Saturday, June 06, 2009

history lesson

I'm sorry, but I don't understand all the snobbishness about The Tudors and similar shows that take a twist on history. Yes, they get the dates and characters and events mixed up at times, usually for dramatic effect. Sometimes, inexplicably. But carping about that is missing the point. What the series does accomplish is to give the viewer a real glimpse into life at the Tudor court and how the political and sexual machinations of the sixteenth century are not so very different from current maneuvers.

I am still haunted by last week's finale and depiction of Thomas Cromwell's end, which was gruesome, and accurate, maybe not specifically for Cromwell's death, but certainly for public executions of the time. The trajectory of Cromwell's career was fascinating, too. Not the first "common man" loved, elevated and revered by a king only to take a steep nose dive when the winds changed. Wolsey met a similar fate, also with Henry VIII (and Cromwell himself had a hand in that), and of course Thomas Becket and Henry II are legendary friends turned enemies. Funny that what we consider a success story in America, the "American Dream," was almost a recipe for disaster with the Plantagenets.

The attempt to rival Rome, and the combination of Jonathan Rhys Meyer's pretty boy intensity with a fair amount of bodice ripping was the original recipe for success for The Tudors. What has kept it interesting has been some excellent acting this season, most touchingly, from Joss Stone as Anne of Cleves, and the politics of fear and absolute power. Maybe the details are somewhat sketchy at times, but if you want to get all the facts there are plenty of great books on the subject to check out. If you want to get a taste of not-so-merry-Olde-England, a feast awaits.


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