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the Eighth is one of those which still keeps possession of the stage by the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation about forty years ago drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter. Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. At the beginning of this century it was performed by Kemble, with his sister Mrs. Siddons in the part of Katharine; and a few years ago it was revived by Sir Henry Irving. It is interesting to note that, while the title-rôle used formerly to be played by the leading actor, Kemble and Irving each took the part of Wolsey. We learn from Boswell that Mrs. Siddons considered Katharine 'the most natural character in Shakespeare, and that Dr. Johnson agreed with her.
2. THE SOURCE OF THE INCIDENTS.
The chief source of the materials for Henry VIII., as for the other Histories, is the second edition of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicle (1587). It is often said Holinshed, that certain passages were directly suggested Hall
, and Foxe. by Cavendish's Life of Wolsey, which, though not published till 1641, was widely circulated in MS. during Shakespeare's lifetime ; but it is probable that the dramatist (or dramatists) was indebted only to the passages from this biography added in Holinshed's second edition. It may be safely said that there is no detail apparently due to the Life of Wolsey which might not as well have been taken from the Chronicle, and there is certainly one instance in which a divergence, dramatically unnecessary, from facts expressly stated by Cavendish, is best explained by an inaccuracy in Holinshed's transcript. (See note on i. 4. 50.) Edward Hall's Chronicle, more correctly called The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and Yorke (1548), supplies an
1 Holinshed, however, was not indebted to Cavendish directly. He incorporated the transcription made by John Stow in the Annals or General Chronicle (1580). 'Here it is necessary', says Holinshed, 'to add that notable discourse, which I find in Iohn Stow, concerning the state of the cardinall, both in the yeares of his youth and in his settled age' (p. 917). Stow acknowledges his indebtedness to Cavendish (ed. 1615, P. 500).
occasional detail. As this is another book from which Holinshed borrowed largely, it would appear at first sight that it need not have been consulted directly; but there are certain points in the drama which remove any doubt on this score. (See note on v. 3. 10–15.) Foxe's Actes and Monumentes of the Churche (first edition, 1563) affords most of the material of the fifth act: there is no question here of Holinshed being an intermediary, for the collaborators in the second edition of the all-absorbing Chronicle did not place Foxe under contribution.
Holinshed, Hall, and Foxe are probably the only books which were consulted in the composition of the drama; at least they are alone sufficient to have supplied all its historical details. A certain divergence was necessary to bring the material into a dramatic setting, and the large number of events dealt with in Henry VIII.-e.g. the fall of Buckingham, the divorce of Katharine, the fall of Wolsey, the rise and marriage of Anne Bullen, the birth of Elizabeth, the rise of Cranmer, &c.—has made this divergence greater than in some of the other Histories. In none, however, is there a larger debt in the matter of phraseology than in Henry VIII. Certain passages, as may be judged from the Appendix, are little more than a versified form of Holinshed's prose, and occasionally the meaning of a difficult phrase can be definitely settled only by reference to the statement on which it was modelled (e.g. see note on i. 1. 86, 87). The divergences from the historical authorities may best be treated under four heads: (1) Changes in Time and Place; (2) Invention of Incidents; (3) Changes affecting Character; (4) New Characters.
(1) The play covers a period of twenty-four years—from the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520) to Cranmer's appearChanges in ance before the council (1544). The events
are represented as happening on a few daysseven, according to Daniel--- with intervals. The chronological sequence of events is not followed strictly, and perhaps none of the Histories contains more anachronisms than Henry VIII.
But in most of the rearrangements of the historical events-the chief of which are pointed out in the
Time and Place.
notes—there is an evident dramatic purpose. Another form of historical inaccuracy consists in the compression of several events into one great action, the order in which they actually happened being preserved. An excellent example is afforded by the second scene of the third act. When Wolsey enters he is still at the summit of his power, and when the curtain falls has uttered his last words; but historically there was an interval of more than a year between his disgrace and his death, and during that time he had been pardoned and restored to some of his offices. (See notes on Dramatis Persona.) This compression is the very essential of dramatic representation. It produces a unity of effect and heightens the intensity by dealing only with what is salient, and, though false to the facts of history, is true to the spirit. It is for a similar reason that the scenes are laid only at London, Westminster, and Kimbolton, though the preliminary examination of Buckingham's servants (i. 2), and the christening of Elizabeth (v.5), actually occurred at Greenwich, and Wolsey uttered his last words in Leicester Abbey.
(2) The divergence from Holinshed consists mostly in the rearrangement of details. Of the incidents which have been specially invented, the most noticeable are the
New Incidents. meeting of Henry and Anne Bullen in the masque at York-place, and Wolsey's inadvertent delivery to the king of an inventory of his own private wealth. Both are in perfect keeping: the former emphasizes the fact that it was hardly on conscientious grounds that Henry desired Katharine's divorce, while the latter makes Wolsey the victim of the very mistake whereby in actual life he had procured the ruin of a rival. (See note on iii. 2. 124.) Of the great scenes in the drama, those least indebted to Holinshed deal with Katharine; the description of her death is in the main purely imaginative.
(3) There is little to be noted under the third head. The characters of Henry VIII. are largely dramatic adaptations from Holinshed. That Wolsey appears as the incarnation of
1 Hence Froude declared that the most perfect English history which exists is to be found in the historical plays of Shakespeare' (Short Studies, ii. p. 596).
pride and self-seeking ambition, and that his great statesChanges affect- manship is not even suggested, is to be accounted ing Character. for by the prejudiced picture which is given by the chronicler; and this is the only reason why, on the other hand, Buckingham, of whom the modern estimate is not high, figures as a courageous and high-souled patriot. Dramatic representation tends to make a character either typically good or typically bad, by throwing the outstanding qualities into stronger relief. Katharine, for instance, is invested with a nobility which she hardly has in Holinshed. But such changes are necessary in a drama for the sake of clearness and distinction; and they cannot be said to make a character untrue. The chief departure from Holinshed is in the treatment of Norfolk and the Earl of Surrey (see notes on Dramatis Persona); but it is doubtful if it was deliberate, and, as it does not materially affect the character of the two nobles, it may more properly be considered simply an anachronism.
(4) The Porter, the Old Lady, and Patience are new characters. The first recalls the more famous porter in New Charac- Macbeth, and the second has a certain similarity
to the nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps Brandon should be included, though his introduction seems to be due merely to confusion with another character. (See note i. 1. 198.)
Mention has been made above of Samuel Rowley's When you see me you know me,' as a contemporary play dealing
with much the same subject. If Henry VIII. Rowley's When you see me you is indebted to Holinshed for the outline of the
story, it seems to owe to this play several of its minor details. Many of the similarities of the two plays are to be explained by their material being derived from a common source, but certain coincidences point to the direct influence of the one on the other. Attention was drawn to this by Professor Karl Elze, who, in the introduction to his edition of Rowley's play, notes the following points of resemblance.
1 The full title is When you see me you know me, or the famous Chronicle Historie of King Henry the Eight, with the birth and vertuous life of Edward Prince of Wales. It was first printed in 1605.
“King Henry...with both poets makes frequent use of his favourite ejaculation Ha!;... by both poets he is exhibited leaning on the shoulder of some one of his intimate courtiers, by both walking in the gallery as was his 'custom always of the afternoon'. Both poets show the king's angry impatience when interrupted in his privacy; the only difference is that with Rowley it is Wolsey who provokes the king's rage by his impertinence, whereas with Shakespeare the dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk have to 'endure the storm' on such an occasion. The unceremonious intrusion of an overhasty messenger into the king's presence and his angry repulsion by the latter have been transferred by Shakespeare to the dying-scene of Queen Katharine... The incident of the king's sending his ring to Cranmer is also common to both poets... The fatal influence which the cardinal exercises over the king is by both poets ascribed to his wonderful eloquence... Both poets derive the cardinal's downfall almost in the selfsame words from the same causes: from his extorting large sums from the people and heaping up immense treasures with which to attain the last object of his ambition, the papal throne; from the arrogant formula 'Ego et Rex meus', which Wolsey did not scruple to employ in his correspondence with the pope and foreign princes; and lastly, from his impudence in stamping the cardinals hat on the king's coin... Some critics may be inclined to explain these coincidences by the circumstance that both poets borrowed most of their materials from Holinshed, who indeed enumerates the above facts among the charges raised against the cardinal... This was certainly the common source of both poets, but why did they select from among the long list of charges the very same items for introduction into their plays? And what common source can be found out for those scenes, where the births of the Prince of Wales and Princess Elizabeth are looked forward to and announced? Rowley makes the king say:
Ladies, attend her! (viz. the queen); Countess of Salisbury!