merged Henry’s sisters — the one that married the King of Scotland, and the one that married Charles, the Duke of Suffolk.

        I too watched the The Tudors, and, yeah, I agree with Rose: it was pretty bad. Put aside questions of historical accuracy: it was uneven as TV. I liked some of the individual performances (e.g., Mary), but the writing was unsubtle, pacing was a problem, and the whole effect seems cobbled-together and sometimes cheap, especially when compared to something like Game of Thrones. (Why does HBO seem always to have better series than Showtime?)Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Maribou says:

        well, that’s better then. Given that Churchill’s history of the era scarcely mentioned he had sisters… they can’t have been that important. (Game of Thrones is also playing “merge minor characters together” — when they aren’t simply ignoring GRRM)Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

        Kim, the sister of Henry that married the King of Scots gave birth to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary gave birth to James VI of Scotland who inherited the English throne from Elizabeth I. This meant that Scotland and England were now ruled by the same King even if they were still two different countries. Eventually, it would be decided that Scotland should join England and Wales to become one kingdom, the UK of GB, in 1707.

        This means that Henry’s sister who married the King of Scotland was pretty damn important. A lot of history would be very different without her.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

        Pub, the Tudors was aimed at an audience looking more for salacious stories than the the Wolf Hall audience. This meant that a lot of historical accuracy was sacrificed for what the audience wants.

        Historical fiction is difficult because the expectations of the audience can get in the way of historical accuracy fast. So can a lot of the other requirements of fiction. Events that took months or years to play out need to be compressed. People want a lot more open sexuality and passion than people engaged in back than.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Maribou says:

        “People want a lot more open sexuality and passion than people engaged in back than.”

        I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to go all swingin’ tits the way Game of Thrones (and everything on HBO) does, (though I’m not necessarily opposed to it either) but I do have more respect for the modern interpretation of history that people have always been sensual creatures, even if – especially if – societal taboos drove a lot of the overt inquiries into the possibilities of recreational hanky panky deep underground.

        In other words, it’s not at all of problem that Pope Alexander VI gets his freak on quite regularly, as that pretty much what actually happened. It just wasn’t talked about, and especially later, because it didn’t conform to the accepted views of the Church and its role in society. Similarly, the same society that gave us famous Victorian prudery also gave us the sensational Jack the Ripper mystery and later mythology.Report

      • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to Maribou says:


        I had not considered that The Tudors was aiming at a different audience than Wolf Hall, but of course that is a very good point.

        And if you want to see really mangled history in historical fiction tv, aimed at a “popular” audience (I’m trying to avoid the phrase “dumbed-down”), there’s Reign on CW. Now there’s a show that makes The Tudors look like it’s written by PhDs in Renaissance History.

        BTW, I think Henry VIII’s sister who married the Scottish king was grandmother to Mary Queen of Scots:

        Margaret Tudor = James IV
        James V
        Mary, Queen of Scots
        James VI of Scotland and I of EnglandReport

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Maribou says:

        so, yeah, historically significant… in another hundred years. Yup, totally okay with the merging, since the show wasn’t going to last that long. Merging Elizabeth and Mary would have been totally, totally different…Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to Miss Mary says:

      @miss-mary I mean, Tudors was okay. It was historically inaccurate, often for no good reason. If you’re going to be inaccurate, there should be a helluva reason. Their interpretations of some of the events was just…strange. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers was VERY pretty to look at, but pretty wooden, acting-wise. And gratuitous sex has its place, but it was a tad excessive. The emotions displayed were soapy, not real and vivid. But hey, it’s not like I turned it off! 🙂Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Did you hear about the kid who was very good at history?

    He was made the class Tudor….

    More seriously, I like the aesthetic choice of doing everything with sunlight or candlelight.Report

  3. Avatar Brian Peters says:

    You should endeavor to see the play as well. IT is in 2 parts, and I’ve only yet seen the first, but thought it too was terrific despite covering vast territory quickly.Report

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    Looking forward to catching the show on demand. Glad to hear it’s not a disaster.

    In the realm of historical fiction, have you read any of Pat Barker’s work, particularly the Regeneration trilogy and her recent works set in (about) the same period? I really enjoyed Wolf Hall, but I love Barker’s writing, so I can’t recommend those works enough for lovers of historical fiction.

    Same for Richard Flanagan’s Wanting and the novel he won last year’s Booker Prize for, Narrow Road to the Deep North, if you haven’t read them. The former is a beautiful novel about Dickens, Ellen Ternan, Lady Jane Franklin, and Mathinna; the latter is simply a masterpiece.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Chris says:

      I will second @chris on Pat Barker. That is truly memorable fiction.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to Chris says:

      OMG, for some reason I didn’t get emails that anyone commented on this post, so I missed all this until now. @chris , haven’t read any of it. Will have to try!Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        Oh man, you are in for a treat. The Regeneration trilogy consists of three of the best British post-war novels, and two of my favorite fictional versions of actual people: Siegfried Sassoon and W. H. R. Rivers (the movie version of Regeneration isn’t bad, either, particularly Pryce as Rivers).

        And Flanagan is a genius. A Tasmanian genius, no less.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Historical fiction is hard to get right because people really did think differently in the past and this can make them incomprehensible or even repulsive to people in the present. Wolf Hall seems to do a good job of overcoming this problem. The characters think and behave like people in the early 16th century should think or behave but aren’t too alien for modern viewers.Report

    • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “people really did think differently in the past and this can make them incomprehensible or even repulsive to people in the present. Wolf Hall seems to do a good job of overcoming this problem.”

      I haven’t watched WH yet, but that is very encouraging to hear.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to LeeEsq says:

      @leeesq, I think what is appealing about Wolf Hall was showing how Thomas Cromwell (plausibly!) thought in a more modern way than others.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        Many historians of the period think that Wolf Hall is terrible history. There isn’t a lot of evidence to show that Thomas Cromwell was a loving husband and doting father. We do know that Thomas Moore was a good family man who educated his daughters just as much as his sons.Report