Literature Study GuidesWolf HallPart 6 Chapter 1 Summary

Wolf Hall | Study Guide

Hilary Mantel

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Wolf Hall | Part 6, Chapter 1 : Supremacy, 1534 | Summary

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Summary

Henry wishes he had access to the wealth owned by the Catholic Church in England, and Cromwell wants to give him this access. Cromwell suggests it is only right to use the Church's wealth for the public good. The king wants a bill to pass Parliament that assures the succession of Anne's children, and to have everyone take an oath to uphold this law of succession. The king also expresses his displeasure with Thomas More. As a result, when the bill containing the charge of treason against the Maid goes before the House of Lords, it contains not only Bishop Fisher's name but Thomas More's as well. Under pressure from his councilors, however, Henry allows More's name to be taken off, for the time being.

Cromwell takes his son Gregory with him as he visits the baby Elizabeth and Lady Mary. He tells Mary she should greet Anne respectfully when she comes to see her daughter to make life easier on herself. Mary says Anne hates her because one day she may have sons that threaten Anne's children. Cromwell tells her to simply act the part: "The queen does not expect your friendship, only an outward show." Later Gregory notes that if the king died tomorrow, even though Elizabeth is supposed to be the successor, Mary is a Tudor and she is now of age to rule.

More refuses to swear the oath to uphold the Act of Succession, even though Cromwell, Cranmer, and others try to persuade him. However, More says he will encourage the rest of his family to take the oath. Cromwell's fortunes continue to rise. He is appointed Master Secretary in Bishop Gardiner's place. Cromwell also learns that Rafe Sadler secretly married Helen Barre, one of the women Cromwell had taken into his household, and the two are expecting their first child.

Anne Boleyn's pregnancy, however, ends in miscarriage.

Analysis

The Act of Succession provides the drama in the chapter. It is a sticking point for Thomas More, who will not swear to it because he has chosen to align with Rome on the matter of Henry's annulment. It also points to the future. According to the Act of Succession, if Anne dies and Henry has no male heirs, Anne's daughter can reign as queen. And it is a source of tension when Cromwell visits Elizabeth and Lady Mary since she will now be out of the line of succession. Mary and Princess Elizabeth are now living in the same household, providing dramatic irony as it foreshadows the violent events of the future. For all of Henry's desire for a male heir, it is Mary and Elizabeth who will reign.

In his conversation with Bishop Fisher, Cromwell uses two contrasting metaphors to describe events. Using the theater motif, he tells Fisher he is in a puppet show: "Look around you. It's all one great puppet show." But he also uses a more serious and violent metaphor, telling Fisher, "We're at war. Just because the Emperor's soldiers aren't running down the street, don't deceive yourself—this is a war and you are in the enemy camp." Taken together two images present the jarring idea that the people acting in the events are simply puppets, and rather than presenting an entertaining play the puppets engage in war. More pointedly, Cromwell is telling Fisher he is like a puppet or a soldier, acting for those more powerful, caught up in events that will not end well for him.

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