Henry VIII

Type: 
History
First Performed: 
1612-13
First Printed: 
1623
"

Men's evil manners live in brass: their virtues
We write in water.

"

After Cardinal Wolsey has the Duke of Buckingham arrested on charges of treason, Queen Katherine unsuccessfully pleads for mercy from her husband King Henry VIII. When Buckingham is executed, Katherine condemns Wolsey—a man already despised for the overwhelming taxes he has imposed on the people to support war with France. Wolsey hosts a party, at which Henry meets and falls in love with Anne Bullen.

Wolsey serves as confidante to Henry, as he rationalizes a divorce from Katherine because she is his brother's widow. Wolsey goes so far as to arrange a tribunal with a representative of the Pope to consider the matter, despite Katherine's protests and belief in the sanctity of her marriage to the King.

Despite his attempts to stay in the favor of the King, Wolsey's conniving nature is revealed to King Henry. Nonetheless, the King divorces Katherine and secretly marries Anne Bullen, making her the new Queen of England. Soon after, both Wolsey and Katherine die.

Political plots regarding the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, do not prevent him from christening the King and Queen's new daughter Elizabeth. The embroiled Archbishop foretells a glorious future for England under the future reign of Elizabeth.