Henry VIII by William Shakespeare

Henry VIII


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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

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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.

103 pages, with a reading time of ~3.25 hours (25,826 words), and first published in 1613. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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I come no more to make you laugh: things now, That bear a weighty and a serious brow, Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe, Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow, We now present. Those that can pity, here May, if they think it well, let fall a tear; The subject will deserve it. Such as give Their money out of hope they may believe, May here find truth too. Those that come to see Only a show or two, and so agree The play may pass, if they be still and willing, I’ll undertake may see away their shilling Richly in two short hours. Only they That come to hear a merry bawdy play, A noise of targets, or to see a fellow In a long motley coat guarded with yellow, Will be deceived; for, gentle hearers, know, To rank our chosen truth with such a show As fool and fight is, beside forfeiting Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring, To make that only true we now intend, Will leave us never an understanding friend. Therefore, for goodness’ sake, and as you are known The first and happiest hearers of the town, Be sad, as we would make ye: think ye see The very persons of our noble story As they were living; think you see them great, And follow’d with the general throng and sweat Of thousand friends; then in a moment, see How soon this mightiness meets misery: And, if you can be merry then, I’ll say A man may weep upon his wedding-day.


London. An ante-chamber in the palace.

[Enter NORFOLK at one door; at the other, BUCKINGHAM and ABERGAVENNY]


Good morrow, and well met. How have ye done Since last we saw in France?


I thank your grace, Healthful; and ever since a fresh admirer Of what I saw there.


An untimely ague Stay’d me a prisoner in my chamber when Those suns of glory, those two lights of men, Met in the vale of Andren.


‘Twixt Guynes and Arde: I was then present, saw them salute on horseback; Beheld them, when they lighted, how they clung In their embracement, as they grew together; Which had they, what four throned ones could have weigh’d Such a compounded one?


All the whole time I was my chamber’s prisoner.


Then you lost The view of earthly glory: men might say, Till this time pomp was single, but now married To one above itself. Each following day Became the next day’s master, till the last Made former wonders its. To-day the French, All clinquant, all in gold, like heathen gods, Shone down the English; and, to-morrow, they Made Britain India: every man that stood Show’d like a mine. Their dwarfish pages were As cherubins, all guilt: the madams too, Not used to toil, did almost sweat to bear The pride upon them, that their very labour Was to them as a painting: now this masque Was cried incomparable; and the ensuing night Made it a fool and beggar. The two kings, Equal in lustre, were now best, now worst, As presence did present them; him in eye, Still him in praise: and, being present both ‘Twas said they saw but one; and no discerner Durst wag his tongue in censure. When these suns– For so they phrase ‘em–by their heralds challenged The noble spirits to arms, they did perform Beyond thought’s compass; that former fabulous story, Being now seen possible enough, got credit, That Bevis was believed.


O, you go far.


As I belong to worship and affect In honour honesty, the tract of every thing Would by a good discourser lose some life, Which action’s self was tongue to. All was royal; To the disposing of it nought rebell’d. Order gave each thing view; the office did Distinctly his full function.


Who did guide, I mean, who set the body and the limbs Of this great sport together, as you guess?


One, certes, that promises no element In such a business.


I pray you, who, my lord?


All this was order’d by the good discretion Of the right reverend Cardinal of York.


The devil speed him! no man’s pie is freed From his ambitious finger. What had he To do in these fierce vanities? I wonder That such a keech can with his very bulk Take up the rays o’ the beneficial sun And keep it from the earth.


Surely, sir, There’s in him stuff that puts him to these ends; For, being not propp’d by ancestry, whose grace Chalks successors their way, nor call’d upon For high feats done to the crown; neither allied For eminent assistants; but, spider-like, Out of his self-drawing web, he gives us note, The force of his own merit makes his way A gift that heaven gives for him, which buys A place next to the king.