By: William Shakespeare
Conspiracies and intrigue are rife in the court of Henry VIII as a Duke is executed for treason, having been tricked by the Cardinal. And when the King falls in love with Anne Bullen and decides to divorce his wife, he causes an irrevocable rift with the Catholic Church. After the King’s secret marriage to Anne, courtiers fall in and out of favour and deaths abound, with far-reaching consequences.
Sad but funny story: in counting how many plays remain that I have yet to read, I totally forgot about this play. I guess it goes to show how often it’s remembered in the entire body of work, which is pretty sad :3 I’m honestly surprised that he decided to write a play on Henry VIII given how recent his reign was, but given everything that happened during his time, it seemed pretty ripe to stage a drama (I mean, why else do we have all these adaptations and historical fiction titles focusing in and around Henry’s reign?) 😉
Unfortunately I can see why it has the reputation that it does: it was an incredibly dull read. It covers the time when Henry VIII meets and falls in love with Anne, his divorce from Catherine of Aragorn, and England’s split from the Catholic Church up to the birth of Elizabeth. It’s a very familiar tale but unfortunately it just doesn’t quite grip the imagination; the characters felt rather flat, their speeches incredibly long, that I just felt like I didn’t engage with them. Not to mention Shakespeare just crammed everyone in there that, coupled with the time period that it covers, it’s just bloated and lacking in focus and precision from his other places. And then there’s the ending, which is more politically-motivated as a piece of flattery for James I’s predecessor.
So yeah, unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this play at all. Shakespeare obviously was working towards a particular point with this play, as is evident in the epilogue, but it just didn’t work for me at al 🙁