Meet Master Cromwell!

Thomas Cromwell is not a child for long in Wolf Hall. Mantel quickly brings him into adulthood, and politics, with a murky past.

Thomas Cromwell is now a little over forty years old. He is a man of strong build, not tall. Various expressions are available to his fact, and one is readable: an expression of stifled amusement. His hair is dark, heavy and waving, and his small eyes, which are of a very strong sight, light up in conversation: so the Spanish ambassador will tell us, quite soon. It is said he knows by heart the entire New Testament in Latin, and so as a servant of the cardinal is apt – ready with a text if abbots flounder. His speech is low and rapid, his manner assured; he is at home in courtroom or waterfront, bishop’s place or inn yard. He can draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury. He will quote you a nice point in the old authors, from Plato to Plautus and back again. He knows new poetry, and can say it in Italian. He works all hours, first up and last to bed. He makes money and he spends it. He will take a bet on anything. (page 25)

He sounds like the dashing sort. Although, I think I prefer a modern interpretation of Cromwell. Hello, Mr. Frain.

As we already know, things won’t end so well for this jack-of-all-trades. Even King Henry will change his tune:

“A good household manager, but not fit to meddle in the affairs of kings.”
-May 1538 (two years before Cromwell is executed), Henry VIII describes Cromwell to the French Ambassador

Cromwell is so interesting there was a even play written about him – Thomas Lord Cromwell. It is the story of the whole life and death of Cromwell, according to the title page. Apparently people have attributed the play to Shakespeare but that has been strongly contested. You can even buy a copy that lists the playwright as Shakespeare.

(And I learned a new phrase today – Shakespeare Aprocrypha: the name given to a group of plays attributed to Shakespeare but whose attribution is questionable.)


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