Wolf Hall Questions and Answers
by Hilary Mantel

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What were some sort of "hidden" actions that the King did during his time that the public did not know about in Wolf Hall?

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What is fascinating about this novel is the way that Mantel lays open the workings of a court and how power is gained and how decisions are made. What is particularly intriguing is the gap between the public face of the monarch and then the incredibly intricate and delicate reality of what occurs behind the scenes. Note, for example, the following quote, that reveals the true drivers in producing change in this world of the Tudors:

The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase, a woman's sigh as she passes and leaves on the air a trail of orange flower or rose water; her hand pulling close the bed curtain, the discreet sigh of flesh against flesh.

Henry VIII, therefore, is ostensibly a monarch that seeks to fulfill his role as God's appointed King to England. However, it is clear in the novel that Thomas Cromwell's job is to satisfy his master's lustful cravings, as he desires Anne Boleyn, and therefore must dispose of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Whilst the public may well have been aware of Henry's moves to dispose of his first wife because of her inability to produce a male heir, they may not be aware of his lust for Anne, and clearly they would be unaware of the way that he continues to use Anne's sister, Mary, for sexual gratification until he has his objective. This novel reveals the many different ways in which the King seeks to gain his objective, and Thomas Cromwell is of course a major agent in this as he conducts a very carefully managed campaign both domestically and abroad in order for Henry to gain his divorce and to be able to marry Anne Boleyn.

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