Henry VIII by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Henry VIII
by William Shakespeare

Type of Work:

Historical, fictional play


London, England; 16th century

Principal Characters

Henry VIII, Tudor King of England

Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England

Anne Bullen, Henry\'s lover and subsequent

Wolsey, ambitious Cardinal of York

Duke Buckingham, Wolsey\'s adversary

Duke of Norfolk and Duke of Suffolk, also

Wolsey\'s enemies

Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

Story Overveiw

Two noblemen, the Dukes Norfolk and Buckingham,
met in the palace to converse. Norfolk was angered by the audacity of Henry

VIII, who had signed a peace treaty with Francis I of France - a treaty
financed by Cardinal Wolsey of York. Norfolk warned his friend of Wolsey\'s
equal hatred for Buckingham: "Like it your grace, the state takes notice
of the private difference betwixt you and the cardinal. I advise you ...
that you read the cardinal\'s malice and his potency together: to consider
further, that, what his high hatred would effect wants not a minister in
his power."

Just then Wolsey entered the palace and,
after exchanging disdainful glances with Buckingham, headed towards the
king\'s chamber. "I read in\'s looks matter against me," Buckingham whispered.

"And his eye reviled me as his abject object .... He\'s gone to th\'king!"

Taking note of Buckingham\'s alarm and anger, Norfolk advised him to act
prudently. Still, shortly thereafter, Buckingham was arrested for treason.

Meanwhile, in the throne room, Queen Katherine
chided her husband about the heavy tax burden that Wolsey had ostensibly
levied on the people. "Your subjects are in great grievance," she said,

" and almost appear in loud rebellion." Unknown to King Henry, Norfolk
had in actuality instituted a tax, in an effort to stir up Henry\'s subjects
against the cardinal. The king demanded to know what she meant: "Taxation?

Wherein? and what taxation? My lord Cardinal ... know you of this taxation?"

When Wolsey denied an y knowledge of the affair, Henry immediately had
the collections stopped.

Katherine later inquired about the Duke
of Buckingham. Why had he been arrested? Henry and Wolsey brought forth
their witness to Buckingham\'s treason. This man claimed to have heard Buckingham
say, in effect, that if the king should die without male posterity then
he would make the throne his own. Wolsey also stepped forward and further
testified that Buckingham had suggested he would go so far as to kill the
king in order to gain the scepter. Henry was convinced: "By day and night,
he\'s traitor to the height."

That week, at a party given by Cardinal

Wolsey, Henry met Anne Bullen. He was taken by her beauty and impulsively
kissed her. And, on the following day, Henry sent Lord Chamberlain to bestow
upon Anne the title of "Marchioness of Pembroke; to which ... a thousand
pounds a year, annual support, out of his grace he adds." Hours later,

Buckingham was declared guilty of treason and condemned to die.

Now Henry, in the same way that he was
accustomed to executing slanderous
dukes, was prone also to divorcing his
wives. With King Henry\'s infatuation with Anne, prompt separation from

Queen Katherine was inevitable. A court of divorce was convened, in which

Katherine, kneeling at Henry\'s feet, pled her case: , Alas, sir, in what
have I offended you?... I have been to you a true and humble wife, at all
times to your will conformable ... When was the hour, I ever contradicted
your desire, Or made it not mine too?" Then Katherine directed her ire
toward Wolsey: "I do believe ... that you are mine enemy; and make my challenge,
you shall not be my judge." But Wolsey refused to step down from the judge\'s
seat, and Katherine, realizing that she had already lost her cause to Henry\'s
whims, retired. "The queen of earthly queens," Henry lamented at her departure.

Nevertheless, addressing the court, he stated his reasons for petitioning
for divorce: Katherine had not produced a male heir, and "I weighed the
danger which my realms stood in by this my issue\'s fail . . . " But one
of his councillors cautioned him that Katherine had likely gone to appeal
her case to the pope. To this potential challenge, the king replied, "I
abhor this dilatory sloth and tricks of Rome."

Soon, Katherine was visited by Wolsey and
another cardinal in an attitude of friendship and reconciliation, but she
was not duped...... Ye wish for my ruin," she charged, vowing to fight
them and to restore herself to her former place of dignity, or die.

Back at the king\'s court, Norfolk, Suffolk,

Surrey and Chamberlain all warily watched the cardinal\'s rapid rise to
power. Chamberlain warned the others of Wolsey\'s influence over Henry:

"I much fear. If you cannot bar his access to th\'king, never