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Henry VIII (1612)

by William Shakespeare, John Fletcher

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Actually the version in the Norton Histories [b:The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition: Histories|3862365|The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition Histories (Norton Shakespeare)|Stephen Greenblatt|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1390062413s/3862365.jpg|21929509], not the Arden.

On the surface, All is True is a puff piece written to suck up to King James I. The ending certainly gives that impression, as Elizabeth is christened and the archbishop gives forth a prophecy of her future greatness and that of the male heirs that, childless, she will miraculously produce.

But an early patron, a descendant of Buckingham, walked out at the scene where his ancestor was lead to the Tower (and thence to execution). Cardinal Wolsey, a scheming villain if ever there was one, receives his due comeuppance early on -- and his Protestant successor is nearly run to the Tower himself, by the same (Catholic) nobles that had just so deservedly done in Wolsey.

Above this all is Henry, allowing injustice to thrive when it suits him, halting it at his pleasure. Being king, he can do no wrong, and his perfection is lauded by all (though they do, toward the end, start to address him as "My dread King") -- yet clearly he is the cause of the suffering and strife that runs throughout the play.

Are his pronouncements and doings mere whims? Is he, like Wolsey, hatching schemes which persistently go awry? Or does a deep-seated hatred of his fellow man cause him to wreak such havoc?

The play, alas, gives us no answer. This is much more "The Birth of Elizabeth" than it is any portrait of Henry VIII, and that is what makes it approach mediocrity. So much plotting and intrigue, all leading up to a lackluster finish. ( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Henry VIII
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 261
Words: 75K


From Wikipedia

The play opens with a Prologue (by a figure otherwise unidentified), who stresses that the audience will see a serious play, and appeals to the audience members: "The first and happiest hearers of the town," to "Be sad, as we would make ye."

Act I opens with a conversation between the Dukes of Norfolk and Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny. Their speeches express their mutual resentment over the ruthless power and overweening pride of Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey passes over the stage with his attendants, and expresses his own hostility toward Buckingham. Later Buckingham is arrested on treason charges—Wolsey's doing.

The play's second scene introduces King Henry VIII, and shows his reliance on Wolsey as his favourite. Queen Katherine enters to protest about Wolsey's abuse of the tax system for his own purposes; Wolsey defends himself, but when the King revokes the Cardinal's measures, Wolsey spreads a rumour that he himself is responsible for the King's action. Katherine also challenges the arrest of Buckingham, but Wolsey defends the arrest by producing the Duke's Surveyor, the primary accuser. After hearing the Surveyor, the King orders Buckingham's trial to occur.

At a banquet thrown by Wolsey, the King and his attendants enter in disguise as masquers. The King dances with Anne Bullen.

Two anonymous Gentlemen open Act II, one giving the other an account of Buckingham's treason trial. Buckingham himself enters in custody after his conviction, and makes his farewells to his followers and to the public. After his exit, the two Gentlemen talk about court gossip, especially Wolsey's hostility toward Katherine. The next scene shows Wolsey beginning to move against the Queen, while the nobles Norfolk and Suffolk look on critically. Wolsey introduces Cardinal Campeius and Gardiner to the King; Campeius has come to serve as a judge in the trial Wolsey is arranging for Katherine.

Anne Bullen is shown conversing with the Old Lady who is her attendant. Anne expresses her sympathy at the Queen's troubles; but then the Lord Chamberlain enters to inform her that the King has made her Marchioness of Pembroke. Once the Lord Chamberlain leaves, the Old Lady jokes about Anne's sudden advancement in the King's favour.

A lavishly-staged trial scene (Act II Scene 4) portrays Katherine's hearing before the King and his courtiers. Katherine reproaches Wolsey for his machinations against her, and refuses to stay for the proceedings. But the King defends Wolsey, and states that it was his own doubts about the legitimacy of their marriage that led to the trial. Campeius protests that the hearing cannot continue in the Queen's absence, and the King grudgingly adjourns the proceeding. (Act III) Wolsey and Campeius confront Katherine among her ladies-in-waiting; Katherine makes an emotional protest about her treatment.

Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, and the Lord Chamberlain are shown (Act III Scene 2) plotting against Wolsey. A packet of Wolsey's letters to the Pope have been re-directed to the King; the letters show that Wolsey is playing a double game, opposing Henry's planned divorce from Katherine to the Pope while supporting it to the King. The King shows Wolsey his displeasure, and Wolsey for the first time realises that he has lost Henry's favour. The noblemen mock Wolsey, and the Cardinal sends his follower Cromwell away so that Cromwell will not be brought down in Wolsey's fall from grace.

The two Gentlemen return in Act IV to observe and comment upon the lavish procession for Anne Bullen's coronation as Queen, which passes over the stage in their presence. Afterward they are joined by a third Gentleman, who updates them on more court gossip – the rise of Thomas Cromwell in royal favour, and plots against Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Scene 2) Katherine is shown ill; is told of Wolsey's death; has a vision of dancing spirits. Caputius visits her. Katherine expresses her continuing loyalty to the King, despite the divorce, and wishes the new queen well.

Act V. The King summons a nervous Cranmer to his presence, and expresses his support; later, when Cranmer is shown disrespect by the King's Council, Henry reproves them and displays his favour of the churchman. Anne Bullen gives birth to a daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth. In the play's closing scenes, the Porter and his Man complain about trying to control the massive and enthusiastic crowds that attend the infant Elizabeth's christening; another lush procession is followed by a prediction of the glories of the new born princess's future reign and that of her successor. The Epilogue, acknowledging that the play is unlikely to please everyone, asks nonetheless for the audience's approval.

My Thoughts:

The edition of The Complete Shakespeare I am reading has these “History” plays in alphabetical order instead of chronological order, so we skipped right over Richard III. That'll probably be next.

I didn't actually care. I cared less about this than I did for the entire Henry VI trilogy, which I didn't think was possible.

★★✬☆☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Jul 25, 2022 |
Not bad. Not excellent. Happy birthday to it this year. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
I feel like there's diminishing returns in these last few "Shakespeare and friends" works. This one was an awful lot of politics (the boring kind), a whole lotta telling, and almost everything important happening off-stage.

That said, the scene where Cardinal Wosley's scheming is revealed and he realizes he's lost the favour of King Henry, and ultimately sends Cromwell away? Brilliantly done.

Overall, however, not my favourite. Nope, not by a long shot. ( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
This is one of the later and less well known of the Bard's plays (am reading it in the aftermath of The Mirror and the Light), and was co-written with another dramatist, John Fletcher. It telescopes the events of over 10 years between the execution of Buckingham for alleged treason to the birth of Elizabeth, taking in the fall of Wolsey and the King's divorce from Katherine of Aragon. A decent play for anyone knowledgeable enough about the Tudors to spot the historical errors! The play is perhaps most famous for being performed at the time the original Globe theatre burned down in 1613 due to a cannon being set off. ( )
  john257hopper | Aug 22, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, Johnmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Berdan, John M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooke, TuckerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foakes, R. A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gentleman, DavidCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gollancz, IsraelPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudson, Henry N.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kredel, FritzCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamar, Virginia A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maxwell, J CEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, D. NicholEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, Louis B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
I come no more to make you laugh: things now,
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe,
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
We now present.
'Tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perked up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Henry VIII only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or simplifications (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.

A majority of Shakespeare scholars nowadays accept the theory that Henry VIII was written jointly by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, though many editions of the play still credit Shakespeare as the sole author.
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Lively, instructive access to Shakespeare's rich and complex works.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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