Henry VIII | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Henry VIII | Epilogue | Summary



The Epilogue notes many people probably disliked the play. The only people who are going to say nice things about this play are good women, who are merciful. This means the men will clap, because they cannot refuse to clap when their ladies enjoyed the show.


This self-deprecating Epilogue ends the play on a lighter note, describing the various ways the play may have disappointed the audience: People who came to sleep were startled awake by loud fanfares, and people who wanted to hear witty dialogue have definitely been disappointed. The tone of the Epilogue is much different from the more serious Prologue. Shakespeare is being a little sarcastic about the sentiments of women, who would take pity on the plight of women in the play. He is playing off Aristotle's analysis of what a tragedy's purpose is—to move audience members to fear and pity. He is trying to demonstrate that what happens to the characters in the play, by implication, could happen to the people watching the play. Of course, the men watching the play would not be moved to fear and pity because they are not women, and so could not take part in such empathy, or could they?

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