Abbreviations: Cym. = Cymbeline; H5 = Henry V; H8 = Henry VIII; Per. = Pericles; RSC = Royal Shakespeare Company; Temp.= The Tempest; WT = The Winter’s Tale
Berry, Edward I. “Henry VIII and the Dynamics of Spectacle.” Shakespeare Studies 12 (1979): 229–46.
Berry explores how Shakespeare combines the tragic pattern of political falls—namely, those of Buckingham, Wolsey, and Katherine—with the pageantry and spectacle of the masque tradition to create a self-reflexive history play “that redefines the truth, a de casibus play that moves beyond tragedy, and a masque that questions the value of spectacle.” Henry’s aversion of Cranmer’s downfall allows history to achieve, at least momentarily, “the status of ideal,” but the joy expressed in Cranmer’s prophecy (5.4) is tempered by the reader’s/spectator’s awareness of the falls to come: Cranmer’s, Anne’s, and Cromwell’s. The real flaw in H8 is not lack of structural or thematic unity, the criticism most frequently leveled at the play, but the characterization of Henry, whose growth in wisdom (as he moves from being under Wolsey’s control at the beginning of the play to protecting Cranmer at the end) is neither psychologically nor morally articulated. That flaw notwithstanding, H8 is a rich blend of disparate modes, and thus “a fitting end to a career of remarkable assimilations.”
Bliss, Lee. “The Wheel of Fortune and the Maiden Phoenix of Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII.” ELH 42 (1975): 1–25.
Bliss cautions against both “interpreting [H8] backward” from the perspective of Cranmer’s “romantic” prophecy and approaching it “as a culmination which must draw on and resolve the problems and interests of an entire career.” The first scene is paradigmatic of the play’s shifting perspectives that complicate the establishment of truth, for what at first appeared to be marvel at the Field of the Cloth of Gold turns out to have been nothing more than a political maneuver. Just as our understanding of events is continually subjected to reevaluation, so too are our perceptions of characters: e.g., the truth of Buckingham’s guilt and Wolsey’s responsibility for his fall are never made completely clear. Questions also surround the titular figure himself, whose private words and acts compromise the godlike image created by the pomp and majesty that attend him. The only “truth” the play “unequivocally teaches is that one cannot trust in the props of this world—not servants, friends, lovers, or monarchs.” When viewed in light of the moral complexities and ambiguous motivations informing the first four acts, Cranmer’s prophecy of a golden world functions more as a prayer than a statement. Hortatory in nature, it provides a glimpse of “what a transformed England, under an inspired monarch, might be,” thereby ending the play with an “aesthetic rather than logical sense of resolution and finality.”
Bosman, Anston. “Seeing Tears: Truth and Sense in All Is True.” Shakespeare Quarterly 50 (1999): 459–76.
Bosman reads H8 through the lens of its alternate title All Is True in order to demonstrate how sensory perception “is regulated, equivocated, and celebrated” in the play. The primary source of H8’s “skepticism toward truth is the indeterminacy of perception in general and of vision in particular.” The most decisive testimony against Buckingham, for example, is neither auditory (a verbatim quotation) nor scriptorial (a written document) but visual: the surveyor’s description of Buckingham’s pose followed by the surveyor’s embodiment or performance of what Buckingham did (1.2.235–41). The “truth” claims of the surveyor are those of the theater, where “seeing . . . a representation . . . is believing.” Bosman uses the Prologue’s distinction between “truth” and “show” (line 18) to establish the play’s two visual modes: the gaze of “embodied reciprocity” (e.g., the tears of Cromwell as shed for and appreciated by Wolsey in 3.2.444–47 and 504–10) and the gaze of “rivalrous” or “spectatorial” show (e.g., the empty pageantry of the Field of the Cloth of Gold reported in 1.1). In All Is True, tears provide the “deepest form of visual authentication” because the “flowing eye is able to see beyond empirical [and seductive] ‘show’ into speculative ‘truth.’ ” The peculiar theatricality of the play, then, is one of “ ‘seeing tears,’ a visual mode of which weeping is at once the subject and object.”
Cespedes, Frank V. “ ‘We are one in fortunes’: The Sense of History in Henry VIII.” English Literary Renaissance 10 (1980): 413–28.
Noting how critics frequently allege a disparity between the ending and the first four acts of H8, Cespedes argues for a unifying dynamic in the motif of Fortune’s wheel, which suffuses the entire drama with historical irony. The play has a dual focus: the fortunate march of history toward the reign of Elizabeth and the unfortunate stories of individuals during Henry VIII’s reign “who unwittingly helped to shape, and perished in the unfolding of, this historical process.” Instead of suggesting the evolution of an ideal monarch (see Foakes below), Shakespeare used his sources to structure events so as to emphasize the king’s political rather than religious motivations and to increase rather than mitigate his hypocrisy. In the final scene, the play’s pervasive sense of the contingency of historical forces, symbolized by the amoral vicissitudes of Fortune’s wheel, qualifies Cranmer’s providential view of history. H8 is “indisputably a history play” and not a political romance.
Clare, Janet. “Beneath Pomp and Circumstance in Henry VIII.” Shakespeare Studies (Tokyo) 21 (1982–83; published 1985): 65–81.
A consideration of H8 as an answer to Samuel Rowley’s When You See Me, You Know Me (1604; revived in 1613) shows Shakespeare’s play to be history rather than romance. The alternate title All Is True and the assertions of the Prologue stress the drama’s historical veracity in contrast to Rowley’s version of Henry’s life, which had little to do with the facts of his reign and treated the king more like a folk hero. Clare contends that H8’s pomp and splendor are intended not for the “wholesale glorification of sovereignty” as in the court masque but to reinforce the play’s ironic political theme: “the precarious nature of earthly glory and the potency of its attraction.” To classify H8 as romance is to exaggerate the significance of the final scene, which, despite the joyous note struck by Cranmer’s panegyric, contains nothing of the reconciliation and forgiveness nor the “lost and found” motif typical of those canonical plays generally classified as romances (Per., Cym., WT, and Temp.). Drawing on the same historical sources he had used for his two tetralogies and revealing the same integrity of purpose in his treatment of the historical record, Shakespeare wrote the history play he would have written earlier in his career had Elizabethan censorship allowed it.
Dean, Paul. “Dramatic Mode and Historical Vision in Henry VIII.” Shakespeare Quarterly 37 (1986): 175–89.
Dean tackles the genre issue to argue that the proper question is not whether the play is “romance” or “history” but what kind of history play it is. Noting how the two terms are not mutually exclusive, he observes in H8 a dialectical movement between a “romance” view of history with affinities to comedy and a “chronicle” view with affinities to tragedy. The first scene, with its contrasting perspectives on the events of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, illustrates the play’s constant movement between the idealism of romance and the calculation of political reality; it is also a microcosm of the play’s “insistence on the second-hand nature of our acquaintance with historical events.” The play’s “wavelike” structure, a “translation into dramatic terms of the undulations of the wheel of Fortune,” allows Shakespeare to focus not on a single character but on “the larger movements of history to which all are subject.” Throughout the play, but especially in Katherine’s final verdict on Wolsey, her vision, and Cranmer’s prophecy, Shakespeare uses the spatial and extratemporal elements of “romance” to rescue “chronicle history from collapsing into meaningless subjectivity.” The image of the Phoenix (5.4.48–55), the mythic bird that “inhabits both time and eternity,” provides Shakespeare’s final word on a problem with which he had been wrestling from the beginning of his career: “the accommodation of the open, expansive movement of history within the close, concentrated, and intensified movement of drama.”
Foakes, R. A. “Epilogue: A Note on King Henry VIII.” In Shakespeare, The Dark Comedies to the Last Plays: From Satire to Celebration, pp. 173–83. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1971.
Foakes considers H8 a natural sequel to Temp. in that both plays are set in modern, Christian times and display human activities within the framework and exigencies of human government or rule. In H8, the nature of “truth” and the business of “rule” are not only central to the action but structurally implicit in the play’s emphasis on spectacle, i.e., “the public shows men make of themselves to each other. The action turns on what men observe, how they see one another, how they interpret and misinterpret, and often go wrong.” As demonstrated in the shifting assessment of the events on the Field of the Cloth of Gold and in the treatment of Buckingham’s fall, establishing the complete “truth” of an event or a person is a matter of multiple perspectives, the “truth” lying not in any one view but somewhere in the light of differing interpretations. What emerges from Katherine’s and Griffith’s opposing views of Wolsey’s “true” character in 4.2 is the way of “religious truth,” interpretation grounded in charity whereby one accepts the coexistence of both good and bad in the man (4.2.80–82). Foakes associates the emergence of Henry from a flawed ruler into the “panoply of kingship” with the “religious truth” that providentially “overrid[es] the contradictions, injustices and suffering” of the political realm, ultimately bringing all into the grace of heaven’s blessing. The turning point for Henry’s character occurs at the end of Katherine’s trial when he voices praise for her and begins to distance himself from Wolsey’s influence. Regarding the authorship question, Foakes argues that Shakespeare “planned the play, even if he did not write every word of it.”
Frye, Northrop. “The Tragedies of Nature and Fortune.” In Stratford Papers on Shakespeare, 1961, edited by B. W. Jackson, pp. 38–55. Toronto: W. J. Gage, 1962.
In an essay whose main focus is Coriolanus as a tragedy of human nature, Frye first discusses H8 as a tragedy of Fortune. Using the idea of tragedy found in the Mirror of Magistrates and other collections from the Middle Ages, where the genre is symbolized by the wheel of Fortune, Frye discusses the three falls of Buckingham, Wolsey, and Katherine as exempla of the turning of Fortune’s wheel. Although the “wheel” topos is essentially tragic in its conception, it is possible to achieve a “technically comic conclusion” by stopping its turn halfway, something that happens in only two of Shakespeare’s histories, H5 and H8. Despite what appears to be a happy ending, H8 is tragic by implication since the triumphs of Anne Bullen, Cromwell, and Cranmer are temporary: “the wheel will go on turning” and their downfalls will eventually occur. The king, who comes into clearer focus as the play progresses, gradually achieves more control over his court, finally incarnating fortune himself by “turn[ing] the wheel” on which some rise and others fall. Countering the pervasive presence of fortune is a hidden providential force that is ready to dismantle the entire social and religious structure of the nation in order to achieve the birth of Queen Elizabeth. “These two polarized forces . . . make up the action of the play: a simple, almost naive action, yet one ideally suited to a processional and pageant-like history.”
Harris, Laurie Lanzen, and Mark W. Scott, eds. Shakespearean Criticism: Excerpts from the Criticism of William Shakespeare’s Plays and Poetry from the First Published Appraisals to Current Evaluations, vol. 2, pp. 11–86. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985.
This volume presents significant passages from published criticism on H8. The set of passages is introduced by a brief discussion of the “date,” “text,” and “sources,” followed by a longer discussion of the “critical history” of the play. Each entry, beginning with Sir Henry Wotton’s letter of 1613, is prefaced with a brief historical overview that places the excerpted document in the context of responses to the play. The passages are followed by an “Additional Bibliography.” The Shakespearean Criticism series is designed as “an introduction for the researcher newly acquainted with the works of Shakespeare.”
Hodgdon, Barbara. “Uncommon Women and Others: Henry VIII’s ‘Maiden Phoenix.’ ” In The End Crowns All: Closure and Contradiction in Shakespeare’s History, pp. 212–34. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.
In Hodgdon’s reading, H8 becomes an “early Stuart Richard II, a play which not only deposes a rightful Queen but crowns two others and, finally, through a sacramental procession, restores male rule.” As the result of a gender economy that makes and unmakes wives, queens, and mothers, the play “eroticizes Anne’s body and . . . beatifies Katherine[’s],” thereby reproducing the familiar whore/virgin dichotomy. Through the structural juxtaposition of two scenes that “expose the central contradiction of Henry’s sexual and political maneuvering”—Anne’s coronation procession (4.1) and Katherine’s vision (4.2)—the play “condenses the danger and pleasure of feminine power, and subjects both to Fortune, Time, and timing.” The second half of this intertextual analysis of “closural form” deals with the play’s various theatrical guises, which, through text and staging decisions, have affected the importance of Henry, Katherine, and Anne in the overall universe of the play. The major difference among productions lies in the choice of which queen’s body to use as the concluding image. Hodgdon looks specifically at the productions of Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1910), Tyrone Guthrie (1949), Trevor Nunn (1969), and Howard Davies (1983) to show how some twentieth-century directors focused on Anne either in triumph (Tree) or as foreshadowing her ultimate fate (Guthrie), while others (Nunn and Davies) emphasized Elizabeth.
Kamps, Ivo. “Shakespeare, Fletcher, and the Question of History.” In Historiography and Ideology in Stuart Drama, pp. 91–139. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Kamps contends that much of the criticism of H8 fails to appreciate the play on its own terms, i.e., as a Jacobean instead of an Elizabethan history play. In H8, Shakespeare and his collaborator, John Fletcher, were interested not in providing the “coherent and meaningful philosophy of history” that some critics look for but rather in tackling two problems essential to the development of Jacobean historiography: (1) the revising of the “Tudor conception of history as the history of great men,” and (2) the shattering of the “Tudor propensity for unified (often providential) historiography.” Kamps argues that how we respond to the play as a whole depends greatly on how we respond to Cranmer’s concluding rendering of Tudor-Stuart history, an attempt to produce dramatic and historical closure that is undercut by other historical voices in the play. Instead of representing a failure of dramatic design, H8’s episodic structure is the consequence of the dramatists’ deliberate rejection of a single view of history: Shakespeare and Fletcher give us not a “disunified play about history but a play about disunified history.”
Knight, G. Wilson. “Henry VIII and the Poetry of Conversion.” In The Crown of Life: Essays in Interpretation of Shakespeare’s Final Plays, pp. 256–336. London: Methuen, 1947.
Knight cites meter, syntax, imagery, and stylistic mannerisms to argue that Shakespeare alone wrote H8, a play that marks Shakespeare’s return to a national and contemporary theme. The author discusses the implications of the Prologue and deals at length with the play’s three tragic figures: Wolsey, Buckingham, and Katherine, who is “one of Shakespeare’s most striking feminine creations.” The tragic events involving these characters are countered by moments of gaiety and romantic warmth (e.g., 1.4) and robust humor (e.g., 2.3, 5.1.194–216, and 5.3). As for the titular figure, Henry is Shakespeare’s only king in whom the man and office remain inseparable; he is “kingliness personified but . . . an eminently human kingliness.” As the play moves toward its conclusion, Henry’s speech becomes richer in sacred reference but he never loses his “bluff manner.” The play’s issues are human rather than ideological, and its pageantry holds “great architecture” and deep meaning. H8 “bends and clasps [Shakespeare’s] massive life-work into a single whole expanding the habitual design of Shakespearean tragedy: from normality and order, through violent conflict to a spiritualized music and thence to the concluding ritual. Such is the organic unity of Shakespeare’s world.”
Leggatt, Alexander. “Henry VIII and the Ideal England.” Shakespeare Survey 38 (1985): 131–43.
Cranmer’s prophecy in Act 5 may look like an exercise in nostalgia because of the way it idealizes the past (Elizabeth’s reign); but by also idealizing the present of James’s reign, it encourages us to “set the ideal vision against our sense of the world as it really is.” Leggatt argues that this double perspective of the ideal and the actual enacts the historical vision of the play as it is reflected in the pervasive “rise and fall” pattern linking Buckingham, Wolsey, and Katherine, all of whom “at their highest moments . . . live in both worlds at once, half in heaven, and . . . constantly subject to the incongruities of that condition.” Cranmer speaks of a golden age, but the play as a whole “shows the world of history to be complex, elusive and rather untidy.” Nevertheless, the “shaping, idealizing vision that produces his prophecy is already at work, fitfully but unmistakably, in the main play.” Like WT and Temp., the plays immediately preceding it, H8 illustrates Shakespeare’s “abiding interest in the difficult but close relationship between what we dream of and what we are.” To those who question whether H8 is a Jacobean play or an “Elizabethan throwback,” Leggatt answers that while the fusion of the two perspectives of the mortal world and the ideal vision may not be perfect, H8 is Jacobean in its theatrical self-consciousness and evocation of “split judgments” about its major characters. Throughout, the author plays tricks on us, promising a somber play in the Prologue and ending with an Epilogue that is clearly designed to make us laugh. This sense of artifice nevertheless contributes to the play’s unity.
Magnusson, Lynn. “The Rhetoric of Politeness and Henry VIII.” Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 391–409. (Incorporated in her Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999], pp. 17–34.)
Magnusson uses ideas from discourse analysis and linguistic pragmatics, especially politeness theory, to explore the rhetoric of social maintenance in the play. Focusing on the discourse of Katherine and Wolsey, Magnusson examines “directives”—i.e., speech acts performed with the aim of getting others to do things—to show “how gender and class affect speech patterns” and how “an analysis of politeness forms . . . can help us toward a new understanding of the social construction in language of dramatic character.” As understood in the “politeness” model developed by Penelope Brown and Stephen Levison, politeness consists of the “complex remedial strategies that serve to minimize the risks to ‘face,’ or self-esteem, of conversational participants.” Positive politeness (“a rhetoric of identification”) operates in low-risk social exchanges; negative politeness (“a rhetoric of dissociation”) deals with high-risk exchanges that require deference behavior. An example of the latter occurs in 1.2 when Katherine asks Henry to remove unfair taxation imposed on the people by Wolsey; her gratitude to Henry for permitting her to “take place by us” and to assume “half our power” (1.2.10–12) works to “repair the risk of her suit by asserting a power difference between them.” In H8, examples of negative politeness are dominant because so many of the speech situations involve addressing the king, whose power is greater than the speaker’s. Katherine’s “disjunctive speech behavior” with Wolsey and Campeius in 3.1 illustrates how politeness strategies can “pattern personality.”
Micheli, Linda McJ. “ ‘Sit by Us’: Visual Imagery and the Two Queens in Henry VIII.” Shakespeare Quarterly 38 (1987): 452–66.
Micheli concentrates on the visual imagery—i.e., gesture, movement, stage grouping, and setting—associated with the two queens because our responses to Katherine and Anne, “polar characters identified with the old order and the new, respectively,” are “central to our interpretation of the play as a whole.” The contrasts between the queens are emphasized in a series of parallel scenes: 1.2 and 1.4, 2.3 and 3.1, and 4.1 and 4.2. Ceremonial gestures and movements that indicate hierarchical order in political, social, and domestic life (e.g., sitting, kneeling, taking by the hand, and kissing) establish the queens as “exemplars of opposing ideals of womanhood”: Katherine, in her disruption of court proceedings, epitomizes the “primarily moral, spiritual, and strong-minded” type, while Anne, who at the banquet moves and speaks only when invited to do so, illustrates the “primarily sexual, [decorative], and compliant.” Micheli claims that the visual images of H8 also have a bearing on the genre of the play in that they emphasize romance as well as chronicle elements.
Noling, Kim H. “Grubbing Up the Stock: Dramatizing Queens in Henry VIII.” Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): 291–306.
Writing H8 under the patronage of James I, Shakespeare “created a dramaturgy of queens that, although admitting some dissent” against the expedient usage of these royal women to beget male heirs, “ultimately endorses Henry’s patriarchal will.” The play’s patriarchal ideology is bluntly and ruthlessly articulated by Bishop Gardiner, who wishes that “the stock” would be “grubbed up now” (5.1.29–30). Unlike Gardiner, who at least would preserve the fruit (Elizabeth), Henry gets rid of both fruit (Princess Mary) and stock when he has his marriage to Katherine declared to be “of none effect” (4.1.37). Shakespeare, however, treats Katherine more generously by giving her ample stage exposure, strong stage positions from which she upstages male characters, and a dream sequence to balance the ceremony of Anne’s coronation. By interrupting ceremonies in order to turn them to her own advantage, Katherine distinguishes herself with an independence that temporarily challenges the play’s patriarchal ideology. Nevertheless, such positive treatment should not be interpreted as “unalloyed feminism” on Shakespeare’s part, for with both Anne and Elizabeth, the playwright “defines his queens by a dramaturgy that fully supports the institution of kingly power.” Anne, for example, may be sympathetic but she is also forgettable, as her erasure from her daughter’s christening makes clear. Regarding Elizabeth, not only does the image of the phoenix used to celebrate her in 5.4 “transcend . . . the threatening female body,” but also the maker of the “flattering fiction,” Cranmer, and not the phoenix, merits the king’s gratitude: “O lord Archbishop, / Thou hast made me now a man” (5.4.72–74). Henry, in other words, becomes a new father not through a “redemptive daughter” but through the creative imagination of another man who “transforms that daughter into a male replacement.” The presence of James, Elizabeth’s “issue,” in spirit, if not in body, at performances of H8 by his own theatrical company, the King’s Men, is “the play’s final subversion of queens into no more than the means by which kings are produced.”
Richmond, Hugh. King Henry VIII. Shakespeare in Performance Series. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994.
H8’s “diverse qualities of verbal realism and physical spectacle are so distinctive that they have had a sustained and decisive influence on the history of the English stage and even on the evolution of historical realism in the modern cinema.” To support this thesis, Richmond examines revivals spanning the seventeenth century to 1991. Among those receiving special attention are the following: Davenant’s Restoration “re-invention” (the first to exploit the play’s “distinctive documentary texture”); J. P. Kemble’s “pivotal” production in 1788 in which Sarah Siddons’s “feminine naturalism” achieved “parity of interest” with the leading male roles of Henry and Wolsey; Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s “florid historicism” in 1910 at His Majesty’s Theatre, London (later replicated in the 1911 silent film); Tyrone Guthrie’s “revisionism,” which, at both the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1949) and the Old Vic (London, 1950 and 1953), “restored vitality, viability and plausibility to a misunderstood script” and once again, as in the Restoration period, made Henry dominant over Wolsey (who had been played by the leading actor-managers of the late nineteenth century); Trevor Nunn’s Brechtian approach for the RSC (1969), which underscored political and ecclesiastical issues; Kevin Billington’s “very subdued” H8 for the BBC/Time-Life Shakespeare Series (1978); and Howard Davies’s postmodern staging for the RSC (1983). Richmond also discusses a production he produced at the University of California at Berkeley (1990), which crystallized for him and the student actors the text’s “insistence on realistic communication of intimate behaviour” and the importance of the minor scenes. Richmond concludes that H8 “is one of the few [plays] which almost necessarily have to be performed in historically accurate costume.” A list of twentieth-century productions and cast lists for those discussed at length round out the volume.
Rudnytsky, Peter L. “Henry VIII and the Deconstruction of History.” Shakespeare Survey 43 (1991): 43–57. Reprinted in Shakespeare and Politics, edited by Catherine Alexander, pp. 44–66. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Rudnytsky argues that H8 is, as the Folio classification indicates, Shakespeare’s last history play; the presence of masque, spectacle, and the motif of succession through the female line—elements common to the late romances (Per., Cym., WT, and Temp.)—notwithstanding, H8’s spirit is “ultimately sceptical and not hierophantic.” As ambiguous and unorthodox as any of its predecessors, the play carries to new heights the complexities of Shakespeare’s earlier explorations of English history, especially the multiple perspectives found in the second tetralogy wherein the Tudor myth is both promoted and demystified. The Prologue offers a “litmus test” for reader/spectator responses to the play as a whole; in particular, its juxtaposition of weeping and wedding in the concluding couplet underscores H8’s pattern of contradiction. By allowing for laughter in a dramatic action that promises to be “full of state and woe” (Pro. 3), Shakespeare shows an interest in playing tricks on us, the most important of which lies in the enigmatic subtitle All Is True for a play dominated by deceptive appearances and the relativity of truth. In Pirandellian fashion, “ ‘all is true’ means precisely that any interpretation of the past may be true if one thinks it so, and no point of view is allowed to contain or control all others.” Central to Shakespeare’s “deconstruction of history” is his treatment of Henry’s contradictory motives for divorce and the portrayal of Henry himself, who, contrary to Foakes’s view, does not evolve into ideal kingship as the minister of providence.
Smallwood, Robert, ed. Players of Shakespeare 4: Further Essays in Shakespearian Performance by Players with the RSC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
This collection includes two essays by actors who played major roles in Gregory Doran’s 1996–97 production of H8 at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon: Paul Jesson’s commentary on the titular figure (pp. 114–31) and Jane Lapotaire’s on Queen Katherine (pp. 132–51). In his research for the role, Jesson was struck by both the extreme nature of the king, who “never did anything by halves,” and his many contradictions: “energetic and lazy, generous and mean-spirited, brutal and tender.” In Henry, Shakespeare creates a charitable portrait of a king who learns to rule, grows in wisdom and confidence, and finally comes to know himself; the affection of Katherine and Anne for him provides support for the reader’s/spectator’s sympathetic response to the character. In playing the role, Jesson found echoes of Richard III, Falstaff, Petruchio, Othello, and, most important, Prospero, another “confident puppet-master . . . [whose] influence [is] felt even when . . . absent from the stage.” Regarding the role of Katherine, Lapotaire shares her relief in learning that the director was determined to set the play in its actual “time zone”: H8 “is [so] essentially Tudor in its mores, its history, its hierarchy, in its treatment of women as male property and heir-bearing machines, that [to do otherwise] would be inappropriate and perverse.” In order to underscore Katherine’s status as an outsider, the production emphasized her Spanish heritage—e.g., the Spanish accent and the translation of the English madrigal in 3.1 into a song sung in Spanish. Katherine’s quintessential character lies in her goodness, in her motto “Humble and Loyal,” and in the four obligations (to her God, to her king, to her husband, and to her people) that “hold water” in each of the scenes where she appears. Like the other late plays in the canon, H8 is about spiritual rebirth, “not just in the symbol of the baby who is to become Elizabeth I, but also through that most difficult of human experiences, the humbling of worldly state that leads to the spiritual state of forgiveness.”