William Shakespeare's King Henry VIII in the complete original text.
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The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth

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King Henry VIII Play

King Henry VIII begins with the Duke of Buckingham being arrested for treason, Buckingham being sent to the Tower of London.. Cardinal Wolsey, an advisor to King Henry, plays a major role in Buckingham's downfall... Wolsey has not been pleased with Buckingham's criticism over Wolsey's excessive role in recent peace negotiations with France. The Queen tells Henry VIII that a one sixth tax has been levied on his subjects, without his authorisation but Wolsey's. Henry VIII tells Wolsey to refund all those who have paid this tax but Wolsey, takes credit for the new tax being abolished. At Buckingham's trial, a witness (Buckingham's former surveyer) claims Buckingham wanted to become the new King. Queen Katherine begs for Buckingham to be shown mercy, only to see Buckingham beheaded. Wolsey, meanwhile has been adding new enemies to the taxes he was collecting...

Henry, however has turned his attentions elsewhere; at a gala (party) Wolsey holds, the King, disguised as a foreigner to crash this party, meets Anne Bullen, immediately falling in love with her after he dances with the young lady in waiting to Queen Katherine. Two gentlemen at this gala, reveal the population's general hatred of Wolsey and also reveal the widespread belief that Wolsey was behind the false accusations levelled at Buckingham. These gentlemen believe Wolsey wants to rid England of their Queen, Katherine (Katherine was originally King Henry VIII's brother's wife). Meanwhile, Henry wanting to marry Anne, decides he wants a divorce. To settle matters, Wolsey has the Pope send a representative to make a decision on the divorce. Unfortunately, Queen Katherine will not go quietly; she has been Queen for twenty years and furthermore, views marriage as a sacred unbreakable bond...

Anne Bullen, greatly admiring the Queen, is saddened by the Queen's pending divorce and privately resolves never to marry King Henry VIII... This does not stop King Henry, who at the trial in Blackfriars, claims he wants the divorce because in twenty years Katherine has borne him no male heirs to the throne. Anne later learns from Chamberlain, that she has been made Marcioness of Penbroke, greatly increasing her fears of becoming the new Queen... Wolsey however, wants the Henry to marry the French King's sister, Mary. King Henry learns that Wolsey, realising he wanted to marry Anne, told the Pope to delay a decision on the divorce. Wolsey now loses favor with King Henry who secretly marries Anne, ignoring the Pope.

Wolsey passes away quickly followed by an ill Queen Katherine. Gardiner (Lord of Winchester), Wolsey's secretary plots against Cranmer, the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer too goes to trial and to the Tower of London like Buckingham, but because he is under the protection of the monarchy, goes free. Cranmer now a free man again, christens Elizabeth, Anne's baby daughter. Cranmer prophesizes a golden age for England under this future Queen, noting that she will die a virgin and be greatly missed by her people.


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Act II
Scene I,
Scene II, Scene IIIScene IV

Scene I, Scene II

Act IV
Scene I, Scene II

Act V
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V



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