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Henry VIII by William Shakespeare

Henry VIII (1612)

by William Shakespeare, John Fletcher

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0021413,240 (3.35)30
King Henry VIII has one of the fullest theatrical histories of any play in the Shakespeare canon, yet has been consistently misrepresented, both in performance and in criticism. This edition offers a new perspective on this ironic, multi-layered, collaborative play, revealing it as a complex meditation on the progress of Reformation which sees English life since Henry VIII's day as a series of bewildering changes in national and personal allegiance and represents 'history' as the product of varied and contradictory testimony. McMullan makes a powerful claim for the rehabilitation of Henry VIII, providing the fullest performance history of any edition to date and reading the work not as a marginal 'late' Shakespeare play but as a play which is paradigmatic of the achievement of Renaissance drama as a whole.`This is a staggeringly brilliant, captivating edition that will undoubtedly occasion a huge surge of critical interest in this neglected play. For those of use who have never taken Henry VIII very seriously ' perhaps dismissing it as a late collaborative play of no consequence or as conservative propaganda ' McMullan's introduction is genuinely revelatory.'Eric Rasmussen, University of Nevada at Reno, Shakespeare Survey… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Henry VIII is the final play in the histories series. Although it’s frequently challenged as being written solely by Shakespeare, I'm accepting it as part of the canon. The histories begin, chronologically, with Richard II and take us all the way through the Wars of the Roses.

The plot covers the execution of Buckingham, the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the divorce of Henry VIII and Queen Katherine, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, the birth of Elizabeth, and more. The play itself is rarely produces and not well known, but pieces of it will be familiar to anyone who has read Wolf Hall or The Other Boleyn Girl.

There's a lot crammed into this one, but a few of the characters truly shine. Your heart breaks for the neglected Katherine. She’s tossed aside by her husband of 20 years when someone younger catches his eye. She has some fantastic moments when she challenges Cardinal Wolsey.

“Y’ are meek and humble-mouth’d,
You sign your place and calling, in full seeming, with meekness and humility;
but your heart is cramm’d with arrogance, spleen, and pride.”

Buckingham is also a sympathetic character with some great speeches. Overall the play doesn't flow as well as many of his others. It's too scattered, too many moving pieces, but it's still got some beautiful language.

“Yet I am richer than my base accusers,
That never knew what truth meant.”

“Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
That it do singe yourself.”

“Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,
Thy God's, and truth's.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Jan 29, 2019 |
The epitome of what an Arden edition should be. What a shame this came out so early, leaving so much for other editors to live up to!

The dense (200 page) introduction covers everything you expect - production history, composition history, placing the play within a social, cultural, political context, and textual analysis - and includes the expected amount of academic frou-frou (but we forgive those in an Arden, surely). But what really makes it sing is the editor's wonderfully knowing sense of narrative voice. He has his own passionate beliefs, but is happy to situate those within the 400-year history of bardolatry and Shakespearean criticism, thus giving the amateur reader a great overall understanding of the issues editors and academics face in working with these texts. It's the kind of edition that breathes new life into a play that is often ignored. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
Henry has decided to divorce his first wife, Katherine, after twenty years of marriage, in order to marry Anne Bullen. At his side is the manipulative Cardinal Wolsey, common born yet with the King wrapped around his finger. Though Katherine pleads with her husband, Wolsey is instrumental in her downfall, and in the execution of the Duke of Buckingham, accused of treasonous gossip. The whole court holds its breath waiting for the day the King will realize he's been Wolsey's puppet.

Clearly written to be performed for Elizabeth I, Shakespeare is currying favor. Henry VIII is a man who was manipulated into treating Katherine badly, and who rejoiced that Anne had given birth to a daughter (ha!). Anne is a sweet maiden who worries about Katherine, and the play ends with a gushing speech about Elizabeth herself. This probably won't make anyone's list of the best of Shakespeare, but it is interesting and there are some good scenes, such as Katherine ripping into Wolsey. ( )
1 vote mstrust | Feb 7, 2018 |
34 William Shakespeare, John Fletcher Henry VIII

E-BOOK Lewis Theobald, editor Literature ***

I read this late collaboration because I knew it had great speeches and because I wanted to see how the Bard and his fellows would have treated England's Stalin. I liked the great speeches, i.e., Katherine of Aragon's defense of herself and Wolsey's farewell to his greatness, and would like to think that Shakespeare wrote them. But I had to shake my head sadly at how the playwrights had to treat the Anne Boleyn story with kid gloves and eulogize the baby Elizabeth. ( )
  Coach_of_Alva | Dec 20, 2014 |
Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" is best remembered as the play that was on stage when the Globe Theater burned down. There's a reason that's what it's known for.... the play itself really doesn't hold up well to the bard's more famous works.

Rife with historical inaccuracies, most of the action takes place off stage, so you just hear characters talking about it. (Yeah, I didn't like it when Hilary Mantel did this either.) It was the Elizabethan age, so of course Shakespeare makes the birth of Queen Elizabeth something like the second coming and is mostly laudatory about her mother Anne Boleyn.

There really isn't much that's great about this one. ( )
  amerynth | Jul 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (32 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
Hudson, Henry N.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lamar, Virginia A.Editorsecondary 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.
'T is 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.
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(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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