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Henry VIII
Act 1, scene 2

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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…

Prologue

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 2
Cornets. Enter King Henry, leaning on the Cardinal’s
shoulder, with the Nobles, Sir Thomas Lovell, and
Attendants, including a Secretary of the Cardinal.
The Cardinal places himself under the King’s feet on
his right side.


KING, to Wolsey 
 My life itself, and the best heart of it,
 Thanks you for this great care. I stood i’ th’ level
 Of a full-charged confederacy, and give thanks
 To you that choked it.—Let be called before us
5 That gentleman of Buckingham’s; in person
 I’ll hear him his confessions justify,
 And point by point the treasons of his master
 He shall again relate.

27
Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

A noise within crying “Room for the Queen!” Enter the
Queen Katherine, ushered by the Duke of Norfolk, and
the Duke of Suffolk.
 She kneels. The King riseth from
his state.


QUEEN KATHERINE 
 Nay, we must longer kneel; I am a suitor.
KING 
10 Arise, and take place by us.
He takes her up, kisses and placeth her by him.
 Half your suit
 Never name to us; you have half our power.
 The other moiety ere you ask is given;
 Repeat your will, and take it.
QUEEN KATHERINE 15 Thank your Majesty.
 That you would love yourself, and in that love
 Not unconsidered leave your honor nor
 The dignity of your office, is the point
 Of my petition.
KING 20 Lady mine, proceed.
QUEEN KATHERINE 
 I am solicited, not by a few,
 And those of true condition, that your subjects
 Are in great grievance. There have been commissions
 Sent down among ’em which hath flawed the heart
25 Of all their loyalties, wherein, although
 My good Lord Cardinal, they vent reproaches
 Most bitterly on you as putter-on
 Of these exactions, yet the King our master,
 Whose honor heaven shield from soil, even he
30 escapes not
 Language unmannerly—yea, such which breaks
 The sides of loyalty and almost appears
 In loud rebellion.
NORFOLK  Not “almost appears”—
35 It doth appear. For, upon these taxations,
 The clothiers all, not able to maintain

29
Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

 The many to them longing, have put off
 The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who,
 Unfit for other life, compelled by hunger
40 And lack of other means, in desperate manner
 Daring th’ event to th’ teeth, are all in uproar,
 And danger serves among them.
KING  Taxation?
 Wherein? And what taxation? My Lord Cardinal,
45 You that are blamed for it alike with us,
 Know you of this taxation?
WOLSEY  Please you, sir,
 I know but of a single part in aught
 Pertains to th’ state, and front but in that file
50 Where others tell steps with me.
QUEEN KATHERINE  No, my lord?
 You know no more than others? But you frame
 Things that are known alike, which are not wholesome
 To those which would not know them, and yet must
55 Perforce be their acquaintance. These exactions
 Whereof my sovereign would have note, they are
 Most pestilent to th’ hearing, and to bear ’em
 The back is sacrifice to th’ load. They say
 They are devised by you, or else you suffer
60 Too hard an exclamation.
KING  Still exaction!
 The nature of it? In what kind, let’s know,
 Is this exaction?
QUEEN KATHERINE  I am much too venturous
65 In tempting of your patience, but am boldened
 Under your promised pardon. The subjects’ grief
 Comes through commissions which compels from
 each
 The sixth part of his substance, to be levied
70 Without delay, and the pretense for this
 Is named your wars in France. This makes bold
 mouths.

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Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

 Tongues spit their duties out, and cold hearts freeze
 Allegiance in them. Their curses now
75 Live where their prayers did; and it’s come to pass
 This tractable obedience is a slave
 To each incensèd will. I would your Highness
 Would give it quick consideration, for
 There is no primer baseness.
KING 80 By my life,
 This is against our pleasure.
WOLSEY  And for me,
 I have no further gone in this than by
 A single voice, and that not passed me but
85 By learnèd approbation of the judges. If I am
 Traduced by ignorant tongues, which neither know
 My faculties nor person, yet will be
 The chronicles of my doing, let me say
 ’Tis but the fate of place, and the rough brake
90 That virtue must go through. We must not stint
 Our necessary actions in the fear
 To cope malicious censurers, which ever,
 As ravenous fishes, do a vessel follow
 That is new trimmed, but benefit no further
95 Than vainly longing. What we oft do best,
 By sick interpreters, once weak ones, is
 Not ours or not allowed; what worst, as oft,
 Hitting a grosser quality, is cried up
 For our best act. If we shall stand still
100 In fear our motion will be mocked or carped at,
 We should take root here where we sit,
 Or sit state-statues only.
KING  Things done well,
 And with a care, exempt themselves from fear;
105 Things done without example, in their issue
 Are to be feared. Have you a precedent
 Of this commission? I believe, not any.
 We must not rend our subjects from our laws

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Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

 And stick them in our will. Sixth part of each?
110 A trembling contribution! Why, we take
 From every tree lop, bark, and part o’ th’ timber,
 And though we leave it with a root, thus hacked,
 The air will drink the sap. To every county
 Where this is questioned send our letters with
115 Free pardon to each man that has denied
 The force of this commission. Pray look to ’t;
 I put it to your care.
WOLSEY, aside to his Secretary  A word with you.
 Let there be letters writ to every shire
120 Of the King’s grace and pardon. The grievèd commons
 Hardly conceive of me. Let it be noised
 That through our intercession this revokement
 And pardon comes. I shall anon advise you
 Further in the proceeding.Secretary exits.

Enter Buckingham’s Surveyor.

QUEEN KATHERINE, to the King 
125 I am sorry that the Duke of Buckingham
 Is run in your displeasure.
KING  It grieves many.
 The gentleman is learnèd and a most rare speaker;
 To nature none more bound; his training such
130 That he may furnish and instruct great teachers
 And never seek for aid out of himself. Yet see,
 When these so noble benefits shall prove
 Not well disposed, the mind growing once corrupt,
 They turn to vicious forms ten times more ugly
135 Than ever they were fair. This man so complete,
 Who was enrolled ’mongst wonders, and when we
 Almost with ravished list’ning could not find
 His hour of speech a minute—he, my lady,
 Hath into monstrous habits put the graces
140 That once were his, and is become as black
 As if besmeared in hell. Sit by us. You shall hear—

35
Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

 This was his gentleman in trust—of him
 Things to strike honor sad.—Bid him recount
 The fore-recited practices, whereof
145 We cannot feel too little, hear too much.
WOLSEY 
 Stand forth, and with bold spirit relate what you
 Most like a careful subject have collected
 Out of the Duke of Buckingham.
KING  Speak freely.
SURVEYOR 
150 First, it was usual with him—every day
 It would infect his speech—that if the King
 Should without issue die, he’ll carry it so
 To make the scepter his. These very words
 I’ve heard him utter to his son-in-law,
155 Lord Abergavenny, to whom by oath he menaced
 Revenge upon the Cardinal.
WOLSEY  Please your Highness, note
 This dangerous conception in this point:
 Not friended by his wish to your high person,
160 His will is most malignant, and it stretches
 Beyond you to your friends.
QUEEN KATHERINE  My learnèd Lord Cardinal,
 Deliver all with charity.
KING, to Surveyor  Speak on.
165 How grounded he his title to the crown
 Upon our fail? To this point hast thou heard him
 At any time speak aught?
SURVEYOR  He was brought to this
 By a vain prophecy of Nicholas Henton.
KING 
170 What was that Henton?
SURVEYOR  Sir, a Chartreux friar,
 His confessor, who fed him every minute
 With words of sovereignty.

37
Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

KING  How know’st thou this?
SURVEYOR 
175 Not long before your Highness sped to France,
 The Duke being at the Rose, within the parish
 Saint Laurence Poultney, did of me demand
 What was the speech among the Londoners
 Concerning the French journey. I replied
180 Men fear the French would prove perfidious,
 To the King’s danger. Presently the Duke
 Said ’twas the fear indeed, and that he doubted
 ’Twould prove the verity of certain words
 Spoke by a holy monk “that oft,” says he,
185 “Hath sent to me, wishing me to permit
 John de la Car, my chaplain, a choice hour
 To hear from him a matter of some moment;
 Whom after under the confession’s seal
 He solemnly had sworn that what he spoke
190 My chaplain to no creature living but
 To me should utter, with demure confidence
 This pausingly ensued: ‘Neither the King, nor ’s heirs—
 Tell you the Duke—shall prosper. Bid him strive
 To gain the love o’ th’ commonalty; the Duke
195 Shall govern England.’”
QUEEN KATHERINE  If I know you well,
 You were the Duke’s surveyor, and lost your office
 On the complaint o’ th’ tenants. Take good heed
 You charge not in your spleen a noble person
200 And spoil your nobler soul. I say, take heed—
 Yes, heartily beseech you.
KING  Let him on.—
 Go forward.
SURVEYOR  On my soul, I’ll speak but truth.
205 I told my lord the Duke, by th’ devil’s illusions
 The monk might be deceived, and that ’twas dangerous
 For him to ruminate on this so far until
 It forged him some design, which, being believed,

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Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 2

 It was much like to do. He answered “Tush,
210 It can do me no damage,” adding further
 That had the King in his last sickness failed,
 The Cardinal’s and Sir Thomas Lovell’s heads
 Should have gone off.
KING  Ha! What, so rank? Ah ha!
215 There’s mischief in this man! Canst thou say further?
SURVEYOR 
 I can, my liege.
KING  Proceed.
SURVEYOR  Being at Greenwich,
 After your Highness had reproved the Duke
220 About Sir William Blumer—
KING 
 I remember of such a time, being my sworn servant,
 The Duke retained him his. But on. What hence?
SURVEYOR 
 “If,” quoth he, “I for this had been committed,”
 As to the Tower, I thought, “I would have played
225 The part my father meant to act upon
 Th’ usurper Richard, who, being at Salisbury,
 Made suit to come in ’s presence; which if granted,
 As he made semblance of his duty, would
 Have put his knife into him.”
KING 230 A giant traitor!
WOLSEY 
 Now, madam, may his Highness live in freedom
 And this man out of prison?
QUEEN KATHERINE  God mend all.
KING, to Surveyor 
 There’s something more would out of thee. What sayst?
SURVEYOR 
235 After “the Duke his father” with “the knife,”
 He stretched him, and with one hand on his dagger,
 Another spread on ’s breast, mounting his eyes,
 He did discharge a horrible oath whose tenor

41
Henry VIII
ACT 1. SC. 3

 Was, were he evil used, he would outgo
240 His father by as much as a performance
 Does an irresolute purpose.
KING  There’s his period,
 To sheathe his knife in us! He is attached.
 Call him to present trial. If he may
245 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!
They exit.