Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Henry VIII

Posted by nliakos on August 18, 2008

by William Shakespeare. Arkangel. Paul Jesson as Henry VIII, Jane Lapotaire as Katherine, Timothy West as Cardinal Wolsey, Katharine Schlesinger as Anne Bullen; directed by Clive Brill.

Vicki has been reading me historical novels about Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon, so I actually got this CD book in the hope that she would listen to it (which she didn’t). I haven’t read any of Shakespeare’s histories other than Julius Caesar in the 9th grade. What I found fascinating about this one is that Shakespeare was writing not many years after the events in this play actually happened. Elizabeth I was queen when Shakespeare was alive, and Elizabeth’s mother was Anne Boleyn (Bullen). The play seems to have been written partly as a paean to Elizabeth, especially the last act, which recounts Elizabeth’s christening and includes a very enthusiastic blessing by Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet it is interesting to remember that Henry had Elizabeth’s mother executed on a trumped-up charge of infidelity. Shakespeare seems to have gotten around this unpleasantness by portraying both Henry and Anne in a positive light and making Cardinal Wolsey into the villain of the piece. It must have been a challenge!

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