(5547 words. Link to printable version.)
The choice of death over compromise is the surest proof against any charge of hypocrisy. Whatever your feelings about the underlying creed, anyone willing to die for a principle is going to make an indelible impression on you, especially if you happen to be the executioner. In addition to the role he played in England’s break with the Catholic church and King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Thomas Cromwell is known historically for two dubious accomplishments: securing the conviction of Thomas More for treason after he refused to swear an oath endorsing the king’s supremacy over the pope, and confiscating the lands and holdings of England’s monasteries to fill the country’s royal coffers. As imagined by Hilary Mantel in her ingeniously textured and darkly captivating novel Wolf Hall, Cromwell despises monastics, “that parasitic class of men” (41), as he refers to them in the sequel, along with ascetic theologians like More—whose habit of wearing a horse hair undershirt to irritate his flesh does as much to irritate Cromwell—for their unworldliness and cruelty, but most of all for their corruption and hypocrisy. It’s no wonder then that, in Mantel’s telling, it’s having to condemn More to martyrdom that ultimately undoes Cromwell, or rather further propels him along a path toward undoing himself.
|Thomas Cromwell in BBC's "Wolf Hall"|
he turns his eyes to the child dressed as an angel: it is Rafe’s step-daughter, the elder child of his wife Helen. She is wearing the peacock wings he made long ago for Grace.
|Peacock Feather Angel Wings in BBC's "Wolf Hall"|
|Cromwell in BBC version of "Wolf Hall"|
Also read: What Makes "Wolf Hall" so Great?
And: Sabbath Says: Philip Roth and the Dilemmas of Ideological Castration
And: The Criminal Sublime: Walter White's Brutally Plausible Journey to the Heart of Darkness in Breaking Bad