Book Review: Henry VIII

Henry VIII
Henry VIII by William Shakespeare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this play so much! It had a tight plot and delightfully interesting characters. I was especially intrigued with the changes that some characters went through, or the way some of them reacted under extreme circumstances.
This is the story of how Henry VIII got rid of his wife, Katherine, and fell in love with Anne Boleyn, married her instead, and had a daughter, Elizabeth. Of course, there’s a ton of political intrigue going on, and people being accused as traitors right and left. The Duke of Buckingham goes on trial as a traitor in the first scene, even though he’s innocent. Along with a bunch of corrupt Bishops and Cardinals, Cromwell is lurking in the background.
There are some really tense and emotional scenes with really powerful dialogue!

I loved Queen Katherine for her noble spirit and her gallant manners towards even her enemies. She is never shrewish, but always courteous and kind to everyone even when she is under the most horrible stress. Only once does she openly denounce the terrible Cardinal, and even then she does it with the language of justice and righteousness, not revenge or hatred.
She is always saying how humble she is, that she’s ‘only a woman and unable to speak properly among the educated nobles’, but I wonder if these lines aren’t delivered sarcastically. She’s obviously able to verbally spar with any of those high-born or highly-educated cardinals and bishops and lords. Her best defense is how virtuous her life has been, and she clings to that to the end. With her final breath, she blesses her enemies and forgives them. What a character!
I think Queen Katherine is the real hero of the story. She’s such a noble person, pure of heart and mind, and humble and kind to everyone. I just love her powerful dialogue!

Cardinal Wolsey is so sly and deceptive and horrible! He’s greedy and nasty and vengeful. He just lies right to everybody’s face, and then goes on with his evil plans! It makes for wonderful drama.
It’s interesting to me that Wolsey seems to have a change of heart once all his evil shenanigans are exposed. He seems to show true remorse once all is lost, or is it just a case of “I’m sorry that I was caught,” not “I’m sorry that I did it”? What a character! I don’t know what to think. He does make himself ill with all that remorse though, so maybe he really did repent of his evil ways.

Henry VIII himself is just a selfish old dog. He finds all sorts of clever ways to justify his actions and get what he wants. He is definitely a powerful personality and a sharp mind to be reckoned with. Even when he was sweet-talking everyone and making his excuses for bad behavior, I pretty much despised him. At least he stood by some of his friends in the end, instead of believing all the bad rumors about them. Too bad that it was too late for Buckingham.

I loved this play!

View all my reviews

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