List iconHenry VIII:
Act 1, scene 1
List icon

Henry VIII
Act 1, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Two stories dominate Henry VIII: the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s powerful advisor, and Henry’s quest to divorce Queen Katherine, who…


Act 1, scene 1

The Duke of Buckingham, learning the details of the costly and ultimately fruitless meeting of French and English at the…

Act 1, scene 2

Queen Katherine reveals that Wolsey is heavily taxing the English in the king’s name, and Henry pronounces a pardon to…

Act 1, scene 3

Three courtiers discuss the royal proclamation against young fops who have adopted French manners and dress after returning from France….

Act 1, scene 4

At the supper, Wolsey and his guests are visited by Henry and his courtiers, all disguised as shepherds. Henry dances…

Act 2, scene 1

Buckingham, convicted of treason, is led to execution. He declares his innocence, forgives his enemies, and vows his loyalty to…

Act 2, scene 2

Norfolk, Suffolk, and the Lord Chamberlain join in denouncing Wolsey. They hold him responsible for dividing Henry from Katherine, and…

Act 2, scene 3

Anne Bullen pities Katherine, now threatened with divorce. The Lord Chamberlain enters to announce that Henry has created Anne marchioness…

Act 2, scene 4

At the trial, Katherine refuses to have the validity of her marriage judged by the church court, given Wolsey’s malice…

Act 3, scene 1

Wolsey and Campeius visit Katherine to persuade her to contest the divorce no longer.

Act 3, scene 2

Courtiers assemble to discuss Wolsey’s sudden fall from Henry’s favor, Henry’s marriage to Anne Bullen, and plans for her coronation….

Act 4, scene 1

The procession returns from Anne’s coronation, which is then described by a gentleman who was in attendance.

Act 4, scene 2

The dying Princess Dowager Katherine and her attendant Griffith provide contrasting accounts of the character of the newly dead Wolsey….

Act 5, scene 1

The new archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, is under attack because his religious beliefs seem heretical. The king, after receiving news…

Act 5, scene 2

Cranmer suffers the public humiliation of being locked out of a Privy Council meeting. Allowed in, he is then threatened…

Act 5, scene 3

A porter and his assistant fight to control the crowd determined to view the royal daughter’s christening.

Act 5, scene 4

At Princess Elizabeth’s christening, Cranmer prophesies a magnificent reign for the future Queen Elizabeth I and an equally successful one…

Act 5, epilogue

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Scene 1
Enter the Duke of Norfolk at one door; at the other, the
Duke of Buckingham and the Lord Abergavenny.

 Good morrow, and well met. How have you done
 Since last we saw in France?
NORFOLK  I thank your Grace,
 Healthful, and ever since a fresh admirer
5 Of what I saw there.
BUCKINGHAM  An untimely ague
 Stayed me a prisoner in my chamber when
 Those suns of glory, those two lights of men,
 Met in the vale of Andren.
NORFOLK 10 ’Twixt Guynes and Arde.
 I was then present, saw them salute on horseback,
 Beheld them when they lighted, how they clung
 In their embracement, as they grew together—
 Which had they, what four throned ones could have
15 weighed
 Such a compounded one?
BUCKINGHAM  All the whole time
 I was my chamber’s prisoner.
NORFOLK  Then you lost
20 The view of earthly glory. Men might say
 Till this time pomp was single, but now married
 To one above itself. Each following day

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Became the next day’s master, till the last
 Made former wonders its. Today the French,
25 All clinquant, all in gold, like heathen gods,
 Shone down the English, and tomorrow they
 Made Britain India: every man that stood
 Showed like a mine. Their dwarfish pages were
 As cherubins, all gilt. The madams too,
30 Not used to toil, did almost sweat to bear
 The pride upon them, that their very labor
 Was to them as a painting. Now this masque
 Was cried incomparable; and th’ ensuing night
 Made it a fool and beggar. The two kings,
35 Equal in luster, were now best, now worst,
 As presence did present them: him in eye
 Still him in praise; and being present both,
 ’Twas said they saw but one, and no discerner
 Durst wag his tongue in censure. When these suns—
40 For so they phrase ’em—by their heralds challenged
 The noble spirits to arms, they did perform
 Beyond thought’s compass, that former fabulous story,
 Being now seen possible enough, got credit
 That Bevis was believed.
BUCKINGHAM 45 O, you go far.
 As I belong to worship, and affect
 In honor honesty, the tract of everything
 Would by a good discourser lose some life
 Which action’s self was tongue to. All was royal;
50 To the disposing of it naught rebelled.
 Order gave each thing view. The office did
 Distinctly his full function.
BUCKINGHAM  Who did guide,
 I mean who set the body and the limbs
55 Of this great sport together, as you guess?
 One, certes, that promises no element
 In such a business.

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

BUCKINGHAM  I pray you who, my lord?
 All this was ordered by the good discretion
60 Of the right reverend Cardinal of York.
 The devil speed him! No man’s pie is freed
 From his ambitious finger. What had he
 To do in these fierce vanities? I wonder
 That such a keech can with his very bulk
65 Take up the rays o’ th’ beneficial sun
 And keep it from the Earth.
NORFOLK  Surely, sir,
 There’s in him stuff that puts him to these ends;
 For, being not propped by ancestry, whose grace
70 Chalks successors their way, nor called upon
 For high feats done to th’ crown, neither allied
 To eminent assistants, but spiderlike,
 Out of his self-drawing web, he gives us note
 The force of his own merit makes his way—
75 A gift that heaven gives for him which buys
 A place next to the King.
ABERGAVENNY  I cannot tell
 What heaven hath given him—let some graver eye
 Pierce into that—but I can see his pride
80 Peep through each part of him. Whence has he that?
 If not from hell, the devil is a niggard,
 Or has given all before, and he begins
 A new hell in himself.
BUCKINGHAM  Why the devil,
85 Upon this French going-out, took he upon him,
 Without the privity o’ th’ King, t’ appoint
 Who should attend on him? He makes up the file
 Of all the gentry, for the most part such
 To whom as great a charge as little honor
90 He meant to lay upon; and his own letter,
 The honorable board of council out,
 Must fetch him in he papers.

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Kinsmen of mine, three at the least, that have
95 By this so sickened their estates that never
 They shall abound as formerly.
 Have broke their backs with laying manors on ’em
 For this great journey. What did this vanity
100 But minister communication of
 A most poor issue?
NORFOLK  Grievingly I think
 The peace between the French and us not values
 The cost that did conclude it.
BUCKINGHAM 105 Every man,
 After the hideous storm that followed, was
 A thing inspired and, not consulting, broke
 Into a general prophecy: that this tempest,
 Dashing the garment of this peace, aboded
110 The sudden breach on ’t.
NORFOLK  Which is budded out,
 For France hath flawed the league and hath attached
 Our merchants’ goods at Bordeaux.
ABERGAVENNY  Is it therefore
115 Th’ ambassador is silenced?
NORFOLK  Marry, is ’t.
 A proper title of a peace, and purchased
 At a superfluous rate!
BUCKINGHAM  Why, all this business
120 Our reverend cardinal carried.
NORFOLK  Like it your Grace,
 The state takes notice of the private difference
 Betwixt you and the Cardinal. I advise you—
 And take it from a heart that wishes towards you
125 Honor and plenteous safety—that you read
 The Cardinal’s malice and his potency
 Together; to consider further that

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

 What his high hatred would effect wants not
 A minister in his power. You know his nature,
130 That he’s revengeful, and I know his sword
 Hath a sharp edge; it’s long, and ’t may be said
 It reaches far, and where ’twill not extend,
 Thither he darts it. Bosom up my counsel;
 You’ll find it wholesome. Lo where comes that rock
135 That I advise your shunning.

Enter Cardinal Wolsey, the purse borne before him,
certain of the Guard, and two Secretaries with papers.

The Cardinal in his passage fixeth his eye on Buckingham,
and Buckingham on him, both full of disdain.

WOLSEY, aside to a Secretary 
 The Duke of Buckingham’s surveyor, ha?
 Where’s his examination?
SECRETARY  Here, so please you.
He hands Wolsey a paper.
 Is he in person ready?
SECRETARY 140 Ay, please your Grace.
 Well, we shall then know more, and Buckingham
 Shall lessen this big look.
Cardinal Wolsey and his train exit.
 This butcher’s cur is venomed-mouthed, and I
 Have not the power to muzzle him; therefore best
145 Not wake him in his slumber. A beggar’s book
 Outworths a noble’s blood.
NORFOLK  What, are you chafed?
 Ask God for temp’rance. That’s th’ appliance only
 Which your disease requires.
BUCKINGHAM 150 I read in ’s looks
 Matter against me, and his eye reviled
 Me as his abject object. At this instant

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

 He bores me with some trick. He’s gone to th’ King.
 I’ll follow and outstare him.
NORFOLK 155 Stay, my lord,
 And let your reason with your choler question
 What ’tis you go about. To climb steep hills
 Requires slow pace at first. Anger is like
 A full hot horse who, being allowed his way,
160 Self-mettle tires him. Not a man in England
 Can advise me like you; be to yourself
 As you would to your friend.
BUCKINGHAM  I’ll to the King,
 And from a mouth of honor quite cry down
165 This Ipswich fellow’s insolence, or proclaim
 There’s difference in no persons.
NORFOLK  Be advised.
 Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
 That it do singe yourself. We may outrun
170 By violent swiftness that which we run at
 And lose by overrunning. Know you not
 The fire that mounts the liquor till ’t run o’er
 In seeming to augment it wastes it? Be advised.
 I say again there is no English soul
175 More stronger to direct you than yourself,
 If with the sap of reason you would quench
 Or but allay the fire of passion.
 I am thankful to you, and I’ll go along
180 By your prescription. But this top-proud fellow—
 Whom from the flow of gall I name not, but
 From sincere motions—by intelligence,
 And proofs as clear as founts in July when
 We see each grain of gravel, I do know
185 To be corrupt and treasonous.
NORFOLK  Say not “treasonous.”
 To th’ King I’ll say ’t, and make my vouch as strong

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

 As shore of rock. Attend. This holy fox,
 Or wolf, or both—for he is equal rav’nous
190 As he is subtle, and as prone to mischief
 As able to perform ’t, his mind and place
 Infecting one another, yea reciprocally—
 Only to show his pomp as well in France
 As here at home, suggests the King our master
195 To this last costly treaty, th’ interview
 That swallowed so much treasure and like a glass
 Did break i’ th’ rinsing.
NORFOLK  Faith, and so it did.
 Pray give me favor, sir. This cunning cardinal
200 The articles o’ th’ combination drew
 As himself pleased; and they were ratified
 As he cried “Thus let be,” to as much end
 As give a crutch to th’ dead. But our Count Cardinal
 Has done this, and ’tis well, for worthy Wolsey,
205 Who cannot err, he did it. Now this follows—
 Which, as I take it, is a kind of puppy
 To th’ old dam treason: Charles the Emperor,
 Under pretense to see the Queen his aunt—
 For ’twas indeed his color, but he came
210 To whisper Wolsey—here makes visitation;
 His fears were that the interview betwixt
 England and France might through their amity
 Breed him some prejudice, for from this league
 Peeped harms that menaced him; privily
215 Deals with our cardinal and, as I trow—
 Which I do well, for I am sure the Emperor
 Paid ere he promised, whereby his suit was granted
 Ere it was asked. But when the way was made
 And paved with gold, the Emperor thus desired
220 That he would please to alter the King’s course
 And break the foresaid peace. Let the King know—
 As soon he shall by me—that thus the Cardinal

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Does buy and sell his honor as he pleases
 And for his own advantage.
NORFOLK 225 I am sorry
 To hear this of him, and could wish he were
 Something mistaken in ’t.
BUCKINGHAM  No, not a syllable.
 I do pronounce him in that very shape
230 He shall appear in proof.

Enter Brandon, a Sergeant-at-Arms before him, and two
or three of the Guard.

 Your office, Sergeant: execute it.
SERGEANT, to Buckingham  Sir,
 My lord the Duke of Buckingham and Earl
 Of Hertford, Stafford, and Northampton, I
235 Arrest thee of high treason, in the name
 Of our most sovereign king.
BUCKINGHAM, to Norfolk  Lo you, my lord,
 The net has fall’n upon me. I shall perish
 Under device and practice.
BRANDON 240 I am sorry
 To see you ta’en from liberty, to look on
 The business present. ’Tis his Highness’ pleasure
 You shall to th’ Tower.
BUCKINGHAM  It will help me nothing
245 To plead mine innocence, for that dye is on me
 Which makes my whit’st part black. The will of heaven
 Be done in this and all things. I obey.
 O my Lord Abergavenny, fare you well.
 Nay, he must bear you company.—The King
250 Is pleased you shall to th’ Tower, till you know
 How he determines further.
ABERGAVENNY  As the Duke said,
 The will of heaven be done, and the King’s pleasure
 By me obeyed.

Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

BRANDON 255 Here is a warrant from
 The King t’ attach Lord Mountacute, and the bodies
 Of the Duke’s confessor, John de la Car,
 One Gilbert Peck, his counselor—
260 These are the limbs o’ th’ plot. No more, I hope.
 A monk o’ th’ Chartreux.
BUCKINGHAM  O, Michael Hopkins?
 My surveyor is false. The o’ergreat cardinal
265 Hath showed him gold. My life is spanned already.
 I am the shadow of poor Buckingham,
 Whose figure even this instant cloud puts on
 By dark’ning my clear sun. To Norfolk. My lord,
They exit.