Henry VIII Paper - A Critical Analysis of Shakespeares...

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A Critical Analysis of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII Briana Baillie April 28 th 2011 Dr. Mikkelson History 353
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Shakespeare’s Henry VIII is wrought with misconceptions in regard to historical reality. There are many pivotal points in history that are left out of the play due to the social implications of Shakespeare’s time. This paper will analyze the misconceptions in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and compare them with historical fact. The play starts in the 2 nd year of Henry VIII reign and ends in the 24 th year of his reign (1510-1533). The events in the play were condensed from the 22 years in which they actually occurred to the short time period as portrayed in the play. Shakespeare begins the dialogue with Buckingham and the other lords discussing the Field of the Cloth of Gold 1 in France. Although historically Buckingham was present on the occasion, here Shakespeare proposes that he was absent because of an ‘ague’, giving Norfolk the opportunity to describe the ‘view of earthly glory’ that he missed (1.1.14-38). The point of this passage is not the magnificence of the occasion, but its excess and cost. This leads directly into the conflict between Wolsey, the upstart prelate who arranged it, and Buckingham, the nobly descended aristocrat, who despises him. The competition between the two continues until first one and then the other falls. During this passive aggressive relationship between Wolsey and Buckingham, King Henry is neither seen nor heard from. In the play Henry seems to be a figurehead that can be easily led, and is unaware of much that is going on in his court or his country.   The stage directions for this next scene are symbolically very significant, because the King enters ‘leaning on Cardinal Wolsey's shoulder’. This is Henry's first appearance on stage, and his dependence on Wolsey is very obvious. Queen Katherine comes to Henry on behalf of his subjects and asks him to lower or rescind the tax 1 1 It was the site of a meeting that took place from 7 June to 24 June 1520, between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. The meeting was arranged to increase the bond of friendship between the two kings following the Anglo-French treaty of 1514.
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recently levied for the campaigns in France. Henry is not even aware that this tax has been levied and we come to find out that Cardinal Wolsey is behind it. Henry ends up reversing this tax but doesn’t seem too bothered that it was put into effect behind his back (1.2.19-102). Here we see some of Wolsey’s first true treachery when he has his minions spread the word that the relief comes from his (not Katherine's) intercession with the King. In reality Henry VIII was a powerhouse of a man. He was nick-named the Lion, and his court the lion pit, a place where “all the sumptuous diversions of palace life could be fun but ‘often he roars in rage for no known reason, and suddenly the fun becomes fatal’.” (Wilson) Henry was often said to be capricious and larger-than-life but he never seemed to be a small man
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Henry VIII Paper - A Critical Analysis of Shakespeares...

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