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Colin Burrow writes:
Bring Up the Bodies moves through what was probably the most anxious year in the 16th century, through Katherine of Aragon’s death and Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage of a son in January 1536 to the execution of Anne and her supposed lovers in mid-May of that year. This is followed by Henry VIII’s marriage to Jane Seymour at the end of the same month – a little month, or ere those shoes were old, as Hamlet says. In all this, again, Thomas Cromwell is the chief focus of the narrative. He recognises the king’s stupefied desire for Jane at Wolf Hall. He sees how rumours spread about Anne can be used, as he puts it, to ‘separate her from history’ and get rid of her. And he sees how he can use her fall to punish the four men, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston and George Boleyn (Anne’s brother), who six years before acted in the court masque that celebrated the fall of Cromwell’s master, Cardinal Wolsey. The events of the year 1535-36 become an improvised revenge tragedy, with Cromwell using Anne’s fall to avenge the death of Wolsey.