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Henry VIII

Henry VIII by William Shakespeare
By: (1564-1616)

This is Shakespeare's dutiful tribute to one of the most imposing and terrifying rulers in European history. The kingdom trembles as the giant monarch storms through his midlife crisis, disposing of the faithful Katharine of Aragon and starting a new life and, the king hopes, a line of succession with the captivating young Anne Bullen. Unlike his predecessors, Henry has no doubt about the security of his tenure on the throne, and dominates the royal court with absolute authority. The extent of the King's power is graphically illustrated by the fate of the Duke of Buckingham, who goes calmly to execution while deploring, not the unjust despotism of the king. but rather the machinations of the unscrupulous advisers who led their sovereign astray.

As in Henry V, Shakespeare's other portrait of a relentlessly triumphant monarch, the interest of the audience is maintained by the sheer busyness of the action and the lively interpolations from minor characters such as the ambitous Old Lady. The play has a surprisingly modern flavour: the presentation of the drama has a journalistic aspect almost completely absent from Shakespeare's other history plays. There is even a set of "Royal watchers" - the three gossipy gentlemen!

First Page:

The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight


I Come no more to make you laugh, Things now, That beare a Weighty, and a Serious Brow, Sad, high, and working, full of State and Woe: Such Noble Scoenes, as draw the Eye to flow We now present. Those that can Pitty, heere May (if they thinke it well) let fall a Teare, The Subiect will deserue it. Such as giue Their Money out of hope they may beleeue, May heere finde Truth too. Those that come to see Onely a show or two, and so agree, The Play may passe: If they be still, and willing, Ile vndertake may see away their shilling Richly in two short houres. Onely they That come to heare a Merry, Bawdy Play, A noyse of Targets: Or to see a Fellow In a long Motley Coate, garded with Yellow, Will be deceyu'd. For gentle Hearers, know To ranke our chosen Truth with such a show As Foole, and Fight is, beside forfeyting Our owne Braines, and the Opinion that we bring To make that onely true, we now intend, Will leaue vs neuer an vnderstanding Friend. Therefore, for Goodnesse sake, and as you are knowne The First and Happiest Hearers of the Towne, Be sad, as we would make ye... Continue reading book >>

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