Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Tudors, Season 2

Jeremy Northam as St. Thomas More
I just finished watching The Tudors, Season 2, which deals with Henry VIII's struggle to marry Anne Boleyn and the disasters which followed. I resisted having anything to do with the Showtime series for a long time but I must say that I am deeply impressed by much of it, especially by how the religious issues are handled. In fact, Season 2 would practically be a martyrology except that it is punctuated by scenes of frantic copulation which detract from an otherwise magnificent production. The sets, the costumes, the music, the banquets, the dances, the firelight are all a history lover's dream. The plot takes into account many intricate diplomatic and political matters which makes the occasional glaring historical errors all the more puzzling. The fact that John Rhys-Meyers' Henry remains muscular and svelte is a bit bizarre but then it probably reflects how Henry saw himself in his increasingly deluded mind. Natalie Dormer is the best Anne Boleyn ever. Katherine of Aragon is shown as the great and holy queen that she was. I sobbed my heart out when she died. The sorrows and humiliations endured by Princess Mary, Henry and Katherine's daughter, are portrayed for the first time in any production that I know of, making the future Mary I a sympathetic, stubborn and tragic character. We see, as never before, Henry VIII overturning heaven and earth in order to make Anne Boleyn his wife and his queen. We witness that jewels, titles, executions and laws of man cannot make a mistress into a wife and that it takes more than a crown to make a queen. Nevertheless, Anne is a mesmerizing personage, played with bewitching grace and subtlety. The scenes of the sufferings and executions of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are some of the most moving and deeply spiritual depictions I have seen in any drama. It is impossible not to be moved. It is strange that in these times inspiration is found in unlikely places. Share

8 comments:

Jack Bennett said...

I've only seen bits and pieces of the Tudors. Too much of this rearranged history (such as Bishop Gardiner replacing Cranmer in later seasons - although the two men and their theological views could not be more different and Cramner was Henry's go-to man as much as Cromwell). Jonathan Rhys-Meyers refusal to change his looks even a bit as Henry aged even though every viewer knew they should be looking at a goutish, syphilitic, OBESE man rather than a good-looking movie star was pretty ridiculous.

But...it is the first portrayal of the Tudor era outside of A Man for All Seasons that showed the Catholic opposition as strong and not evil (compare to those Elizabeth movies where the Catholics were uniformly the bad guys) and it has the best and most sympathetic portrayal of Mary Tudor ever filmed. None of this making her ugly or fanatical like we often see in films on Elizabeth or Jane Grey.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Jack, some of the glaring historical errors are puzzling. The worst one is combining the King's sisters into one murdering "Queen of Portugal" in Season 1. Ridiculous. But the martyrdoms of More and Fisher and deeply moving, and Princess Mary is indeed portrayed sympathetically.

Kaitlyn said...

Yes, the religious upheaval during this time is quite interesting. Henry VIII and his wives are all fascinating although I believe the man was completely wrong in how he treated them and the other innocent men and women and had executed.

I feel at times the Tudors makes Anne Boleyn seem more conniving and spiteful than I believe she was.
Although Natalie Dormer was a wonderful Anne I felt that the character came across too sexually.

Anne Boleyn has been maligned and called a "home-wrecker", a "whore" and other negative terms. While I am very sympathetic to the plight of Katherine of Aragon and Princess Mary and believe Henry was horrible to them, I do not blame Anne for their ill-treatment.

There is no solid evidence that Anne influenced Henry in any way in his decisions to execute men such as Thomas More or his cruelty towards Katherine. I feel the Tudors makes Anne sympathetic, but also resorts to creating the more popular image of her that many of us see: high ambitious, sexual predator, cruel and vindictive, etc.

Kaitlyn said...

The Tudors definitely played into a more Hollywood feel. It was oversexed in many aspects.

The religious upheaval during this time was very interesting and I feel like the show demonstrated the tentions between the Catholics and Reformers well.

I do feel that while the show was sympathetic towards Anne Boleyn it also maligned her and gave the image that most people are aquainted with of her: villainous, overly ambitious, sexually manipulative, and cruel and vindicative.

While I am sympathetic to Katherine of Aragon and Mary I do not blame Anne Boleyn for their ill-treatment. There is no solid evidence that Anne influenced Henry in any way to be cold to them and to mistreat them.

Nor did she play an active role in presuading him to execute men such as Thomas More, although innocently put to death, is not absolved from guilt in other areas, as he burned "heretics."

In the end, Henry VIII was his own man and
is alone responsible for all the death and suffering that occurred under his reign because of his own greed, lust, and pride.

Finally, I do not believe Anne Boleyn to have been the "whore" many people see her as and as shows like the Tudors sometimes make her out to be. Remember she refused the king's
advances for years and would not become a mistress.

The Tudors exaggerates many truths for the sake of television and drama despite its relatively decent portrayal of certain historical characters.

elena maria vidal said...

Anne was said to have wept when she heard of Katherine's death, which I wish they had shown instead of her smiling triumphantly and declaring, "Now I am really the Queen!"

Kaitlyn said...

Yea, precisely! Sorry for the double comment. There must have been a technical issue.

Furthermore, there is controversy over Anne and Henry wearing the color yellow on that day. Yellow is said to have been Spain's mourning color. However there is not definite proof of this.

In any case, Henry appeared to be happier over the death of Katherine than Anne.

julygirl said...

It really depicts why Lust is one of the 7 deadly sins....it culminated with the murder of many innocent people and changed the history of the Western World. It also showed that at the death of Thomas More and Kathrine, he finally understood what love is, and that it was not what he felt for Anne. She lost her head more because of Henry's rage at discovering this in himself than for her personal flaws.

elena maria vidal said...

Great points, Julygirl! Kaitlyn, I don't think yellow was the Spanish color of mourning as much as it symbolized the Empire to which Spain belonged, and wearing it was supposed to honor Katherine as a Princess of Spain rather than as a Queen of England.