Hilary Mantel’s compelling trilogy – Wolf Hall (2009), Bring Up the Bodies (2012), and The Mirror and the Light (2020) – and their stage and screen adaptations, invite us into a world of religion, politics, international affairs, and Tudor governmental reform. With the history so entwined with fiction, this course explores the historical themes within the books while providing historical context by covering key court characters, as well as discussing the religious, personal, and political themes which Mantel has woven into the story.
Over three parts, this course delves into each book, examining not only the real history of these people and places but also Mantel's interpretation of them, balancing how Mantel portrays these figures in her novels with the evidence. In-depth lecture descriptions are available below.
Lecture One – Wolf Hall
Our course will begin with an exploration of the main themes of the first book, mapping out the early years of Henry VIII's reign and the rise of important individuals such as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, and key families of court. This lecture discusses important elements including how the Tudor Court was structured, the palaces and estates which serve as a backdrop to some of Mantel's most dramatic scenes, and some of the most tumultuous moments leading up to Anne Boleyn's rise as Queen.
Lecture Two – Bring up The Bodies
The story is marching towards one of the most dramatic moments of Henry VIII's reign, the execution of Anne Boleyn. Our second lecture will weave a number of key individuals into the story, including Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, Thomas Audley, and Jane Seymour while exploring the darker religious and political themes which tinge this dramatic installment.
Lecture Three – The Mirror and The Light
Anne Boleyn is gone, and Cromwell is everywhere, the most powerful minister in the realm-all business crosses his desk. But the wheel of fortune continues to turn, as our final lecture explores Cromwell's career at the top, dealing with old, religiously conservative families who cannot stomach his bold plan to tear down religious monasteries, as well as the turmoil created when Jane Seymour dies giving birth to Henry's long-awaited son and heir. Our course concludes with the last years of Cromwell's life, his aggressive religious policy, relations with key figures at court, and the small mistakes which lead to his ultimate downfall.
Dr. Lauren Mackay is an Early Modern historian, author, lecturer, and historical consultant. Her books include "Among The Wolves of Court," "The Wolf Hall Companion," and "Inside the Tudor Court." Her fourth book, "Thunder Through the Realms: Five Kingdoms and the shaping of Early Modern Europe" is due out late 2022 with Bloomsbury Publishing. Lauren has appeared as an expert for several historical documentaries.
This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there will be suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided at the course's conclusion.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $105 USD for three lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. A recording will be emailed to you within 48 hours of each lecture's conclusion. It will be available for you to re-watch at leisure for 15 days thereafter.Are there additional seminars, courses, and in-person experiences being led on the topic of Literature?
Yes! Top Context experts will be leading several virtual experiences in the coming weeks. Details are available here.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.