WHO WAS THEN THE GENTLEMAN? by Charles E. Israel

WHO WAS THEN THE GENTLEMAN?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The incredible story of the Wat Tyler rebellion is rewired for excitement and suspense with message subordinate. Sidestepping a scholar's approach to socio-economic forces which were in tumult at the time of this early peasant revolt in England (circa 1381), the author utilizes personalities, using a few key figures, romantically rounded out in the best traditions of historical fiction. With the priest John Ball, the idealist and pace maker, the author pits the ragged army of the downtrodden peasants with fiery Wat Tyler as the leader, against a weak boy-king, Richard II, a vicious Mayor of London, several grasping members of the King's Council; and the sane humanity of Lord Salisbury. The action follows from John Ball's preliminary, itinerant exhortations to the mustering of the Army and the terrible denouement. It is difficult to quarrel with character motivation here, since the historical evidence is so flimsy. However, scholarly evaluation is keenly missed in the penultimate scenes -- the immediate falling away of the Army when confronted with Tyler's grisly remains is wildly improbable; the manner of Tyler's death presented her raises questions and the affair of Lord Salisbury and the Queen Mother raises an eyebrow. Also the miraculous mustering of the Army needs a more solid treatment. No doubt left as to the savagery of the times- plenty of blood spilled (which of course there was) and dreadful executions. A fast, rough historical, light on research but strong on personalities and piked heads.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1963
Publisher: Simon and Schuster