Study Guide

The Other Boleyn Girl Ambition

By Philippa Gregory

Ambition

"They are planning a great future for you," Anne said solemnly. "Any girl in England would die for your chances." (2.236)

We're going to say this a lot: be careful what you wish for. Anne wishes she had Mary's opportunity to wed the king of England—and Anne will totally end up dying for it in the end.

I had gone far beyond Hever and I did not want to come back. (2.569)

At the beginning of the book, Mary possesses much of Mary's ambition: she doesn't want to be a country girl anymore. Yet as the novel continues, Mary will relinquish that ambition and long for a quieter life.

We never look back. We have no time for regrets or second thoughts. If a plan goes awry we make another, if one weapon breaks in our hands we find a second. (2.582)

Don't cross a Boleyn, because a Boleyn can hold a grudge for years. Also, don't face off against the Boleyn family in a game of Fire Emblem.

"I would not live my life as you live yours. You would always do as you were bid, marry where you were told, be where you were ordered. I am not like you. I make my own way." (5.16)

Anne says she makes her own way, but is this true? How much does she achieve with only her own wits and resources? She is determined, but would she be successful without the resources of her family?

"Where I aim, I will hit." (5.292)

Anne knows what she wants, and she gets it. She's also good at archery, to illustrate this point on a more literal level. Ah, metaphors.

It felt as if we were fighting something worse than Anne, some demon that possessed her, that possessed all of us Boleyns: ambition. (6.91)

As the years go by, Mary realizes how dangerous Anne's ambition can be. Anne is willing to bring the only family she has down with her if she doesn't succeed.

Her eyes gleamed. "Of course. What else is there?" (9.125-9.126)

After a brief detour down the road of love, that path is closed permanently to Anne. She now turns to what she knows best: ambition and power games. What would have happened if Anne had been allowed to love and keep the man she wanted?

I could happily watch her die of her ambition. (14.372)

Once again, we must say, be careful what you wish for. Mary later watches Anne die partly as a result of her ambition, but she isn't happy about it.

"I think they're very alike." My distaste for the two of them crept into my tone. "They both know exactly what they want and they both stop at nothing to get it. They both have the ability to be absolutely single-minded." (31.14)

Mary and Katherine bond over their dislike for Henry and Anne. They also put their fingers on why Henry and Anne are attracted to one another: one's ambition is only rivaled the other's. It's a disaster waiting to happen.

"Your trouble, William, is that you have no ambition. You don't see that there is in life only ever one goal."

"And what is that?" William asked.

"More," George said simply. "Just more of anything. More of everything." (47.106)

Well, in the end, as we know, all George's ambition really gets him is more beheaded.