Attached to this post is a long review of Wolf Hall, both Hilary Mantel’s novel and the stage adaptation by Mike Poulton.
I’ve never been particularly drawn to the historical novel. But Mantel’s Wolf Hall clearly could not be ignored, not only due to the wide acclaim it received but also for the simple reason that her subject, Thomas Cromwell, is someone who figures large in the Tudor history courses I have taught. I was curious, if somewhat sceptical, whether the novel would have historical value: as an historian of sixteenth-century England, would Wolf Hall contribute in any way to my understanding of the period? Could it, as certain historical films do, approach the past in interesting ways that fall outside the traditional practices of historians? Inevitably a stage adaptation invites a view on why the original was adapted in the first place. Beyond that, similar questions can be asked about the historical merits of Poulton’s play.
My review attempts to address all these questions. Suffice to say, my responses to both novel and play were not what I had expected in advance.