Wolf Hall Questions and Answers
by Hilary Mantel

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Why is Wolf Hall so called?

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Hilary Mantel ends her novel of the devious dealings of the British royal court and powerful historical figures with Thomas Cromwell's visiting the home of Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne in whom Cromwell has taken an interest. This home is named Wolf Hall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire, and the name alludes to an old Latin proverb, "Man is wolf to man"; certainly, such a name serves to create an ominous tone to the portrayal of Cromwell, a controversial figure. For, even though Cromwell seems firmly established in the royal court and power circle, the opportunistic world in which he operates, along with the adamant refusal of such popular men as Sir Thomas More to honor Henry as head of the Church in England, presents Cromwell with political dangers. For, later he is executed by the king he has so well served, and the Catholic Church returns to power for a time as Catherine's daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, becomes England's queen for a brief time. So, while none of the action of the plot takes place in Wulfhall, one of the motifs of the novel is certainly that of man's being a wolf to man and devouring him politically.

In one passage from the novel, one of Mantel's characters observes,

A man's power is in the half-light, in the half-seen movements of his hand and the unguessed-at expression of his face. It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.

In such a political milieu it is, indeed, dangerous and uncertain for all.

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