Picking up where its prequel, Wolf Hall, left off, Bring Up the Bodies is the second installment of plays based on the trilogy by Hilary Mantel. These plays detail the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, a key player and powerful minister in the court of King Henry VIII of England.
Anne Boleyn has been crowned Queen of England. Despite her victory, she is still unable to provide Henry with a male heir. While she grows ever more desperate for his attentions, he turns his eye upon plain Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting. Cromwell, meanwhile is forced to navigate perilous waters as a chief minister in Henry’s court.
Following a sold-out run at Stratford-upon-Avon, Wolf Hall was produced on Broadway in two parts: Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, where it was billed as one massive “theatrical event.” Although it did not win at the 2015 Tony Awards, it was critically well received and has since done wonders for the book sales of Ms. Mantel.
A Note Regarding Characters: The character list for Bring Up the Bodies and Wolf Hall is the same, since Bodies is a sequel. The characters do evolve (as in all good writing) but not so much that they are different people by the start of the second play. It may be helpful to think of it instead as one long play instead of two separate stories.
Cardinal Wolsey does appear frequently in Bodies, but only as a ghost. Lizzie Wykys (Cromwell's wife) also dies in the first play, but since she is mentioned a few times in Bodies her character description is included for purposes of clarity.