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THE LIFE OF HENRY THE EIGHTH
A PLAY called Henry VIII or All is True was being played in the Globe Theatre on June 29, 1613, when the theatre caught fire and was burned down. Contemporary descriptions of this piece fit the present history so exactly that there remains little doubt that the Shakespearean drama is meant. We have here, then, a later limit for its composition. Wotton, writing of the burning of the Globe, calls All is True“ a new play." The chief reason urged against taking this literally lies in the reference to Elizabeth in nu. ii. 50–52, and in the eulogy in v. v. 18-39, 58-63, to which the praise of James may have been added later. But eulogies of the great queen did not cease with her death ; and there is much in the treatment of her parents that could hardly have been pleasing to her. In the style and metre of the undoubted Shakespearean part of the drama we find nothing pointing to a date before 1603, but much to the latest years of his activity; and it is a fairly safe conclusion that in the parts of the present play written by him we have the last of his extant work.
No edition of Henry VIII appeared till it was published in the First Folio, and on that version the present text is based.
The chief historical basis for the play is Holinshed's Chronicles. Some details seem to have come direct from Halle; and the scenes presenting the attempt to crush Cranmer (v. i., ii., iii.) are taken from Foxe's Actes and Monuments, better known as The Book of Martyrs. These sources are followed at times almost slavishly, much of the actual diction being derived from the prose narratives. Yet with all this borrowing of detail, much freedom is used in the selection and arrangement of incident, historical time is disregarded, and even the identity of personages is confused.
The characterization of Queen Katherine alone shows any great creative imagination. Though all her acts and much of her language are taken from the Chronicles, the dramatist has bestowed on her a pathetic dignity which elevates her to such a pitch that in spite of her passive rôle she stands out as the real heroine of the play. Wolsey's farewell speech (except 111. ii. 455–457) is also invented; but his other important utterances and almost all his actions are based directly on Holinshed, who here drew from a variety of sources varying much in their estimate of the Cardinal. Some details seem to have been suggested by Samuel Rowley's When You See Me You Know Me (printed 1605). The low comedy scenes in the palace yard and Cranmer's closing prophecies are, of course, without historical basis.
This drama is singularly lacking in unity. The material is simply translated into dialogue or pageant; and there results a succession of brilliant stage pictures, sketches of character, and fine speeches, entirely without dramatic coherence. Buckingham, Katherine, the King, Wolsey, and Cranmer hold in succession the centre of the stage, but no causal connection is apparent in the sequence ; nor is there consistency in the demand for sympathy with men or factions. This fragmentary quality alone is sufficient to suggest a doubt as to unity of authorship; and examination of the technical qualities of style and metre has confirmed this suspicion. It is now fairly generally, though not universally, conceded that the greater number of scenes are to be credited to John Fletcher, and to Shakespeare only 1. i., ii.; 11. iii., iv.; 11. ii. 1-203; and with less assurance of purity, v. i.
Attempts have been made to deny to Shakespeare any share in the authorship, and to assign it to other authors, especially to Massinger. But various internal reasons, besides the unchallenged appearance of the play in the First Folio, prevent the acceptance of this extreme view.
No speculation on the method of collaboration has resulted in anything more than mere conjecture.
The pronunciation of “Abergavenny” is indicated by the spelling found in the Folio, Aburgany."
[DRAMATIS PERSONÆ KING HENRY VIII.
CROMWELL, servant to Wolsey. CARDINAL WOLSEY.
Secretaries to Wolsey.
GRIFFITH, gentleman usher to Queen Katherine.
DOCTOR BUTTS, physician to the King.
Garter King-at-Arms. DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM.
Surveyor to the Duke of Buckingham. DUKE OF SUFFOLK.
BRANDON, and a Sergeant-at-Arms. EARL OF SURREY.
Door-keeper of the Council-chamber. Porter, and his Lord Chamberlain.
Page to Gardiner. A Crier.
QUEEN KATHERINE, wife to King Henry, afterwards LORD A BERGAVENNY.
divorced. LORD SANDYS (called also SIR WILLIAM SANDYS). ANNE BULLEN, her Maid of Honour, afterwards Queen. SIR HENRY GUILDFORD.
An old Lady, friend to Anne Bullen.
PATIENCE, woman to Queen Katherine.
SCENE : London; Westminster; Kimbolton.]
And, if you can be merry then, I'll say
the other, the DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM and the
have ye done
I thank your Grace,
An untimely ague
'Twixt Guynes and Arde. I was then present, saw them salute on horse
All the whole time
Then you lost
Only a show or two, and so agree
To one above itself. Each following day Became the next day's master, till the last Made former wonders its. To-day the French, All clinquant, all in gold, like heathen gods, Shone down' the English ; and, to-morrow,
they Made Britain India : every man that stood Show'd like a mine. Their dwarfish pages As cherubins, all gilt; the madams too, Not us'd to toil, did almost sweat to bear The pride upon them, that their very labour 25 Was to them as a painting. Now this masque Was cried incomparable ; and the ensuing night Made it a fool and beggar. The two kings, Equal in lustre, were now best, now worst, As presence did present them; him in eye, Still him in praise ; and, being present both, 'T was said they saw but one; and no dis
cerner Durst wag his tongue in censure. When these For so, they phrase 'em – by their heralds
challengd The noble spirits to arms, they did perform 35 Beyond thought's compass, that former fabu
0, you go far.
Who did guide, 4
Nor. One, certes, that promises no element In such a business. Buck.
I pray you, who, my lord ? Nor. All this was ord'red by the good dis
cretion Of the right reverend Cardinal of York, Buck. The devil speed him! no man's pie is
Surely, sir, , There's in him stuff that puts him to these
ends ; For, being not propp'd by ancestry, whose grace Chalks successors their way, nor call'd upon 60 For high feats done to the crown; neither al
lied To eminent assistants; but, spider-like, Out of his self-drawing web, he gives us note, The force of his own merit makes his way; A gift that heaven gives for him, which buys 66 A place next to the King. Aber.
I cannot tell
What heaven hath given him, --- let some graver
eye Pierce into that; but I can see his pride Peep through each part of him. Whence has he
Why the devil,
I do know
O, many Have broke their backs with laying manors
'em For this great journey. What did this vanity 86 But minister communication of A most poor issue ? Nor.
Grievingly I think
Which is budded out; For France hath flaw'd the league, and hath
attach'd Our merchants' goods at Bourdeaux. Aber.
Is it therefore The ambassador is silenc'd ? Nor.
Marry, is 't. Aber. A proper title of a peace, and purchas'd At a superfluous rate! Buck.
Why, all this business Our reverend Cardinal carried. Nor.
Like it your Grace, 100 The state takes notice of the private differ
ence Betwixt you and the Cardinal. I advise you And take it from a heart that wishes towards
you Honour and plenteous safety. — that you read The Cardinal's malice and his potency Together, to consider further that What his high hatred would effect wants not A minister in his power. You know his nature, That he's revengeful, and I know his sword Hath a sharp edge; 'it's long, and, 't may be
said, It reaches far, and where 't will not extend, Thither he darts it. Bosom up my counsel, You'll find it wholesome. Lo, where comes
that rock That I advise your shunning
Enter CARDINAL WOLSEY, the purse borne before
him, certain of the Guard, and two SECRETARIES, with papers. The Cardinal in his passage fixeth his eye on Buckingham, and Buckingham on him, both full of disdain. Wol. The Duke of Buckingham's surveyor,
ha ? Where's his examination ? 1. Secr.
Here, so please you. Wol. Is he in person ready? 1. Secr.
Ay, please your Grace.
(Exeunt Wolsey and his train. Buck. This butcher'o cur is venom-mouth'd,
and I Have not the power to muzzle him; therefore
best Not wake him in his slumber. A beggar's book Outworths a noble's blood. Nor.
What, are you chaf'd ? Ask God for temperance; that's the appliance
only Which your disease requires. Buck.
I read in 's looks
Stay, my lord, 129
I'll to the King ; And from a mouth of honour quite cry down This Ipswich fellow's insolence, or proclaim There's difference in no persons.
Be advis'd; Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot That it do singe yourself. We may outrun, By violent swiftness, that which we run at, And lose by over-running. Know you not, The fire that mounts the liquor till 't run
o'er, In seeming to augment it wastes it? Be ad
Say not treasonous.'
Buck. To the King I'll say 't, and make my
vouch as strong As shore of rock. Attend. This holy fox, Or wolf, or both, - for he is equal ravenous As he is subtle, and as prone to mischief As able to perform 't; his mind and place Infecting one another, yea, reciprocally Only to show his pomp as well in France As here at home, suggests the King our master To this last costly treaty, the interview, That swallowed so much treasure, and like a
glass Did break i' the rinsing. Nor.
Faith, and so it did. Buck. Pray, give me favour, sir. This cun
ning Cardinal The articles o' the combination drev As himself pleas'd ; and they were ratified a As he cried, “Thus let be,' to as much end As give a crutch to the dead. But our count
cardinal Has done this, and 't is well; for worthy Wol
sey, Who cannot err, he did it. Now this follows,Which, as I take it, is a kind of puppy To the old dam, treason, - Charles the Em
peror, Under pretence to see the Queen his aunt,For 't was indeed his colour, but he came To whisper Wolsey, - here makes visitation. His fears were, that the interview betwixt England and France might, through their Breed him some prejudice; for from this
league Peep'd harms that menac'd him. He privily Deals with our Cardinal; and, as I trow, Which I do well, for I am sure the Emperor 18 Paid ere he promis'd, whereby his suit was
granted Ere it was ask'd – but when the way was made, And pav'd with gold, the Emperor thus de
sir'd, That he would please to alter the King's course, And break the foresaid peace. Let the King
know, As soon he shall by me, that thus the Cardinal Does buy and sell his honour as he pleases And for his own advantage. Nor.
I am sorry To hear this of him ; and could wish he were Something mistaken in 't. Buck.
No, not a syllable: I do pronounce him in that very shape He shall appear in proof. Enter BRANDON, a SERGEANT-AT-ARMS before
him, and two or three of the Guard. Bran. Your office, sergeant; execute it. Serg.
Sir, My lord the Duke of Buckingham, and Earl Of Hereford, Stafford, and Northampton, I 200 Arrest thee of high treason, in the name Of our most sovereign king. Buck.
Lo, you, my lord. The net has fall'n upon me! I shall perish Under device and practice.
I am sorry To see you ta'en from liberty, to look on The business present. 'Tis his Highness' pleaYou shall to the Tower. Buck.
It will help me nothing To plead mine innocence; for that dye is on Which makes my whit'st part black. The will
of Heaven Be done in this and all things! I obey. O my Lord Abergavenny, fare you well ! Bran. Nay, he must bear you company, The King
(To Abergavenny.] Is pleas'd you shall to the Tower, till you know How he determines further. Aber.
As the Duke said, The will of Heaven be done, and the King's
pleasureBy me obey'd! Bran.
Here is a warrant from
So, so; These are the limbs o' the plot. No more, I
hope? Bran. A monk o' the Chartreux. Buck,
0, (Nicholas] Hopkins ? Bran.
He. Buck. My surveyor is false ; the o'er-great
Cardinal Hath show'd him gold; my life is spann'd
already. I am the shadow of poor Buckingham, Whose figure even this instant cloud puts on, By dark'ning my clear sun. My lord, farewell.
[Exeunt. 226 SCENE II. (The same. The council-chamber.) Cornets. Enter the KING, leaning on the CARDI
NAL's shoulder, the Nobles, and Sir Thomas LOVELL; the Cardinal places himself under the King's feet on his right side. King. My life itself, and the best heart of it, Thanks you for this great care. I stood i' the
level Of a full-charg'd confederacy, and give thanks To you that chok'd it. Let be call'd before us That gentleman of Buckingham's; in person 6 I'll hear him his confessions justify, And point by point the treasons of his master He shall again relate. A noise within, crying, “Room for the Queen!"
Enter QUEEN KATHERINE, ushered by the DUKE OF NORFOLK, and the DUKE OF SUFFOLK : she kneels. The King riseth from his state, takes her up, kisses and placeth her by him. Q. Kath. Nay, we must longer kneel; I am
a suitor. King. Arise, and take place by us. Half your
guit Never name to us, you have half our power;
The other moiety, ere you ask, is given.
Thank your Majesty.
King; Lady mine, proceed.
Q. Kath. I am solicited, not by a few, And those of true condition, that your subjects Are in great grievance. There have been com
missions Sent down among 'em, which hath flaw'd the
heart Of all their loyalties ; wherein, although, My good Lord Cardinal, they vent reproaches Most bitterly on you, as putter on Of these exactions, yet the King our master - 25 Whose honour Heaven shield from soil !-- even
he escapes not Language unmannerly, yea, such which breaks The sides of loyalty, and almost appears In loud rebellion. Nor.
Not “almost appears,” It doth appear; for, upon these taxations, The clothiers all, not able to maintain The many to them longing, have put off The spinsters, carders, fullers, weavers, who, Unfit for other life, compell’d by hunger And lack of other means, in desperate manner Daring the event to the teeth, are all in up
roar, And danger serves among them. King.
Taxation ! Wherein ? and what taxation ? My Lord
Please you, sir, 40
file Where others tell steps with me. Q. Kath
No, my lord ? You know no more than others? But you frame Things that are known alike, which are not
wholesome To those which would not know them, and
yet must Perforce be their acquaintance. These exac
tions, Whereof my sovereign would have note, they Most pestilent to the hearing ; and, to bear 'em, The back is sacrifice to the load. They say They are devis'd by you; or else you suffer Too hard an exclamation. King.
Still exaction ! The nature of it? In what kind, let 's know, Is this exaction ?
Q. Kath. I am much too venturous In tempting of your patience; but am bold'ned Under your promis'd pardon. The subjects'
grief Comes through commissions, which compels
from each The sixth part of his substance, to be levied