Wolf Hall

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Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall (2009) is a historical novel/Play/TV Mini Series by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate, named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire. Set in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall is a fictionalised biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir/Saint Thomas More. The novel won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.[1][2] In 2012, The Observer named it as one of “The 10 best historical novels”.[3] The book is the first in a trilogy; the sequel Bring Up the Bodies was published in 2012.[4]

Historical Background

Born to a working-class family of no position or name, Cromwell rose to become the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King. He survived Wolsey’s fall from grace to eventually take his place as the most powerful of Henry’s ministers. In that role, he oversaw Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, the English church’s break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries. Historical and literary accounts have not been kind to Cromwell; in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons he is portrayed as the calculating, unprincipled opposite of Thomas More’s honour and rectitude.

Mantel’s novel offers an alternative to that characterisation, a more intimate portrait of Cromwell as a pragmatic and talented man attempting to serve king and country amid the political machinations of Henry’s court and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation.


Process Research and Writing

Mantel spent five years researching and writing the book; the trickiest part, she said in an interview was trying to match her version of events to the historical record.[5] To avoid contradicting history, she created a card catalogue, organised alphabetically by character, with each card containing notes indicating where a particular historical figure was on relevant dates. “You really need to know, where is the Duke of Suffolk at the moment? You can’t have him in London if he’s supposed to be somewhere else”, she explained.



Type & Version
Apr 09 2015 – Jul 05 2015 Play, Original
Wintergarden Theatre NYC


Wolf Hall includes a large cast of fictionalised historical persons. In addition to those already mentioned, prominent characters include:

  • Stephen Gardiner, Master Secretary to King Henry
  • Princess Mary, the daughter and only surviving child of Henry and Catherine, later Queen Mary I of England.
  • Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne
  • Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne and Mary
  • Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Anne’s uncle
  • Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Jane Seymour, who later became the third of Henry’s six wives
  • Rafe Sadler, Thomas Cromwell’s ward

The Title

The title comes from the name of the Seymour family seat at Wolf Hall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire; the title’s allusion to the old Latin saying Homo homini lupus (“Man is wolf to man”) serves as a constant reminder of the dangerously opportunistic nature of the world through which Cromwell navigates.[6] None of the action occurs at Wolf Hall.

Awards and Nominations


  • Winner – 2009 Man Booker Prize. James Naughtie, the chairman of the Booker prize judges, said the decision to give Wolf Hall the award was “based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting…The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th century”.[15]
  • Winner – 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.
  • Winner – 2010 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.[16]
  • Winner – 2010 The Morning News Tournament of Books.[17]




In January 2013 the RSC announced that it would stage adaptations by Mike Poulton of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in its Winter season.[18]

Tony Award-winning producers Jeffrey Ricmmhards and Jerry Frankel are aiming to bring the London productions of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in spring 2015. The double-bill will be re-titled Wolf Hall, Parts 1 and 2 for American audiences. Directed by Jeremy Herrin.[19]


In 2012 the BBC announced that it would be adapting Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for BBC Two, to be broadcast in 2015.[20] On 8 March 2013, the BBC reported that Mark Rylance had been cast as Thomas Cromwell.[21]

Broadway Cast 2015


Lydia Leonard Anne Boleyn
Ben Miles Thomas Cromwell
Nathaniel Parker King Henry VIII
Joey Batey Mark Smeaton
Nicholas Boulton Duke of Suffolk
Lucy Briers Katherine of Aragon
Lady Rochford
Leah Brotherhead Jane Seymour
Princess Mary
Lady Worcestor
Olivia Darnley Mary Boleyn
Lizzie Wykys
Mary Shelton
Nicholas Day Duke of Norfolk
Mathew Foster Ensemble
Daniel Fraser Gregory Cromwell
Edward Harrison George Boleyn
Edward Seymour
Benedict Hastings Barge-Master
Wolsey’s Servant
Madeleine Hyland Lady in Waiting
Margery Seymour
Paul Jesson Cardinal Wolsey
Archbishop Warham
Sir John Seymour
Sir William Kingston
Robert MacPherson Ensemble
Pierro Niel-Mee Christophe
Francis Weston
Matthew Pidgeon Stephen Gardiner
Eustache Chapuys
John Ramm Thomas More
Henry Norris
Nicholas Shaw Harry Percy
William Brereton
Joshua Silver Rafe Sadler
Giles Taylor Thomas Cranmer
Sir Thomas Boleyn
French Ambassador
Jay Taylor Thomas Wyatt

Understudies: Joey Batey (Headsman, Thomas Wyatt), Nicholas Boulton (Duke of Norfolk, King Henry VIII), Olivia Darnley (Katherine of Aragon, Lady Rochford, Margery Seymour), Nicholas Day (Sir John Seymour), Mathew Foster (Barge-Master, Christophe, Duke of Suffolk, Francis Weston, Gregory Cromwell, Rafe Sadler, Sir William Kingston, Wolsey’s Servant), Daniel Fraser (Edward Seymour, George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton), Edward Harrison (Thomas Cromwell), Benedict Hastings (Christophe, Duke of Suffolk, Francis Weston, Gregory Cromwell, Harry Percy, Rafe Sadler, William Brereton), Madeleine Hyland (Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Lady Worcestor, Lizzie Wykys, Mary Boleyn, Mary Shelton, Princess Mary), Robert MacPherson (Barge-Master, Eustache Chapuys, French Ambassador, Headsman, Stephen Gardiner, Thomas Wyatt, Wolsey’s Servant), Matthew Pidgeon (Henry Norris, Thomas More), Nicholas Shaw (Eustache Chapuys, Stephen Gardiner), Giles Taylor (Archbishop Warham, Cardinal Wolsey) and Jay Taylor (Harry Percy, Sir Thomas Boleyn, Thomas Cranmer, William Brereton)


Based on the novels by Dame Hilary Mantel
Adapted by Mike Poulton
Music by Stephen Warbeck
Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Scenic Design by Christopher Oram
Costume Design by Christopher Oram
Lighting Design by David Plater
Sound Design by Nick Powell



  1. “Wolf Hall wins the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction : Man Booker Prize news”. Themanbookerprize.com. 6 October 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  2. “National Book Critics Circle: awards”. Bookcritics.org. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  3. Skidelsky, William (13 May 2012). “The 10 best historical novels”. The Observer (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  4. William Georgiades (4 May 2012). “Hilary Mantel’s Heart of Stone”. The Slate Book Review. Slate.com. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  5. Alter, Alexandra (13 November 2009). “How to Write a Great Novel”. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  6. “Historical sketches of the Reformation : Lee, Frederick George, 1832–1902 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive”. Archive.org. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  7. Christopher Tayler (2 May 2009). “Henry’s fighting dog”. London: Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  8. “Pseuds’ corner”. 9 February 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  9. Olivia Laing (26 April 2009). “Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel | Books |”. The Observer (London: Guardian). Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  10. Bennett, Vanora (25 April 2009). Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel”. The Times (London). Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  11. “Starkey on Wolf Hall: ‘a deliberate perversion of fact’”. January 26, 2015.
  12. “What historians think of historical novels”. February 13, 2015.
  13. “Sir Thomas More: saint or sinner?”. January 20, 2015.
  14. “Hilary Mantel: Catholic Church is not for respectable people”. May 13, 2012.
  15. “Wolf Hall author takes home Booker prize”. China.org.cn. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  16. Flood, Alison (1 April 2010). “Booker rivals clash again on Walter Scott prize shortlist”. The Guardian (London).
  17. “April 5, 2010 Championship”. The Morning News.
  18. “David Tennant to play Richard II at the RSC”. Daily Telegraph. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  19. Hetrick, Adam & Shenton, Mark. “Broadway Producers Eye Winter Garden with Brit Import of Wolf Hall Double-Bill” Playbill.com, 10 September 2014.
  20. “Wolf Hall adaptation planned for BBC Two”. BBC News. 24 August 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  21. “Mark Rylance set for Hilary Mantel TV drama”. BBC News. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2013.


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