Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Tudors, Season 3

Sarah Bolger as Princess Mary
As mentioned in a previous post, I have been watching the Showtime production of The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a svelte Henry VIII. Season 3, like Season 2, is heavily laced with torrid bedroom scenes, so many that after awhile they make sex seem boring. I say "bedroom" although if one were to believe the mini-series half the ladies of the court were getting slammed up against the wall without so much as a sonnet being written for them. Furthermore, there was no swimming pool at Hampton Court; ladies' limbs were white and fleshy, not sleek and tanned. The drama would have been immensely more credible without those fictional reenactments, especially the ones which lead us to imagine that Henry VIII would even be capable of such aerobics in his state of health.

On the other hand, I have never seen or heard of such a magnificent dramatization of the Pilgrimage of Grace as was featured in Season 3 of The Tudors. The  Catholic Pilgrims of Grace were simple people who had had their religion taken away from them; all they wanted was the opportunity to voice their complaints to the King. They marched under the sacred banner of the Five Wounds. It was one of the first times in history, if not the first, that the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was borne aloft in the name of a cause. They were brutally betrayed and executed. As I was watching the scene where their leader Robert Aske is bound in chains and preparing himself for a hideous death, I said to my mother, who was watching the show with me, "We don't know what faith is." Compared to people like Mr. Aske, I do not think most of us do. In reality, it was the Duke of Norfolk, not the Duke of Suffolk (Charles Brandon) who put down the Pilgrimage and oversaw the executions.

The character of Mary Tudor was again particularly well done, beautifully acted by Sarah Bolger with integrity and grace. We are presented with the portrait of an innocent young girl in an increasingly profligate court, who is alone and isolated because of her Catholic faith, kept from marrying because her father is too busy with his own matrimonial ups and downs. Yet she tries always to do the right thing. Whatever course of action she follows, it seems to lead to heartbreak, and more heartbreak. She clings to her faith nevertheless. We can see the future Queen regnant beginning to take shape. Mary is no less her father's daughter as she is her mother's, and the granddaughter of the great Isabel. It is easy to weep for her.

It is a big disappointment that the real Jane Seymour was not anywhere near as lovely as depicted in the miniseries. As Tracy Borman writes:
A portrait painted of her in around 1536 (when this episode is based) shows her to have had a large, plump face with a double chin. Her eyes were small and beady, her lips thin and closely compressed, and she wore a cold, detached expression. One onlooker at court dismissed her as being ‘of middle stature and no great beauty’. Even the Imperial Ambassador Chapuys, who was predisposed to favour Jane because of her traditional Catholic beliefs, was at a loss to explain what the King saw in her.
As for Anne of Cleves, she is so fetchingly portrayed by Joss Stone that it is incomprehensible why Henry would put her aside for Tamzin Merchant's insipid Katherine Howard. I do not like how Katherine is portrayed; Joss Stone would have made a better Katherine. Katherine was not well-educated but that does mean she was an imbecilic waif. She was a nobleman's daughter, the niece of the Duke of Norfolk, the first cousin of Anne Boleyn, and must have possessed some of the basic qualities that Henry liked in his women, including poise and wit. Some of the casting in The Tudors is a bit puzzling.

Now, on to Season 4.... Share


julygirl said...

Unlike many high school history texts and script writers for Broadway and Hollywood, the actions of the RC Church hierachy in Rome and England are reported fairly and accurately to the best of my knowledge. Also, the sets and costumes are breathtaking, and the acting is supurb. A must see offering despite minor flaws and the unfortunate sexual license.

Matterhorn said...

This series, despite various glaring flaws, is quite addictive and can be surprisingly moving and even edifying at times. Like you, I loved the casting of Sarah Bolger as Mary. It is refreshing to see her as an attractive and principled young girl rather than the vindictive hag of the stereotypes.

Dymphna said...

I thought the show portrayed Charles Brandon's second wife very well. She does not approve of her husband's choices and let him know it. The show also portrayed Katherine of Aragon beautifully.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree with you both!

Gareth Russell said...

"I say "bedroom" although if one were to believe the mini-series half the ladies of the court were getting slammed up against the wall without so much as a sonnet being written for them."

This made me laugh out loud.

Sarah Bolger's Mary was the only thing that kept me watching season 3 of "The Tudors." She was excellent and a much-needed dose of dignity! I also thought Hirst wrote the Pilgrimage very well.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Sarah B. was superb! Season 3 was really a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous!