Characters in the 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
I come no more to make you laugh. Things now
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe,
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
5 We now present. Those that can pity here
May, if they think it well, let fall a tear;
The subject will deserve it. Such as give
Their money out of hope they may believe
May here find truth too. Those that come to see
10 Only a show or two, and so agree
The play may pass, if they be still and willing,
I’ll undertake may see away their shilling
Richly in two short hours. Only they
That come to hear a merry, bawdy play,
15 A noise of targets, or to see a fellow
In a long motley coat guarded with yellow,
Will be deceived. For, gentle hearers, know
To rank our chosen truth with such a show
As fool and fight is, besides forfeiting
20 Our own brains and the opinion that we bring
To make that only true we now intend,
Will leave us never an understanding friend.
Therefore, for goodness’ sake, and as you are known
The first and happiest hearers of the town,
25 Be sad, as we would make you. Think you see
The very persons of our noble story
As they were living. Think you see them great,
And followed with the general throng and sweat
Of thousand friends. Then, in a moment, see
30 How soon this mightiness meets misery.
And if you can be merry then, I’ll say
A man may weep upon his wedding day.