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King Henry VIII


King Henry VIII


“Heaven will one day open

The king's eyes that so long have slept upon

This bold bad man...”

Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII concentrates on his majesty wooing Anne Boleyn and suffering a guilty conscience about his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Composed late in Shakespeare’s career Henry VIII chronicles Henry’s divorce from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and his marriage to the lovely lady-in-waiting Anne Bullen (Boleyn).

It also follows the downfall of the unscrupulous Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s closest adviser, eventually undone by his miscalculations over both the divorce and the second wife.

At this time, England is still a Roman Catholic nation and the church will not agree with Henry’s request for the divorce.

Hence the key figure in the intercession between the Vatican and Henry is Cardinal Wolsey, who is controlling much of the monarchy by manipulating Henry.

Once this becomes clear to King Henry, he turns upon Wolsey with a vengeance and his fall from power, fame and wealth is instantaneous.

Though he has moments of cold authority and rage, Henry, as written by Shakespeare is generally viewed as a benign figure rather than the “blot of blood and grease on the history of England” that Dickens described.

The play is chiefly famous for its pageantry, including the coronation of Anne Boleyn and the christening of Elizabeth, and its long speeches in which such characters as Buckingham, Wolsey and Queen Catherine lament their fall from grace with a mixture of nobility and humility.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616) was an English playwright poet, and actor, regarded as the world's pre-eminent dramatist, and the greatest writer in the English language. Author of such timeless works as Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet and King Lear, he is often called the “Bard of Avon,” England's national poet.

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