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major themes

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message 1: by John (new) - added it

John One of the themes i have found is the corruption of the religious system. I have only just started reading so I have yet to gain any insight but i would like to hear other people's opinions so when i finish the book i can come back and hopefully have a deeper understanding of the novel.


Bill Somehow I'm not surprised by the corruption of the clergy. More interesting to me is the faith of Hook in the Saints and the clear belief that he was saved by their intervention (especially St. Cripsian). The Medieval thought process probably did involve that kind of thinking.


Patrick Todoroff Religious corruption and hypocrisy are common themes in Cornwell's novels not only for their dramatic depth and tension but because they were so prevalent throughout history. Also, religious thought and personalities factored in heavily in crucial events like the ones featured in his work.

I recognize the validity, but am discouraged to see a majority of his religious characters portrayed as so despicable. History also shows there were religious persons with genuine devotion, compassion and intelligence who exerted tremendous, positive influence.


Alex Patrick wrote: "Religious corruption and hypocrisy are common themes in Cornwell's novels not only for their dramatic depth and tension but because they were so prevalent throughout history. Also, religious thoug..."

To be fair, although the majority are unpleasant there are also some who believe in the good of the church and what Christianity should stand for. And it's probably in roughly the right ratio. For many, the church was less about piety and more about power.


message 5: by Brian (last edited Jul 18, 2011 06:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian I think Cornwell is determined to persuade us through his works that the Church was/is a corrupt institution. It's a recurring theme.

While I tend to agree, I would argue that all human institutions are inherently corrupt, and thus it's not surprising the medieval church was so. What inspires us in life are those who are not corrupt, whether they are religious figures, politicians or whatever. These men and women stand out for us precisely because we don't meet them every day.


message 6: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Hodkinson Patrick wrote: "Religious corruption and hypocrisy are common themes in Cornwell's novels not only for their dramatic depth and tension but because they were so prevalent throughout history. Also, religious thoug..."

While I recognise what you are saying, and this is a theme thats even more prevalent in Cornwell's Saxon stories, I also would contend that there is usually at least one admirable, "salt of the earth" type character that also happens to be a priest or monk. Its a year or so since I read Agincourt, but wasn't Hook adopted as a child by a decent vicar or something?


Keith McArdle Brian,

I'm not sure I agree that Cornwell is determined to persuade us the church is corrupt. He is a master (and I do not use that word loosely) of historical fiction. He is simply portraying the way the church was. It is certainly still a very powerful institution now, but during the time of many of Cornwell's stories, the church was selling tickets to its members in order for them to gain entry to heaven (for instance). Or killing or torturing those whom it deemed unworthy, even to the point of killing other Christians (as in Bloody Mary or Elizabeth).

I certainly do not think it is Cornwell's agenda to perduade us one way or the other, he is simply saying "this is the way it was".


message 8: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Graham I think Cornwell reflects the attitude of the common man of the day. He writes it so well, you'd think it was made up and intended to influence. It isn't. Us common Brits have always had a healthy disregard for institutions and authority (of all kinds)


Eric I don't disbelieve for a second there was rampant corruption within the church, especially during this period of history. Especially with such ignorance with religion and science and literacy. But, I would say that Cornwell doesn't intentionally slant his readers opinion in that direction. For every "evil" religious figure, he usually also has a pious priest, or at least a decent, honest character who may be a priest, but isn't strictly theological. I think you can find a little of both in his books, which is probably what makes it a good historical fiction novel.


message 10: by RJay (new) - rated it 4 stars

RJay It seems to me that corruption was everywhere - not just in the church. It was a brutal world - and who you knew or who you were counted for everything.


Kristin As a Catholic, I found Cornwell's inclusion of so many corrupt clerical characters to be a bit jarring, but as a social historian of late medieval England, I realize that this is a realistic choice. Today, there are many occupational outlets for ambitious people of humble origins, but in the Middle Ages, the only real option for such a person was the Church. Clerical positions engendered respect and authority and offered the possibility of advancement and social mobility. Think about Sir Martin as the downwardly-mobile younger son of a lord - since he did not inherit his father's land or rank, his prospects were dim, but the Church offered him a position of security in which he could retain a similar status to what he had as a child (Sir Martin is only given the title "sir" because of his clerical status - he would not have much in the way of status or authority without it). While the Church would naturally have attracted men who felt a true religious vocation, it also attracted the ambitious and power-hungry like Sir Martin, so the range of religious feeling, from pious and well-meaning to cynical and dismissive, displayed by Cornwell's clerical characters does not seem out of place.


message 12: by Nick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nick Smith In one of Bernard Cornwell's videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUa-ty... he answers why he seemingly gives Christians a hard time in his novels.

He has plenty of decent Christian characters in his books too - my favourite being Father Pyrlig from the Uhtred series: The Last Kingdom.


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