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King Henry VIII
 
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William Shakespeare
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King Henry VIII

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  3,780 ratings  ·  105 reviews
With new editors who have incorporated the most up-to-date scholarship, this revised Pelican Shakespeare series will be the premiere choice for students, professors, and general readers well into the twenty-first century.

Each volume features:
Authoritative, reliable texts
High quality introductions and notes
New, more readable trade trim size
An essay on the theatrical w...more
Paperback
Published December 12th 1957 by Routledge (first published 1623)
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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...more
Terence
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...more
Jimyanni
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
Bruce
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
Wafaa Khaled
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...more
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
Marija
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
Sammy
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...more
Ngaio
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
Salvatore
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
Dan
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
Eyehavenofilter
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?
Alex
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?
rr
A play that's as interesting for what it leaves out as for what it includes. A curious piece, both theatrically and politically. The scenes with Katherine made, on me, the most lasting impression.
Amerynth
Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" is best remembered as the play that was on stage when the Globe Theater burned down. There's a reason that's what it's known for.... the play itself really doesn't hold up well to the bard's more famous works.

Rife with historical inaccuracies, most of the action takes place off stage, so you just hear characters talking about it. (Yeah, I didn't like it when Hilary Mantel did this either.) It was the Elizabethan age, so of course Shakespeare makes the birth of Queen El...more
§--
Decent. Not much of a plot, as "what it's about" jumps around from (1) Wolsey's conflict with the nobility, especially Buckingham; to (2) Henry's desire of annulling his marriage to Katherine so that he can marry Anne; to (3) Cranmer's loyalty and Elizabeth's baptism. There's not really one thread that ties it all together; it's kind of like a highlight reel of Henry's life, with much of the sensitive stuff (i.e. Thomas More) left out.

Worse is that most of the juicy stuff doesn't happen onstage...more
Ben
Shakespeare's prologue instantly drew me into the play's fandom. However, I don't think I finished the play as part of that same group.

During the prologue, I imagine Shakespeare defending the purpose of his historical fiction while simultaneously revolutionizing the medium of stage plays.

How soon this mightiness meets misery:
And if you can be merry then I'll say
A man may weep upon his wedding-day.


Patrons of such plays expected humour or tragedy. To impress ones political or historical perspecti...more
Abigail Hartman
Goodness, but he did use a deal of stage directions in this one! It rather felt like half the play was action rather than dialogue. Serious, episodic, and a little dry, "Henry VIII" did not seem to me to have as much life to it as most of Shakespeare's works. Since it is historical, the plot is somewhat loose and only vaguely centered on the divorce of Katherine of Aragon; it does have an antagonist for the first part in Cardinal Wolsey, but after his downfall the division of characters becomes...more
Marty
This is the final of Shakespeare's Henry plays for me to read, and it feels as tired as any of the multi-sequeled, animated, straight-to-DVD movies that Disney puts out after each successful fairy tale. Just like those, however, there are glimmers of past glory and intrigue that make them at least watchable and at most enjoyable. For Henry VIII, this is the case in the first three acts. After those, however, Shakespeare is irritatingly tied by his modern day overseers. The only conflict in the p...more
Lise Petrauskas
I chose this as my next Shakespeare play because it is mentioned in Mansfield Park and I hadn't read it yet. I'm finding it a difficult play, with Queen Katherine being the most sympathetic character so far. I like the scene with Anne Bullen and her attendant for its comedy. Shakespeare rightly warns the audience at the beginning that it's not a light-hearted play. I'll probably enjoy it much more on a second and third reading, once I get a feel for what is happening.

Okay, now that I've finishe...more
Scott
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...more
Helene Harrison
ISBN? - 9780199537433

Genre? - Literature / History / Tudors

Characters? - Henry VIII / Anne Boleyn / Thomas Wolsey / Thomas Cromwell / Elizabeth I / Katherine of Aragon / Cardinal Campeggio

Setting? - London (England)

Series? - N/A

Title? - A simple straight-to-the-point title.

Character Analysis? - The characters seemed very inaccurate, after my detailed studies of the archival record. Anne seemed not as vibrant or argumentative as the record suggests, and Henry seemed a lot more amenable to persuas...more
Nicholas Whyte
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1223233.html[return][return]Here we are, practically at the end of Shakespeare's writing career, and he goes right back to the beginning with a play about an English King called Henry. [return][return]It's an odd one. To get the worst out of the way, the last three scenes are all about the birth of Elizabeth I and how she and her successor will obviously be wonderful. Total rubbish. But we've built up to this with the poisonous interactions of her father, Henry VIII...more
Núria
Yo esperaba que el 'Enrique VIII' de Shakespeare abarcaría todo su reinado, pero resulta que sólo se centra en el divorcio de Catalina y en el matrimonio con Ana Bolena. Me diréis que he sido ingenua de pensar que una obra podría contener tantos años concentrados, pero Shakespeare si hubiera querido hubiera podido, porque si algo se le da bien es la concentración de un montón de hechos históricos en un par de escenas, y en esta obra lo vuelve a hacer, y a mí, que soy una fan de la concentración...more
Paul Kingston
About to go see this at the thee-ate-ur. Can't say this is close to his best, but mediocre Shakespeare is better than 99.9% of everything else. Cardinal Wolsey is an interesting "villain" (especially to this Catholic reader), and Katherine of Aragon makes a touching victim. In fact, she has one of my favorite lines from the play (to Wolsey, who has aggrieved her by pursuing a path for King Henry's divorce from her): "Sir, / I am about to weep, but thinking that / We are a queen, or long have dre...more
Jasmeet
The well-intentioned play by Shakespeare is a first for me, in the series of some great historical plays of his, which deafeats the purpose of building up a plot with threads that, as soon as they are attempted to be stretched to measure the structural scope and substantial import of its themes, outdo-outstretch their fragile limits.
So much so that the plot-strands wouldn't bear upon them the evolutionary entanglement of thoughts which the other histories endeavour to present.
The characters of...more
Muhammad Ahmad
This may be Shakespeare's lowest point. It's less a play than an extended tribute to the Tudor court. Elizabeth's birth is given significance to match the birth of Jesus. The characters are lacklustre, the climaxes underwhelming. In his determination not to cause offence and appease each constituency, Shakespeare May have produced the blandest of his works.
Ben
Apparently co-written with John Fletcher, I would probably give this one 2.5 stars. It is certainly my least favorite of the Shakespeare histories. It is not the most interesting Shakespeare play; the plot seems a bit forced and certainly very slow. It was difficult to get into (having to put the book down for a while as I struggled against a bout of the flu didn't help any). Thoughts about the play: it did portray King Henry VIII in the most positive light I've ever encountered (familiar, of co...more
Trelesa
This account of Henry VIII seems glossed over, while Katherine's character was more in line to historical accounts. The short account left out a lot of the emotion and turmoil involved with the king's marriage struggles.

"Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself."

"'T is better to be lowly born and range with humble livers in content,than to be perked up in a glistening grief and wear a golden sorrow."

"Love thyself last: Cherish those hearts that hate thee. Corruption wins...more
Mike Jensen
It's two, two, two plays in one. This is a very interesting example of the "Big Man" play that turned up sometimes in early modern England. Pretty much every bit of it is wonderful, but, perhaps because of the joint authorship with John Fletcher, the bits do not add up to a wonderful play. There is nothing that can be called a plot, and the succession of fallen people wears me out. It is still fascinating, just highly flawed.
Someone needs to tell Goodreads that Fletcher is Shakespeare's co-autho...more
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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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“We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.” 32 likes
“Nor shall this peace sleep with her; but as when
The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phoenix,
Her ashes new-create another heir
As great in admiration as herself.”
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