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The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth (Folger Library General Reader's Shakespeare)

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,457 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
If there ever has been a groundbreaking edition that likewise returns the reader to the original Shakespeare text, it will be the Applause Folio Texts. If there has ever been an accessible version of the Folio, it is this edition, set for the first time in modern fonts. The Folio is the source of all other editions. The Folio text forces us to re-examine the assumptions an ...more
Paperback, 132 pages
Published June 28th 1968 by Pocket Books (Mm) (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
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
...more
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
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
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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
Bruce
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
Jimyanni
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
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
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
...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
Scott
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
...more
Sammy
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
...more
Matthew
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
...more
Jeff
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
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
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
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?
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
Alex
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?
Sara
Though technically the last book that Shakespeare wrote (and in reality, he only wrote about half of this one), we read this first so that we could end on The Tempest. The snippet of Henry VIII's life depicted in this book seems like it could have been chosen better, in that it is neither the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey or the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn but the second half of his story and the first half of hers. This seems to have been because the book is really a celebration of the birt ...more
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
Jeff
Aug 29, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry Willy (and probably John Fletcher), but this one is a snoozer. I imagine some of these scenes, particularly those that rely on spectacle, work well on stage, but the lack of a coherent narrative thread here makes it feel like you are watching every other episode of the Tudors and then having to piece together what happened in the episodes you missed. Even worse, while Shakespeare was never below doing a little political ass-kissing or hatchet-work, he usually manages to layer in a subtext ...more
Jason
This play, if I remember correctly, is believed to have been a collaboration between John Fletcher and Shakespeare. There are definitely parts of the play that are clunky -- but the portrayal of the twists and turns of power, the fickleness of fortune, the battles in the corridors and shadows of power -- is pure Shakespeare. Cardinal Wolsey's soliloquy at his fall from grace and power is quite moving.

A piece of Tudor propaganda? In part. But there's, in my view, deeper questions about power, wo
...more
Christine
Aug 28, 2015 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I wanted a more contemporary opinion of the Anne Boleyn/Henry VIII marriage. So why not something written during the reign of James I, post-Elizabeth I? The Fletcher-Shakespeare play is a pageant, lots of spectacle, some great speeches for Queen Katherine and Cardinal Woolsey (particularly in his speech on arrogance, delivered to his servant, Cromwell), and, in the Signet version, some strong supplemental material, including the Holinshed, Hazlitt ...more
Kayla Jane
Dec 03, 2014 Kayla Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
While not one of Shakespeare's most often produced plays, this is a hidden jewel of production history. One of the few plays Shakespeare collaborated on writing (this was with John Fletcher), Henry VIII may not be famous, but deserves due attention. Those familiar with Shakespeare's other plays will notice the many ways this one differs; while this play feels and has the stagecraft of a non-Shakespearean drama, it has all the markings of a late Shakespeare--prolific enjambment, shared lines ever ...more
Janine Zachariae
Aug 21, 2014 Janine Zachariae rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eigentlich möchte ich gar nicht das Stück selbst bewerten. Schließlich ist es Shakespeare und er ist einzigartig, speziell und zählt zu den Größten überhaupt.
Ich möchte stattdessen auf die Übersetzung eingehen. Alles in allem war sie zufriedenstellend. Aber Baudisssin hat Namen übersetzt. So wurde aus Henrys zweiter Frau, Anne Boleyn, eine Anna Bullen. Das geht einfach nicht. Es ist ein historischer Namen und schon allein Bullen zu lesen gab dem oft ernstem Geist des Ganzen einen spöttischen Be
...more
Mkfs
Dec 02, 2015 Mkfs rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually the version in the Norton Histories The Norton Shakespeare, Based on the Oxford Edition: Histories, not the Arden.

On the surface, All is True is a puff piece written to suck up to King James I. The ending certainly gives that impression, as Elizabeth is christened and the archbishop gives forth a prophecy of her future greatness and that of the male heirs that, childless, she will miraculously produce.

But an early patron, a descendant of Buckingham, walked out at the scene where his anc
...more
§--
Nov 22, 2010 §-- rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare, plays
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
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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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“Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water.” 180 likes
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