“Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues/We write in water.”

Henry VIII (All Is True)

Act Four

By Dennis Abrams


Henry VIII photo act four 1Act Four:  The coronation of Anne takes place with great ceremony, but her triumph cruelly coincides with Katherine’s decline. Lying sick at Kimbolton, Katherine has a vision of celestial spirits before receiving a visit from Lord Caputius. She dies after commending her daughter, Mary, to the King’s care.


In time, Wolsey too has good reason to rue the realities of political life in Tudor England (his fine speech acknowledging his weakness has been widely anthologized), and the insistent parallels between his and Buckingham’s downfalls – both tell the truth, both are undone by omnipresent enemies – overcome the differences between them. The play begins to look less like the straightforward story it seems to be at first, and more like a satire on the ever-rumbling treadmill of power – Kott’s view of all Shakespeare’s histories (and tragedies). But like King John, another play that looks unsparingly at the messy business that is politics anytime, any place, in its next depiction of a downfall Henry VIII presents a properly tragic aspect: the suffering of the blameless Queen Katherine, who forms another and more pitiful embodiment of the truth – the kind of truth hinted at by Buckingham, the commitment to absolute constancy. Initially, the play sets her up (ahistorically) as a kind of heroine, ranged against Wolsey in a fight for the people. In the play’s second scene, we see her kneeling before Henry and exclaiming that his subjects are “in great grievance” because of what she earnestly calls “exactions” – ruinously high taxes set by Wolsey in defiance of his royal master (1.2.20-6). As soon as the matter comes to light, Henry rescinds them and the royal couple are confirmed in their strength. But Katherine’s next involvement in “power politics” will not be so fortunate: after the banquet at Wolsey’s, rumors begin to circulate of the King’s eagerness to seek a divorce, and when we next see the Queen it is at her trial. Ritually kneeling once more to her husband, she movingly describes what it is like to be outmaneuvered politically. “Heaven witness/I have been to you a true and humble wife,” she addresses Henry,

At all times to your will conformable,

Ever in fear to kindle your dislike,

Yea, subject to your countenance, glad or sorry

As I saw it inclined. When was the hour

I ever contradicted your desire,

Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends

Have I not strove to love, although I knew

He were mine enemy?


These are questions for which Henry has no answers – he will not even speak until much later in the scene – and in fact Katherine’s ‘enemies’ are already gaining the upper hand. The Queen eloquently attempts to clear her name of any taint of suspicion, but she had little idea until now that being “true” could harm her. “Have I lived this long,” she cries, “a wife, a true one?”

A woman, I dare say, without vain glory,

Never yet branded with suspicion?

Have I with all my full affections,

Still met the King, loved him next heav’n, obeyed him,

Been out of fondness superstitious to him,

Almost forgot my prayers to content him?


“Truth loves open dealing,” she earlier warned Wolsey (3.1.39), and as she finds herself gambled out of her throne, truth has never seemed more isolated among the scheming and plotting at court. Before the play is out Katherine will be dead – but not before experiencing a miraculous vision in which “spirits of peace” crown her with garlands in a symbol of divine innocence.


From Garber:

Henry VIII photo act 4 2“Wolsey wants Henry to marry the sister of the King of France, not Anne Bullen, whom he regards as too lowborn to be Queen of England:

It shall be to the Duchess of Alencon,

The French King’s sister – he shall marry her.

Anne Bullen? No, I’ll no Anne Bullens for him:

There’s more in’t than fair visiage. Bullen?

No, we’ll no Bullens. Speedily I wish

To hear from Rome. The Marchioness of Pembroke?


The modern spelling, ‘Boleyn,’ Anne’s own preference, emphasizes the French element – she was educated at the French court – while the play’s ‘Bullen’ is more flatly English, emphasizing Wolsey’s point: for him she is a local upstart, not a real Frenchwoman of title. As Norfolk and Suffolk watch, unobserved, from another part of the stage – for this is another of the play’s superb onlooker scenes – Norfolk notes with splendid lack of emphasis, ‘He’s discontented.’ In fact, Wolsey’s fall will be directly linked to this preference for a liaison with the French throne. He is exposed, and ruined, by the discovery of a letter to the Pope asking him to delay granting the divorce so Wolsey can try to persuade Henry to marry the French princess. In this play, although not in the historical sources, Wolsey has inadvertently included in a letter to Henry an inventory of all his own wealth and possessions, another error that turns Henry against him. (Long before the heyday of the ‘Freudian slip,’ this seems, in the context of the drama of Wolsey’s overreaching, to be the playwright’s way of signifying the Cardinal’s psychological self-betrayal.)

Although he is an onlooker rather than an actor in the play, Henry has a few strong dramatic moments, notably his expose of Wolsey’s financial chicanery, nicely and pointedly expressed in a speech that underscores the materialism and materiality of this supposedly spiritual figure (‘You are full of heavenly stuff, and bear the inventory/Of your best graces in your mind,’ Henry says, ‘You have scarce time/To steal from spiritual leisure a brief span/To keep your earthly audit.’ [3.2.138-139, 1490142]), and his clever ploy in giving Cranmer his ring to protect him against enemies at court.

Much later in the play, the new Queen, Anne Bullen, is described – though in a ‘Fletcher’ scene – in what seems yet another reminiscence of Cleopatra. The scene is delightfully earthy and comic in spirit, as the Third Gentleman joins his friends, reporting that he has been

                        Among the crowd i’ th’ Abbey, where a finger

                        Could not be wedged in more. I am stifled

                        With the mere rankness of their joy.

Second Gentleman:  You saw the ceremony?

Third Gentleman:                      That I did.

First Gentleman:      How was it?

Third Gentleman:    Well worth the seeing.

Second Gentleman:                   Good sir, speak it to us.


This amusing – and audience-teasing – taciturnity soon turns into volubility, as the Gentleman comes to describe the Queen, who sat

In a rich chair of state, opposing freely

The beauty of her person to the people.

Believe me, sir, she is the goodliest woman

That ever lay by man; which when the people

Had the full view of, such a noise arose

As the shrouds make at sea in a stiff tempest,

As loud and to as many tunes. Hats, cloaks –

Doublets, I think – flew up, and had their faces

Been loose, this day they had been lost. Such joy

I never saw before. Great-bellied women,

That had not half a week to go, like rams

In the time of war, would shake the press,

And make ‘em reel before ‘em. No man living

Could say ‘This is my wife’ there, all were woven

So strangely in one piece.


We may notice the attention in this passage to physicality: smell and sensuality, ‘rank’ bodies (without rank – the same joke as in Cymbeline). (The historical Anne Bullen was pregnant at her coronation, though this is of course never mentioned in the play.) That no man could say ‘This is my wife’ is innocently ominous, since this becomes Henry’s problem all too soon. The image of the crowed all blended together into ‘one piece’ also strangely recalls the opening description, also of a magnificent and indescribable offstage event, of the meeting of the two kings on the Field of the Cloth of Gold: ‘how they clung/In their embracement as they grew together’ into ‘a compounded one’ (1.1.9-12)”


From Tony Tanner:

Henry VIII photo act 4 3“But what of King Henry himself – the Henry of the play? it is hardly a very probing study, and, indeed, he speaks fewer than 450 lines. There is certainly nothing here of the profligate, the gourmand, the sensualist, the wife-killer of popular image. Bullough finds him ‘generous and trusting until he realizes he has been deceived or that villainy is intended,’ and says that ‘From being Defender Fidei he becomes the Defender, not perhaps of Protestantism, but of the rights of the private conscience; and the enemy of divisions in Church and State.’ The play, he says, ‘sets forth a King who is no Prospero controlling all men and events in justice…who can be misled by self-seekers but who nevertheless does good in the main…growing (uncharacteristically) in wisdom and benevolence.’ R.A. Foakes, the Arden editor, is even more positive. Of the three falls he asserts – ‘in no case is there any recrimination, or blame attached to Henry; the law operates in its normal course…’ I find this an astonishing proposition. The play itself makes it clear that it is at least gullible of Henry to believe the deeply suspect surveyor rather than the everywhere respected Buckingham; that he wants to find legalistic reasons for getting rid of old-wife Katherine because he has fallen for Anne; and that he is responsible for allowing Wolsey’s unconscionable sway over himself over himself and the land. (Foakes allows that the one ironic exchange in the play does rather glance at Henry’s dubious motives in wanting to ‘divorce’ Katherine:

Chamberlain:  It seems this marriage with his brother’s wife

Has crept too near his conscience.

Suffolk: [Aside]. No, his conscience

Has crept too near another lady.


— yet he finds Henry ‘blameless!’ We will come to Henry’s ‘creeping’ conscience.’) But Foakes then makes a larger claim (and he is not alone in this): considering Henry’s ‘growth in spiritual stature’ he contends ‘when he administers the law himself, justice as of heaven operates, and in this assumption of control Henry may be compared to Prospero, for he seems to stand above fate, and in all accidents of fortune which befall other characters is praised and blessed…Like Prospero, he has a kind of vagueness, not a lack of solidity, but a lack of definition, as a representative of benevolent power acting upon others.’ This is part of the attempt, which I mentioned, to recruit Henry VIII as another of Shakespeare’s genuine ‘last plays’ – The Tempest continued in another key, as it were. As against all this rather hagiographic reading of Henry in the play, we may put this burst of uncompromising asperity from Hazlitt: ‘The character of Henry VIII is drawn with great truth and spirit. It is like a very disagreeable portrait, sketched by the hand of a master. His gross appearance, his blustering demeanour, his vulgarity, his want of common decency and common humanity, are marked in strong lines.’ You would hardly think that Foakes and Hazlitt had been to the same play, as it were! As it happens, Hazlitt’s account is demonstrably more spirited than accurate, but, at that, hardly as misguided, I think, as the attempt to promote Henry to the status of a Prospero. Power, he has; but no magic.

The play does, admittedly, protect him to some extent; not only by stopping where it does, but in one or two little matters – for instance, by making Anne innocent, demure, totally unambitious, pitiful of Katherine, and clearly chaste; as opposed to the ‘scapegrace’ (Bullough) she apparently was, already Henry’s mistress before the wedding, by which time she was pregnant. And in the matter of taxation. Queen Katherine warns him that the people are being taxed beyond endurance, by the orders of Wolsey, to the point that ‘Tongues spit their duties out, and cold hearts freeze/Allegiance in them’ (I.ii.61-2). Henry (in the play) is shocked, and is prompted to one of those strong and vigorous Shakespearean images:

   Why, we take

From every tree lop, bark, and part o’ th’ timber,

And thou we leave it with a root, thus hacked,

The air will drink the sap.

(1.ii.95, my bold)

He, benevolently, orders the tax to be rescinded, and, magnanimously, all those who refused to pay pardoned. But it was by historical Henry’s order that the tax was levied in the first place! It is a small act of sanitization, but perhaps indicative of larger protective intentions.

But he clearly washes his hands of Buckingham:

   If he may

Find mercy in the law, ‘tis his; if none,

Let him not seek’t of us. By day and night!

He’s traitor to th’ height.


His evidence for this is of the poorest, and this determined abjuration of ‘mercy’ does him no kingly credit. We also see him clearly making up to Anne – ‘O beauty,/Till now I never knew thee’ (I.iv.76-6), before we hear his accounts of his protracted struggles with his conscience (over having married his brother’s widow – but, by any account, twenty years is a strangely long time to wait for a call of conscience!). Thus, when we hear him lament about Katherine,

   O, my lord,

Would it not grieve an able man to leave

So sweet a bedfellow? But, conscience, conscience!

O, ‘tis a tender place, and I must leave her.


we are bound to be skeptical and hear the words as hollow. Particularly as in the very next scene, when the so modest and demure Anne protests to her ‘Old Lady’ companion that ‘I would not be a queen,’ the Old Lady (worldly, experienced) simply retorts ‘so would you,/For all this spice of your hypocrisy,’ and goes on to refer to ‘(Saving your mincing) the capacity/Of your soft cheveril conscience’ (II.iii.25-6, 31-2). There is more than a ‘spice of hypocrisy’ in more than one part of this play, and Henry is capable of his own kind of ‘mincing.’ ‘Cheveril’ is kidskin, for high-quality gloves and such like, and the ‘cheveril’ of Henry’s conscience is, as the play shows, of the softest and most stretchable. By the end, he is indeed in control, all oppositions and problems in one way or another dispersed; with Cranmer and Sir Thomas More safely installed, Cromwell about to begin his reliable work – and baby Elizabeth to crown it all. Still, the Court of King Henry VIII is a long way from Prospero’s isle.”


And from Kermode:

Henry VIII photo act 4 4“Yet Wolsey’s manner is described by Norfolk (111-19) as agitated (‘In most strange postures/We have seen him set himself’ (118-19)). The King, having in his hand the evidence of Wolsey’s earthly ambition, declines to believe these contortions have religious causes; he accosts him ironically and teases him into extravagant expression of allegiance and devotion before thrusting at him the papers that prove his guilt: ‘Read o’er this,/And after, this, and then to breakfast with/What appetite you have’ (201-3).

This passage of dialogue, well managed, tinged with royal ironies, getting its business done, is again marked with weak endings and run-on lines, though it is rarely as self-involved as the verse of the act’s opening scene. At its end the stage clears, and Wolsey soliloquizes, now in a very different tone. He sees from the papers that his personal wealth has been made known to the King, and that his dealings with Rome in the matter of the King’s marriage are also uncovered. And here, at line 222, the tone of valediction, the elegy for one’s own greatness, is re-established:

     Nay then, farewell!

I have touch’d the highest point of all my greatness,

And, from that full meridian of my glory,

I haste now to my setting. I shall fall

Like a bright exhalation in the evening,

And no man see me more.


The figure, though fine, is simply expounded, not self-involved; his career has been like a meteor, supposed to be caused by an escape of terrestrial gases that burn up when they reach the sphere of fire (perhaps with allusion to his rise from humble birth, so resented by the noblemen at court). Wolsey is now allowed a dignified resistance to the demands of his exultant enemies. After their altercation the stage is again cleared and a sort of aria, akin to Buckingham’s, brings Wolsey to the end of his remarkable career: ‘Farewell? a long farewell to all my greatness!’ (351).

In the simplicity of language in this celebrated speech, in the slow working out of its figures, it bears a stronger resemblance to the meditations of Henry VI than to the Machiavellian contortions of much verse in Henry VIII. There is the slowly evolved imagery of promise and failure – tender leaves of hope, full-blown honors, nipping frost, the death of the hopeful plant (352-58) – than the image of boys swimming on bladders, out of their depth, at ‘the mercy/Of a rude stream’ (363-64). A general reflection on fallen greatness brings the speech to a close. The reprise at the end of the scene is for the benefit of Cromwell: ‘Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition!/By that sin fell the angels’ (440-41).

With the falls of Buckingham and Cromwell and the blessed demise of the Queen (heralded by a masque-like heavenly vision [IV.ii]) the play has depicted the fated falls of the great rather in the manner of the old ‘tragedies’ such as A Mirror for Magistrates, in which the ghosts of noble personages return to recount their falls. The twist to this plot lies in the treatment of Cranmer, who by the King’s grace survives the plot against him; he survives to christen the Princess and reform the liturgy (there is here no hint of his ultimate fat at the hands of Henry’s successor, Mary). In the play the last days of Katherine are contemporary with the coronation of the new Queen, with more opportunities for theatrical display.”


And finally, from The Bardathon, his review of the 2010 Globe production of Henry VIII:

Henry VIII photo act 4 5“Since Dominic Dromgoole took over at Shakespeare’s Globe, the prioritisation of the “house dramatist” over all others has disappointingly extended to the exclusion of plays by his contemporaries from the repertory – a real shame, as this was one of the features that used to make the Globe such an important venue from an academic space. Over the last few seasons, however, this has extended even further to the exclusion of Shakespeare’s collaborators from their works. Timon of Athens was “By William Shakespeare” on all publicity materials, and this year it’s John Fletcher’s turn to be excluded from his own play. Not only does the title page of the programme and all publicity material only mention Shakespeare, but even Dromgoole’s introduction to the season merely talks of the play as “a great blend of pageantry and realpolitik, written at the end of Shakespeare’s career and showing all his formidable understanding of the passions and pettiness of those in power.” Not until halfway through the lengthy booklet does Fletcher make an appearance. Happily, Gordon McMullan later dedicates a whole three page essay to the discussion of Fletcher’s involvement, but this only comes once the Globe has enacted its own policy of exclusion on the younger dramatist.

This is, of course, incidental to the production, but serves as useful context for the Globe’s first staging of the play. Following the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s crowning celebrated widely last year, Shakespeare’s unofficial role as the nation’s historian was here strengthened by the assertion – in marketing terms at least – of his sole authorship. Tying together national history and Shakespearean authorship has long been a method of consolidating British culture, and the image of Dominic Rowan’s Henry VIII, dressed as in the Holbein portrait, striding out onto Shakespeare’s stage at the climax of Shakespeare’s play for the christening of Queen Elizabeth, couldn’t have been more culturally conservative.

While it has to be noted, however, it’s not a fair direction to pursue in reviewing this production, one of the Globe’s best of the last few years. Mark Rosenblatt’s intelligent, clear and entertaining production breathed life into a play often accused of being a string of processions, turning the pageantry into visual storytelling and injecting humour and energy into the court politics.

Key to the production’s success was an intelligent use of the Globe’s staging possibilities, incorporating modern tricks into a traditional design. An extended thrust jutted out downstage into the middle of the pit, which acted as a public space: here, Buckingham addressed the crowds and Anne processed in state. The centrality of this catwalk, surrounded by groundlings, effectively distinguished “public” moments from the rest of the play, providing a clear structure for the action. On the stage, a simple device allowed various levels of privacy to be easily established. Interior scenes were accessed via the upstage doors, but people exiting via these doors would immediately reappear via one of the side entrances on a red carpet that extended around the outer edges of the stage. Scenes were thus allowed to spill out of rooms and into the corridors, the liminal spaces that linked formal spaces. In these corridor spaces, nobles argued and whispered passionately, voicing in anger what they could not say in, for example, the King’s presence. As well as making scenes more dynamic by allowing for shifts of pace and register, this created a fluidity of movement that kept the play moving at surprising speed, and allowed for the various Dukes to be better individualised, breaking out of their formal court characters as soon as they left the presence.

It was in these courtiers that much of the play’s interest lay. The conflict between John Dougall’s deliciously scornful Gardiner and Colin Hurley’s naively enthusiastic Cranmer was a particular highlight, particularly as Henry ordered Gardiner to embrace Cranmer and found himself enveloped in the other man’s arms. John Cummins found a sincere and volatile man in Cromwell, squaring up to Gardiner during the Privy Council’s meeting and only agreeing reluctantly to the Council’s demands, while Anthony Howell’s Thomas More wore spectacles and presided over the other councillors with an uptight but just air. It was Peter Hamilton Dyer as Norfolk, though, who came through as the audience’s touchstone. From his first appearance trying to soothe Buckingham while voicing his own displeasures, through his scornful treatment of Wolsey and deferrence to the King to his complicity in Cranmer’s “trial”, Norfolk came to represent the complexities of maneuvering the murky waters of this court. Constantly living on edge, always guarded in tone, his active but quiet background presence acted as the safe counterpoint to his more foolhardy peers, including Dickon Tyrrell’s young Surrey, here an impetuous and aggressive young man who openly drew his sword on Wolsey and found himself the victim of Henry’s screaming wrath after Cranmer’s aborted arraignment.

This rich background of politics, coming into its own towards the end of the play, lent richness and depth to the main plot, dealing with the successive falls of Anthony’s Buckingham, Kate Duchene’s Katherine and Ian McNeice’s Wolsey. That these characters provided the main interest was interestingly stressed by a Globe crowd who, unbidden and against what I certainly perceived to be the production’s intentions, gave ovations following the final speeches of both Wolsey and Katherine, applauding their ultimate farewells in an unusual gesture of appreciation. The politics of Globe audiences occasion more attention in reviews than is often appropriate, but here I was fascinated, particularly as the final speeches are not especially grandstanding. As far as I could see, it was the recognisability of these famous historical figures that occasioned the reaction, but also the structured and formal arrangement of their departures. Breaking up the action neatly, and considering the original Globe performances would not have had intervals (although those at the Blackfriars would), these moments seemed to constitute natural breaks that were instinctively recognised by the audience, despite the fact that the production itself did not stress them. Part of the immense value of the Globe experiment is in documenting and interrogating these natural responses.

Duchene’s performance, heavily accented, imagined Katherine as a sympathetic but volatile figure, all Spanish fire and confidence. Whether pleading for herself at Henry’s feet or screaming blue murder at the servant who burst in on her repose, she was a fearsome figure and a real power at court. The dynamic between her and Wolsey was particularly fascinating: Wolsey used her tempestuousness as a negative standard against which to position his own apparent humility and reason, rearticulating their entire conflict as emotion vs intellect, passion vs reason. It was rare we saw Katherine outside of a public context, and thus with her defences down, but Duchene made the most of those moments. Alone with Ben Deery’s gentle Griffith and Mary Doherty’s emotional Patience (a lovely singing voice quivered as she attempted to comfort her queen) in her dying moments, her weariness allowed a much quieter side to Katherine’s nature to emerge. As she dreamed, the court’s Fool emerged with a puppet boy she had carried all along. The boy was made to bow to Katherine, and then to a smiling Buckingham, who entered to greet the Queen. Turning, she then saw Wolsey, who lifted a crown from the boy’s head and began to place it on Katherine’s own, before suddenly the whole troupe ran away, waving mockingly at her. Katherine awoke screaming, the vision of heavenly peace cruelly snatched from her, leaving the vision more troubling and disconcerting than usual, and her own death somewhat more ambiguous.

Howell’s Buckingham, tall and casual, was imagined in an heroic vein, and his semi-ghostly appearance during his former steward’s denunciation of him to Henry served to shed further doubt on the steward’s testimony. Buckingham delivered his own reported lines with a tired and disappointed air, lightly mocking his enemy while accepting the weight of the testimony against him. McNeice’s Wolsey, meanwhile, all jowls and underskirts, was a traditionally villainous Wolsey, bloated and arrogant. His presence in court was formidable, however much he presented himself in an attitude of humility. Yet it was the more sympathetic scenes that stood out, particularly his emotional parting from Cromwell, who wept for his master. This Wolsey knew and understood people, which was his strength, and McNeice impressively manipulated the feelings of his offstage as well as onstage audiences, resulting in the spontaneous applause that accompanied his final exit.

Miranda Raison was a very modern Anne Bolyen, right down to the make-up that distinguished her from her ladies. She was portrayed from the start as the consummate court player, flirting with Henry while keeping him at arm’s length. When his true identity was revealed, she knelt in supplication, yet her eyes remained wide open and she breathed heavily as her mind worked overtime, evaluating both the consequences of her actions and how she might best take advantage of the position she found herself in. Her self-defence to Amanda Lawrence’s Welsh Virginia, a worldly-wise and comically vulgar old lady, was clearly not meant, and she was able to stare Katherine in the face in her own chamber without apparent embarrassment. The first half closed as Anne left Katherine’s presence to join Henry’s embraces, and her later appearances – significantly with her headdress removed and her hair about her shoulders – saw her thoroughly confident in her new public position, already full-bellied even as she processed the Globe’s pit. Her absence from the final scene, consequently, took on extra implied significance.

Through all of this moved Rowan’s Henry VIII, a very human king. Henry’s strength came from his ability to be whatever he needed to be at any given moment: thus, he performed the ceremonies with due reverence, joked freely with his nobles when playing at cards, and articulated rage at moments calculated for maximum effect, particularly as he defended Cranmer. This king was not weakened by his absence from court politics; rather, he was cast as above it, and the intervention of the final scenes was stage-managed to assert an absolute authority over his proud councillors. That coups such as this and his exposure of Wolsey seemed so effortless was a key part of Rowan’s performance; the king not only got what he wanted, but in the way he wanted it too.

Under all the above was a rich seam of comedy. Michael Bertenshaw and John Dougall’s randy Lovell and Sandys were an early comic highlight, particularly in the reaction of the women whom they attempted to court. The best was reserved for Sam Cox though, in a gloriously indulgent scene as the First Citizen in which he attempted to rig up poles on the catwalk for Buckingham’s public confession, and repeatedly made a mess of it. The applause he received from the audience upon finally completing his task was such that both citizens were completely thrown off and forgot their lines, and a period of adlibbing was warmly encouraged by the audience as the actors attempted to get back into the flow. Moments such as these are again unique to the Globe, the participatory atmosphere adding much to any comic moment. This was similarly the case in the penultimate scene, as the Porters picked out unsuspecting targets in the audience as the butts of their abuse.

The addition of Amanda Lawrence’s Fool, speaking the Prologue and Epilogue, was a final comic but also poignant innovation. In one revealing scene, Henry was revealed in private with the Fool as she dandled the puppet of a boy before her. In this simple image, we saw Henry’s genuine anguish over the lack of a male heir, motivating all of his actions within the period of his career shown in the play. As Norfolk and Suffolk blundered in on him in this private moment, his rage reached a peak unmatched elsewhere in the play. By finding this neat emotional hook for Henry, Rosenblatt found the play’s true heart: Henry, the king with absolute control over his court, in despair for the one thing he cannot control.”

My next post:  Thursday evening/Friday morning

Our next reading:  Act Five of Henry VIII (All Is True)


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2 Responses to “Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues/We write in water.”

  1. GGG says:

    It is interesting to read this play as the penultimate Shakespeare play, where so much of the machinations are a little clearer to me because we are so much more familiar with the dynamics of Henry and Katherine and the subsequent wives, than the tangled claims to the throne of some of the other history plays. The schemes and schemers are fascinating and the way that Shakespeare portrays the events and personalities to fit the politics of his time is also fascinating.

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