In Wolf Hall, how does Cromwell's character develop throughout the novel? Do his values change? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Cromwell’s character development is quite subtle throughout Wolf Hall ; he seems a fully mature and wise counselor from the very start of the novel. He feels mercy for the disgraced Katherine of Aragon and her plight; at the end, as he reflects on Thomas More’s execution, Cromwell expresses the...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Cromwell’s character development is quite subtle throughout Wolf Hall; he seems a fully mature and wise counselor from the very start of the novel. He feels mercy for the disgraced Katherine of Aragon and her plight; at the end, as he reflects on Thomas More’s execution, Cromwell expresses the same desire to be merciful to his enemy. He loves his family and sons and sees himself as a surrogate father to many young men throughout the novel. However, Cromwell experiences personal tragedy as well as professional advancement and political turmoil and sees the fruition of his vision for an England governed by a monarch rather than the Church. These experiences do have an effect on him and by the end of the novel when he reflects on Thomas More’s trial and execution, he is sadder and more cynical, thinking of Petrarch’s lines on the passage of time as a race of dying men and of the ways in which the living pursue the dead by appropriating their legacies and repurposing them into their own visions. Cromwell is less optimistic about the future of England about which he “once had every hope.” While at one time, he naively believed that the King would never do anything to hurt his Queen, he has now internalized the pragmatism that he once merely observed with his mentor Wolsey: that “all outcomes are likely, all outcomes can be managed, even massaged into desirability…” Yet Cromwell also thinks of maps and how England herself shifts, her boundaries as well as her memories. Cromwell is aware that he is living during a time of great change and by looking ahead to Wolf Hall, he resolves to be a part of this change, no matter what the costs.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team