PBS' 'Wolf Hall' Vs. The Hilary Mantel Book:The Masterpiece Miniseries Is Author-Approved
When I heard that Damien Lewis was going to be portraying Henry VIII in a Masterpiece Theatre miniseries, the Anglophile in me cheered in excitement. The series is based off of the novel with the same name by Hilary Mantel, so how faithful is Wolf Hall to the book? Well, Wolf Hall is actually based off of two books by Mantel, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Mantel is currently working on the third book in the series, The Mirror and the Light, which will be the final novel covering Thomas Cromwell (portrayed by Mark Rylance) and his involvement with Henry VIII.
Dame Hilary Mantel (yes, she is a dame) became the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize twice for the first two novels about Cromwell (she won the U.K.'s highest literary award in 2009 and 2012) and now her vision is coming to a TV near you with Wolf Hall kicking off on PBS on Sunday, April 5. Of course, one of the biggest discrepancies between Wolf Hall the book and Wolf Hall the miniseries is the fact that the miniseries will also be pulling from Bring Up the Bodies. But the miniseries seems to have more similarities to its source materials than differences.
Both the miniseries and the novels are truly Cromwell's story. Current reported that Mantel said, "I had wanted to write about Cromwell for 30 years . . . Henry and his wives, their stories, have been told and retold. But Cromwell was the missing piece." The miniseries has received some flak for presenting Cromwell in such a positive light (it already aired in the U.K.), while making Thomas More the villain. But no matter how Cromwell was in real-life, his character is similar from page to screen.
Another similarity is the fact that the miniseries is not easily digestible — just like the 604-page Wolf Hall and the 432-page Bring Up the Bodies are challenging reads. But Wolf Hall is not meant to be the sexed-up story of Henry VIII like The Tudors was. And the prize-winning author is even satisfied with the adaptation. (Wolf Hall was also previously developed for the stage, so Mantel is used to seeing her books acted out.) She did admit there was some changes to the dialogue, but said:
"By what seemed a miracle, [screenwriter Peter Straughan] hit the tone of the novels with his first draft . . . There’s a huge difference between the dialogue in a novel and the dialogue in a film. Both should carry the story forward and define character in every line; but they do different jobs. Bits and pieces transfer happily and I was pleased to learn that cast members had often requested lines from the original."
So whether you're a fan of the Wolf Hall books or just want to see the story of Henry VIII acted out for you, fellow Anglophiles are bound to be satisfied with the Masterpiece six-part series.
Images: Courtesy of Ed Miller/Playground & Company Pictures for MASTERPIECE/BBC; lochiels/Tumblr