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King Henry VIII
William Shakespeare
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King Henry VIII

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  4,779 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
Desperate for a son and heir, King Henry VIII risks both his realm and his immortal soul when he divorces Katherine of Aragon in favour of Anne “Bullen.” The last of Shakespeare’s histories, Henry VIII remains famous for more than just its subject matter—a mishap during the performance of the play resulted in the original Globe theatre burning to the ground.
Published December 1st 1957 by Routledge (first published 1613)
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Bill  Kerwin

There are lots of things about this play that please and impress me, but somehow I don't think it quite works.

The best things about it are two scenes probably by Fletcher: the sympathetic portrait of Katharine of Aragon's self-defense and the dignified soliloquy of the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey after his fall. The next best thing is the artful, ironic context Shakespeare builds around them, first by creating a magnificent description of the wrestling match staged between Henry VIII and Francis
I can't say that the writing is bad, per-se, more that the topic is unworthy except for being an obligatory propagandist piece to prop up the worthiness of the Anglican church versus the Catholics.

I'm sure no one is surprised on this count.

There's rather less of the real drama that surrounded the King the man and all his travails or misogyny surrounding his six wives or the interesting women surrounding this historic character, rather it's just the focus on the single quasi-divorce still under t
David Sarkies
Aug 31, 2015 David Sarkies rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Die hard Shakespeare Fanatics
Recommended to David by: It came with another book
Shelves: history
Shakespeare's Comeback
31 August 2015

You know those directors/authors who go into retirement (or even sporting heroes, but this is book website so I don't think sports stars quite cut it) and then a few years later decided to make a comeback with another movie/book and despite all of the hype it ends out being little more than rubbish? Well, this is one of those books. Yes, I know, it was written by William Shakespeare, and yes, I know, I have given it two stars, so I guess you probably think I
Vane J.
In the school I went, we studied everything related to Spain: Literature, geography, history, etc. I don't live in Spain, nor I am Spanish, but the school has some kind of “pact” (I don't really know how to call it) with Spain, so they teach those things.

Why do I say all this? Because in 2012, I studied the story behind this book... but from Spain's point of view. It was interesting to contrast them. Not that they're any different, but it's not the same to listen to a story told by two people in
Terri Jacobson
Dec 24, 2014 Terri Jacobson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, plays
This play is Shakespeare's dramatization of parts of the life of King Henry VIII. The drama covers the dissolution of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, Cardinal Wolsey's fall, and the king's marriage to Anne Bullen. I found this work especially fascinating because of the reading I've been doing on this specific historical period. I've recently read The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser, and Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant by Tracy Borman. Shakespear ...more
Make no mistake, Henry VIII is not a "bad" play. It rates 2 stars only because it doesn't hold up against the 3- and 4-star ratings I've given other Shakespeare plays here on my shelves.

The biggest problem Henry VIII has is a lack of focus and/or a central character.

In terms of focus, we go from Katherine's divorce to Wolsey's downfall to Cranmer's rise to Elizabeth's baptism. All in five acts. There's too much here to adequately develop in the scope of a single play; even in the hands of a mast
From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:
A rare chance to hear Shakespeare's last play, starring Matthew Marsh and Patrick Malahide. Originally recorded to mark the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII.

In 1509, the 17-year-old Henry acceded to the throne of England. Shakespeare's play, co-authored with John Fletcher, opens with the arrest for treason of the Duke of Buckingham 12 years later, and tells the story of Henry's struggle to divorce Katherine of Aragon, and the catastrophic fall of the
Moira Russell
Chewed through this mainly because I badly sprained my ankle and am stuck in bed, and saw the BBC production of it but could barely follow it and felt vaguely guilty, like I'd slighted Will or something. After reading it and viewing it once again and focusing on the long, detailed critical introduction by Jay L. Halio (which was quite good and hardly at all stiff), what strikes me is not how it's about Henry VIII -- because it isn't, really, just as King John isn't really about that king and Hen ...more
May 13, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This late play, apparently co-authored with John Fletcher, was first produced during the reign of James I and is essentially a praise of Elizabeth I and her successor. Throughout the work all is continually pointing to her birth and illustrious future, this subtext being linear and unchanging. Within this, however, is the presence of roiling politics, including the rise and fall of important political personages such as Buckingham, Wolsey, and (almost) Cranmer. Recurrent pageantry is the order o ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Kailey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weighty-classics
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 Du
Nov 25, 2011 Jimyanni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
The Folger Library Edition, as usual, is a fine edition. The play, "Henry VIII", however, is far from one of the most interesting of Shakespeare's plays; it is not terribly intresting, but it IS terribly un-historical. Clearly, it accomplished what it set out to accomplish, which was to curry favor with Queen Elizabeth I, whose birth is described at the end of the play as if it were almost Messianical, and whose father (the title character) is portrayed throughout the play in the kindest light I ...more
Wafaa Khaled
Jul 06, 2011 Wafaa Khaled rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatre
الكِتاب كواقعة تاريخية منقولَة ، و مضغوطة ، بارع ..
لاحظتُ على يدِ الأستاذ محمد عناني أن شكسبير ضغطَ الأحداثَ ببراعة لتسيير روايتها و تحسين إلقائها ،
مع أن التواريخ - الغير مذكورة - مغلوطة ، و مُخلّطة بدهاء

المُقدمة طالت كثيراً فجَعلت هُناكَ فاصلاً ما بينها و بين المسرحيّة من ناحية ، و رابط بينهما من أخرى ، فهي وضّحت الكتاب و رسمت الأحداث و بيّنت الحقائق و الأخطاء ، و لكنها طالت ^^ ..

أما الشخصيّات ، فلا أعلمُ من أصدّق :/ !
الكاردينال وولزي كانَ رديئاً في عينيّ ، و هدايته في النهاية لم تأتي لي برضا
I was initially surprised Shakespeare wrote this play; I would’ve thought this a dangerous subject, especially since it was practically current history, Elizabeth having been dead only about 10 years after it was penned. After reading it, there is definitely a noticeable conservative element to the writing. The main focus on the play is pageantry, leading up to the birth and christening of Elizabeth. Most of the action takes place off stage. Instead, we’re offered a summation of the events by si ...more
Jul 11, 2014 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Among Shakespeare's histories, this was one of the weakest--which is to say that it was good rather than great. The most compelling characters--Katherine, Wolsey, Buckingham--suffered a fall from grace rather early, leaving the plot somewhat flat towards the end.

I liked how much of the action is seen through the eyes of characters with (relatively) lower social status--nobility, gentry, and commoners--rather than the royals and top clerics who call the shots. Unfortunately, none of the "lower" c
Nov 19, 2013 Sammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatre
The epitome of what an Arden edition should be. What a shame this came out so early, leaving so much for other editors to live up to!

The dense (200 page) introduction covers everything you expect - production history, composition history, placing the play within a social, cultural, political context, and textual analysis - and includes the expected amount of academic frou-frou (but we forgive those in an Arden, surely). But what really makes it sing is the editor's wonderfully knowing sense of n
Aug 30, 2016 Bettie☯ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura

Description: A rare chance to hear Shakespeare's last play, starring Matthew Marsh and Patrick Malahide. Originally recorded to mark the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII.

In 1509, the 17-year-old Henry acceded to the throne of England. Shakespeare's play, co-authored with John Fletcher, opens with the arrest for treason of the Duke of Buckingham 12 years later, and tells the story of Henry's struggle to divorce Katherine of Aragon, and the c
Matthew Gasteiger
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
We may well wonder how our greatest playwright took one of England’s most colourful monarchs and made one of his most colourless plays. This is not to say that Henry VIII is a bad play. It has many points of interest, and is certainly a vast improvement on the puerile Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s worst play.

However, it is undeniably not a strong Shakespeare play, and perhaps a brief summary of the plot (such as it is) is required before we look at the reasons for the play’s low standing in th
Aug 11, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Shakespeare. There has been nothing so rewarding in my reading this year than my plodding through the Histories he wrote. Henry VIII suffers in comparison with some of the earlier plays. I think, however, that much of the reason it suffers is because the story of this King, with his wives, and Anne Boleyn and such is one we know much more about. For instance,this spring I watched on PBS the wonderful adaption of Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall book, and it was wonderful. Now I do not know the ...more
This was a 2.5 star book for me. I found it interesting because that time period interests me. For that same reason I found it annoying because every historical character portrayed was out of character. I understand where Shakespeare was coming from politically and I know he had to do it like this, but still it grated. Somehow he managed to turn an entire generation of conniving, ambitious, and cut-throat people into Mary Sues and Gary Stus. Even the villains were nice about their treachery and ...more
Or 'All Is True'. Which we know it is not. There are the pageantry and pomp and the silly saintliness of all the characters who were (once) regal and royal. There are the villains who lose their lives due to treachery (how often this happens during the reign of Henry 8). Oddly enough most of the 'fun' stuff happens offstage. Such as the coronation of Anne Bullen - amusing rendition of her surname - which we only receive through a gossip's mouth. In short, Hilary Mantel took this material and mad ...more
Jul 01, 2014 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you read the Histories straight through in narrative order starting from King John (which is not, by all accounts, the order in which they were written), you read an epic story of the British monarchy from the middle of the 12th century through the middle of the 16th century. It's a gripping story of war and peace, sometimes (but not often) romance, deceit, birth, death, triumph and tragedy. You can clearly trace some George RR Martin source material back to various contests of lines of succe ...more
Carol Arce
In the 1623 Folio this play was printed under the title The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth, but it is now more widely known by the title under which it was first performed in 1613 All Is True. The second title is a more accurate one as the play is not a history of King Henry VIII at all, in fact, Henry is one of the more minor characters in the play. The prologue warns the reader that this is a true and sad story of how the mighty fall. The powerful Duke of Buckingham is exe ...more
Mar 08, 2016 Drew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not one of Shakespeare's best, and in fact at least one person in my Shakespeare reading group declared it his worst. I'm more inclined to go with a term like "least favorite," if for no other reason than I found the first three acts to have significant merit. The fourth act and about half of the fifth were pretty weak and could use some rewrites, but they're not all gonna be classics.
Hope N
This is it! The last of Shakespeare's works I hadn't read. I can now officially say I've read the complete works of William Shakespeare. Though the play is about Henry VIII, it really only focuses on one short period of his life, during which he divorces Catherine of Aragon and marries Anne Boleyn. Catherine's speeches are some of the most beautiful writing in the play, but otherwise, it seems kind of tepid. There is very little actual action and what action there is takes place offstage. There ...more
This is one of those Shakespeare plays that I thought would never end. It is not without merit, it's just not the best thig he ever wrote. I don't particularly like it very much. It's not for me, but if you LOVE WS, you drag you butt over the ten miles of broken glass that is this play to read it, and probably come to the same conclusion?
Karen Loder
May 02, 2016 Karen Loder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this because I was reading about Henry VIII's wives and then I found out that Shakespeare, a contemporary of that time, actually wrote a play about the historical figures I was reading about; so it was a perfect idea to expand my understanding of the events of the time, even if this is a dramatic work. The way that what we understand as the "truth" behind Henry VIII and his quest for a son through the demise of multiple wives is not found in this play, which is very interesting. It makes ...more
جابر طاحون
دي أولي قراءتي لشكسبير _ لسوء الحظ _ أنا مبحبش المسرحيات التاريخية ، لانها بتبقي عبارة عن قصة بكل معاني كلمة قصة ، تم تنسيقها في إطار مسرحي . في اعتقادي المسرح يجب أن يكتب بلغة مسرحية صرفة لا نكتب قصة في إطار مسرحي لأن النص حينها يفتقر إلي بالحياة الدرامية التي تميز المسرح عن باقي ألوان الأدب ، لكن في نهاية الأمر مقدرش أنكر براعة شكسبير في توظبف الأحداث و الشخصيات و خصوصًا شخصية الكاردينال وويلزي و توظيفه شخصية الملك بدون الانسياق لفخ الانطباع الموحد ، واهتمامه بنوحي متعددةو تقديمه بدائل في النظ ...more
Feb 01, 2010 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Read this as a companion piece after I finished Wolf Hall. I didn't even know he wrote a play about Henry VIII, and now I know why: it pretty much sucks. And a total whitewash, which makes sense in retrospect. Where's the fucking beheadings, Will?
Samantha Bee
Apr 24, 2016 Samantha Bee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to see Shakespeare take on Tudor history. I'm partial to this time period, so it was a fun read, even if I don't think this is up there with some of his better plays. Loved the speech about Elizabeth at the end, however.
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William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more
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