I was watching a rerun of the last two episodes of The Tudors on the television last night, and found this scene very affecting. The guy in question, the Earl of Surrey, was instrumental in introducing the sonnet style of poetry into the English language. At the end, he quotes a bit from a poem that actually runs like this:
MARTIAL, the things that do attain
The happy life be these, I find:—
The richesse left, not got with pain;
The fruitful ground, the quiet mind;
The equal friend; no grudge, no strife;
No charge of rule, nor governance;
Without disease, the healthful life;
The household of continuance;
The mean diet, no delicate fare;
True wisdom join’d with simpleness;
The night dischargèd of all care,
Where wine the wit may not oppress.
The faithful wife, without debate;
Such sleeps as may beguile the night:
Contented with thine own estate
Ne wish for death, ne fear his might.
In point of fact, he was merely beheaded and not hanged, drawn and quartered. If you’ve seen the rest of the series, they show lots of scenes of executions, and the scene here is all the more effective for not actually showing you what happens next. Truth be told, I never look at those scenes and turn the sound off. Why anybody would want to watch such a thing is beyond me.
I decided to check out the album for the show, and it has tracks like “Katherine and Culpepper Have Sex”, “Torturing Dereham”, “The Execution Ballet”, and “The Burning of Anne Askew”. I wonder how it works to compose such music. Do they tell you the mood they want? Or do you see footage and get to write music that sounds appropriate to you? I didn’t really notice the music much during the series (apart from the unmistakable title theme), but it’s actually pretty good. It’s unobtrusive but effective. Maybe other people don’t notice music much, but I find it very affecting at times.