List iconHenry VIII:
Act 2, scene 4
List icon

Henry VIII
Act 2, scene 4



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 4
Trumpets, sennet, and cornets. Enter two Vergers, with
short silver wands; next them, two Scribes, in the habit of
doctors; after them, the Bishop of Canterbury alone; after
him, the Bishops of Lincoln, Ely, Rochester, and Saint
Asaph; next them, with some small distance, follows a
Gentleman bearing the purse with the great seal, and a
cardinal’s hat. Then two Priests, bearing each a silver
cross; then a Gentleman Usher bare-headed, accompanied
with a Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing a silver mace; then two
Gentlemen, bearing two great silver pillars. After them,
side by side, the two Cardinals, and two Noblemen with
the sword and mace. The King takes place under the cloth
of state. The two Cardinals sit under him as judges. The
Queen takes place some distance from the King. The
Bishops place themselves on each side the court, in
manner of a consistory; below them the Scribes. The
Lords sit next the Bishops. The rest of the Attendants
including a Crier and the Queen’s Gentleman Usher
stand in convenient order about the stage.

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Whilst our commission from Rome is read,
 Let silence be commanded.
KING  What’s the need?
 It hath already publicly been read,
5 And on all sides th’ authority allowed.
 You may then spare that time.
WOLSEY  Be ’t so. Proceed.
SCRIBE Say “Henry King of England, come into the
CRIER 10Henry King of England, come into the court.
KING Here.
SCRIBE Say “Katherine Queen of England, come into
 the court.”
CRIER Katherine Queen of England, come into the
15 court.
The Queen makes no answer, rises out of her
chair, goes about the court, comes to the King,
and kneels at his feet; then speaks.

 Sir, I desire you do me right and justice,
 And to bestow your pity on me; for
 I am a most poor woman and a stranger,
 Born out of your dominions, having here
20 No judge indifferent nor no more assurance
 Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir,
 In what have I offended you? What cause
 Hath my behavior given to your displeasure
 That thus you should proceed to put me off
25 And take your good grace from me? Heaven witness
 I have been to you a true and humble wife,
 At all times to your will conformable,
 Ever in fear to kindle your dislike,
 Yea, subject to your countenance, glad or sorry
30 As I saw it inclined. When was the hour
 I ever contradicted your desire,

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends
 Have I not strove to love, although I knew
 He were mine enemy? What friend of mine
35 That had to him derived your anger did I
 Continue in my liking? Nay, gave notice
 He was from thence discharged? Sir, call to mind
 That I have been your wife in this obedience
 Upward of twenty years, and have been blessed
40 With many children by you. If, in the course
 And process of this time, you can report,
 And prove it too, against mine honor aught,
 My bond to wedlock or my love and duty
 Against your sacred person, in God’s name
45 Turn me away and let the foul’st contempt
 Shut door upon me, and so give me up
 To the sharp’st kind of justice. Please you, sir,
 The King your father was reputed for
 A prince most prudent, of an excellent
50 And unmatched wit and judgment. Ferdinand,
 My father, King of Spain, was reckoned one
 The wisest prince that there had reigned by many
 A year before. It is not to be questioned
 That they had gathered a wise council to them
55 Of every realm, that did debate this business,
 Who deemed our marriage lawful. Wherefore I humbly
 Beseech you, sir, to spare me till I may
 Be by my friends in Spain advised, whose counsel
 I will implore. If not, i’ th’ name of God,
60 Your pleasure be fulfilled.
WOLSEY  You have here, lady,
 And of your choice, these reverend fathers, men
 Of singular integrity and learning,
 Yea, the elect o’ th’ land, who are assembled
65 To plead your cause. It shall be therefore bootless
 That longer you desire the court, as well

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 For your own quiet as to rectify
 What is unsettled in the King.
70 Hath spoken well and justly. Therefore, madam,
 It’s fit this royal session do proceed
 And that without delay their arguments
 Be now produced and heard.
75 To you I speak.
WOLSEY  Your pleasure, madam.
 I am about to weep; but thinking that
 We are a queen, or long have dreamed so, certain
80 The daughter of a king, my drops of tears
 I’ll turn to sparks of fire.
WOLSEY  Be patient yet.
 I will, when you are humble; nay, before,
 Or God will punish me. I do believe,
85 Induced by potent circumstances, that
 You are mine enemy, and make my challenge
 You shall not be my judge; for it is you
 Have blown this coal betwixt my lord and me—
 Which God’s dew quench! Therefore I say again,
90 I utterly abhor, yea, from my soul
 Refuse you for my judge, whom, yet once more,
 I hold my most malicious foe and think not
 At all a friend to truth.
WOLSEY  I do profess
95 You speak not like yourself, who ever yet
 Have stood to charity and displayed th’ effects
 Of disposition gentle and of wisdom
 O’ertopping woman’s power. Madam, you do me
100 I have no spleen against you, nor injustice
 For you or any. How far I have proceeded,

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Or how far further shall, is warranted
 By a commission from the Consistory,
 Yea, the whole Consistory of Rome. You charge me
105 That I “have blown this coal.” I do deny it.
 The King is present. If it be known to him
 That I gainsay my deed, how may he wound,
 And worthily, my falsehood, yea, as much
 As you have done my truth. If he know
110 That I am free of your report, he knows
 I am not of your wrong. Therefore in him
 It lies to cure me, and the cure is to
 Remove these thoughts from you, the which before
 His Highness shall speak in, I do beseech
115 You, gracious madam, to unthink your speaking
 And to say so no more.
QUEEN KATHERINE  My lord, my lord,
 I am a simple woman, much too weak
 T’ oppose your cunning. You’re meek and
120 humble-mouthed;
 You sign your place and calling, in full seeming,
 With meekness and humility, but your heart
 Is crammed with arrogancy, spleen, and pride.
 You have by fortune and his Highness’ favors
125 Gone slightly o’er low steps, and now are mounted
 Where powers are your retainers, and your words,
 Domestics to you, serve your will as ’t please
 Yourself pronounce their office. I must tell you,
 You tender more your person’s honor than
130 Your high profession spiritual, that again
 I do refuse you for my judge, and here,
 Before you all, appeal unto the Pope
 To bring my whole cause ’fore his Holiness,
 And to be judged by him.
She curtsies to the King, and offers to depart.
CAMPEIUS 135 The Queen is obstinate,
 Stubborn to justice, apt to accuse it, and

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 Disdainful to be tried by ’t. ’Tis not well.
 She’s going away.
KING  Call her again.
CRIER 140Katherine, Queen of England, come into the
GENTLEMAN USHER Madam, you are called back.
 What need you note it? Pray you, keep your way.
 When you are called, return. Now, the Lord help!
145 They vex me past my patience. Pray you, pass on.
 I will not tarry; no, nor ever more
 Upon this business my appearance make
 In any of their courts.
Queen and her Attendants exit.
KING  Go thy ways, Kate.
150 That man i’ th’ world who shall report he has
 A better wife, let him in naught be trusted,
 For speaking false in that. Thou art, alone—
 If thy rare qualities, sweet gentleness,
 Thy meekness saintlike, wifelike government,
155 Obeying in commanding, and thy parts
 Sovereign and pious else, could speak thee out—
 The queen of earthly queens. She’s noble born,
 And like her true nobility she has
 Carried herself towards me.
WOLSEY 160 Most gracious sir,
 In humblest manner I require your Highness
 That it shall please you to declare in hearing
 Of all these ears—for where I am robbed and bound,
 There must I be unloosed, although not there
165 At once and fully satisfied—whether ever I
 Did broach this business to your Highness, or
 Laid any scruple in your way which might
 Induce you to the question on ’t, or ever
 Have to you, but with thanks to God for such

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

170 A royal lady, spake one the least word that might
 Be to the prejudice of her present state,
 Or touch of her good person?
KING  My Lord Cardinal,
 I do excuse you; yea, upon mine honor,
175 I free you from ’t. You are not to be taught
 That you have many enemies that know not
 Why they are so but, like to village curs,
 Bark when their fellows do. By some of these
 The Queen is put in anger. You’re excused.
180 But will you be more justified? You ever
 Have wished the sleeping of this business, never
 It to be stirred, but oft have hindered, oft,
 The passages made toward it. On my honor
185 I speak my good Lord Cardinal to this point
 And thus far clear him. Now, what moved me to ’t,
 I will be bold with time and your attention.
 Then mark th’ inducement. Thus it came; give heed
 to ’t:
190 My conscience first received a tenderness,
 Scruple, and prick on certain speeches uttered
 By th’ Bishop of Bayonne, then French ambassador,
 Who had been hither sent on the debating
 A marriage ’twixt the Duke of Orleans and
195 Our daughter Mary. I’ th’ progress of this business,
 Ere a determinate resolution, he,
 I mean the Bishop, did require a respite
 Wherein he might the King his lord advertise
 Whether our daughter were legitimate,
200 Respecting this our marriage with the dowager,
 Sometime our brother’s wife. This respite shook
 The bosom of my conscience, entered me,
 Yea, with a spitting power, and made to tremble
 The region of my breast; which forced such way
205 That many mazed considerings did throng

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 And pressed in with this caution. First, methought
 I stood not in the smile of heaven, who had
 Commanded nature that my lady’s womb,
 If it conceived a male child by me, should
210 Do no more offices of life to ’t than
 The grave does to th’ dead, for her male issue
 Or died where they were made, or shortly after
 This world had aired them. Hence I took a thought
 This was a judgment on me, that my kingdom,
215 Well worthy the best heir o’ th’ world, should not
 Be gladded in ’t by me. Then follows that
 I weighed the danger which my realms stood in
 By this my issue’s fail, and that gave to me
 Many a groaning throe. Thus hulling in
220 The wild sea of my conscience, I did steer
 Toward this remedy whereupon we are
 Now present here together. That’s to say,
 I meant to rectify my conscience, which
 I then did feel full sick, and yet not well,
225 By all the reverend fathers of the land
 And doctors learnèd. First, I began in private
 With you, my Lord of Lincoln. You remember
 How under my oppression I did reek
 When I first moved you.
LINCOLN 230 Very well, my liege.
 I have spoke long. Be pleased yourself to say
 How far you satisfied me.
LINCOLN  So please your Highness,
 The question did at first so stagger me,
235 Bearing a state of mighty moment in ’t
 And consequence of dread, that I committed
 The daring’st counsel which I had to doubt,
 And did entreat your Highness to this course
 Which you are running here.
KING 240 I then moved you,

Henry VIII
ACT 2. SC. 4

 My Lord of Canterbury, and got your leave
 To make this present summons. Unsolicited
 I left no reverend person in this court,
 But by particular consent proceeded
245 Under your hands and seals. Therefore go on,
 For no dislike i’ th’ world against the person
 Of the good queen, but the sharp thorny points
 Of my allegèd reasons drives this forward.
 Prove but our marriage lawful, by my life
250 And kingly dignity, we are contented
 To wear our mortal state to come with her,
 Katherine our queen, before the primest creature
 That’s paragoned o’ th’ world.
CAMPEIUS  So please your Highness,
255 The Queen being absent, ’tis a needful fitness
 That we adjourn this court till further day.
 Meanwhile must be an earnest motion
 Made to the Queen to call back her appeal
 She intends unto his Holiness.
KING, aside 260 I may perceive
 These cardinals trifle with me. I abhor
 This dilatory sloth and tricks of Rome.
 My learnèd and well-belovèd servant Cranmer,
 Prithee return. With thy approach, I know,
265 My comfort comes along.—Break up the court.
 I say, set on.
They exit, in manner as they entered.