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Synopsis




Shakespeare. Plays. London, 1632

The Dukes of Norfolk and Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny complain about Cardinal Wolsey, whom they believe is using his high office to dispose of anyone who threatens his power. Just then, the King’s Sergeant-at-Arms interrupts their conversation to arrest Buckingham and Abergavenny of treason.

 

At court, Queen Katherine tells the King that the common people are angry at Wolsey for imposing a new tax and worries a rebellion may ensue. The King has not heard of the tax and cancels it; Wolsey concedes defeat but aims to take credit for the reversal. One of Buckingham’s attendants tells King Henry that he has heard Buckingham claim a place in the succession to the throne; the King calls for a trial.

 

Wolsey invites the Lords and Anne Boleyn to a party; also present are the King and some of his men, disguised as shepherds. The King dances with and kisses Anne, whom he finds beautiful.

 

As Buckingham’s trial ensues, rumor blames Wolsey for the guilty verdict even as Buckingham claims loyalty to the King. Rumor also has it that the King plans to divorce Katherine with the help of Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius. The King’s alleged motivation is his worry that his marriage is illegal, but some think the King is just interested in a new wife or that Wolsey is orchestrating events for his own purposes.

 

Anne Boleyn and an Old Lady mourn the Queen’s fall from grace as Henry seeks to marginalize Katherine; Anne says she would never want to be queen. Just then, Lord Chamberlain arrives to announce Anne’s appointment as a marchioness, a title she cautiously accepts.

 

Defending her marriage while on trial at Blackfriars, Katherine begs the King to explain how she has offended him. She accuses Wolsey of instigating the divorce and leaves in anger before the trial ends. Publicly, the King praises her nobility and obedience but fears God’s punishment for marrying his dead brother’s widow. In private, Wolsey and Campeius urge Katherine to trust the King and themselves. She accuses them of purposely mistreating her, and declares she will not give up her title while she is alive.

 

Word is starting to spread that Henry is already married to Anne Boleyn, who will be crowned shortly. Wolsey is losing favor with the King who has intercepted letters to the Pope that show the Cardinal is betraying him. The King finds additional proof that Wolsey has been profiting greatly from his position. Wolsey is removed from his office; he at first objects, then realizes that his career is over and admits his wrongdoing.

 

No longer Queen, a very ill Katherine learns of Wolsey’s death after his arrest. She complains of his cruelty, but her attendant speaks well of Wolsey and convinces her to think better of him. Katherine asks that the King be informed she is dying.

 

The King tells Cranmer, a new advisor who is disliked by other Lords, that he will try to protect him. The Old Lady interrupts to announce the birth of the King and Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Elizabeth. Cranmer is brought before the Council but treated unfairly. The King asks the Council to trust Cranmer and not arrest him.

 

A large crowd gathers to see the Princess Elizabeth baptized, and Cranmer predicts greatness for Elizabeth and her successor, James.

 

Next: How Much Is True?

 





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