Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Perennial Mistress

Why are we so obsessed with understanding every detail of Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall? It is because her character has archetypal force. The story is of its time and place, but also universal. She is the young fertile beauty who displaces the menopausal wife. She is the mistress whose calculating methods beguile the married man; but in time he sees through her tricks and turns against her. It is the human drama that engages us. Her trial is only patchily documented, but you can make an argument that, in judicial terms, Anne was murdered. In human terms, we see that she has been paid out. Natural justice came for Anne not in the shape of the headsman, but in the shape of Jane Seymour, the sly unnoticed rival who replaced her, within days, as Henry VIII’s third wife.


  1. That's the way it is. We can see the human nature more clearly in situations which are driven to the utmost extreme, where the asymmetrical nature of man and woman becomes a neat contrast.

    Woman and man will never be completly equal, even in the "service providing society" which has transformed human activity in unprecedent measure into unspecific tasks regarding the gender.
    They will have to find a balanced equilibrium again and again in conditions of asymmetry.

    Sometimes we recently saw in tv plays a new constellation with a mighty aging female figure and a young calculating man. But its psychological plausibility remains fragile and has not the powerful strength of its opposite, where a violent desire of fecondation plays a overwhelming role as propulsion.

    What can we learn from Cleopatra?

    From Justinian's wife Theodora?

    From Catherine, the Great?

  2. Don´t we know this story from old greek myths? There should be a lot of similar legends. But which one?

  3. There are a lot which concern Zeus and Hera (she is often busy with punishing someone... for example Echo), and there is the myth of Glauce, Jason and Medea. But I don't know whether there is a myth which represents the issue as well as the (hi)story of Anne Boleyn.

  4. Anne Boleyn actually was a composer!! This I didn't know until 20 minutes ago. I listened to a wonderful song of hers in the italian TV (RAI storia). Listening to the text one could think she was aware of the danger she was facing. The fact that she was a composer - and to judge from the song I listened to a very good composer - plus the fact that noone knows she was a composer changes this story very much. This is not archetypal. This is a story which still can become an archetype. Very surprising.