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Henry VIII

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  5,201 Ratings  ·  198 Reviews
Henry VIII is a history play generally believed to be a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication in the First Folio of 1623. Stylistic evidence indicates that individual sce ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Simon & Schuster (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
...more
James
Book Review
3 of 5 stars to Henry VIII, a play written in 1613 by William Shakespeare. This play originally had a different title and there is also some suspicion that it was co-written with another person at the time. It was towards the end of Shakespeare's career where while his brilliance had grown quite impressive, his fame and fortune was also being thrust more and more into the spotlight to the point of being accused of some level of crimes against the government. Similarly, the battles
...more
Brad
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Bettie☯
Aug 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00js7zb

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
...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
David Sarkies
Aug 25, 2015 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
...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 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Bruce
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Laura
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie
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
...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
Kailey (BooksforMKs)
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Marija
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jimyanni
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Alex
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some years ago, I set a goal to try to read one Shakespeare play a year....and this year, I accomplished it! Thanks to some friends who read with me. I do love good literature and the way Shakespeare says things....it just makes me think. Not my most favorite Shakespeare play ever read, but definitely poignant at points. And I am SO grateful to not be a woman in England (or anywhere) in the 1500's. You just feel like your brain improved after reading his work. I love these words by Cardinal Wols ...more
Kathie Harper
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Save the best for last? Not necessarily but the focus of this play from the transfer of power from Catholics to Protestants to allow the divorce of Henry VIII to marry Anne Bullens (Boleyn) to seek an heir, the theme of accession once again, the end of Cardinal Wolsey in the Tower,the downfall of Katherine, the elaborate coronation, the birth and christening of Elizabeth, the future queen, the rise of Cromwell. History that we know so well but only Shakespeare along with attribution by John Flet ...more
Wafaa Khaled
Jun 25, 2011 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
Scott
Aug 27, 2013 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
Jun 10, 2013 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
Drew
Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Eyehavenofilter
Mar 23, 2013 rated it liked it
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?
rr
Jul 15, 2010 added it
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.
Kaethe
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: format-script
Can't say that I recall a single detail, line, or anything. Nada.
Laura (itslauracrow)
This was a weird play. And I say that as someone who loves the Tudor era, especially the court of Henry VIII. I didn't dislike it or find it tedious to read (Julius Caesar still has that dubious honour I'm afraid) but I didn't love it either.
It's taken one of the most exciting, dangerous, violent, passionate periods of history and made it... bland? The character of Anne has no personality whatsoever and is a complete Mary Sue. And the propaganda... I actually found it hilarious at times; "Beaut
...more
Adrian
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My imaginary staging of this play is a version of House of Cards, where the king himself isn't the chief schemer but everyone else in the court/government are plotting their power plays in private rooms and corridors about him. Like Henry IV, the king keeps a fairly low profile, though clearly makes some big decisions the details of which he expects others to work out, and seems suprised when they take a bit of fettling. I loved Katherine, a character whose lines could be read as her being a wet ...more
Carlie
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fall-2016
King Henry VIII is the history surrounding his famous divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. It also covers the other trials of various "traitors" and even Cardinal Wolsey. Honestly it has been a while since I read it but from what stood out to me the most about this play was the portrayal of Catherine and Anne. Catherine was seen as very sympathetic and Anne was simply in the background as far as the plot line goes. She only has lines in one act of the play and the sc ...more
Samuel Rooke
Because eight of Shakespeare’s history plays are so interconnected (the cycles of “Richard II / Henry IV, Part 1 / Henry IV, Part 2 / Henry V” and “Henry VI, Part 1 / Henry VI, Part 2 / Henry VI, Part 3/ Richard III”), the other history plays occupy an odd space. Technically, “King John” (and the apocryphal “Edward III”) could serve as prequels, since they are after all set before the proper cycles. “The Merry Wives of Windsor” functions like a spin-off. “Henry VIII”, then, could be conceptualis ...more
Matthew
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Monica
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This play lacks depth of character and doesn't have a very strong plot line. It seems obvious that it was an opportunity to praise the current sovereign and try to smooth over some of the questions about her birth brought about because of the extreme marriage situation her father and biological mother were in.

I'm so glad to be finished with the Hnery's on my Bard-a-Thon! It feels like I have been reading them for months, even though it has actually only been a few weeks. Excited to move back in
...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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