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Free Study Guide-Henry VIII by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Synopsis Notes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

King Henry VIII is the ruler of England, where all the action described in the play occurs. And in England itself, most of the events are concentrated in the city of London, which houses the royal palace and Westminister’s abbey. Along with the royal apartments, the palace also houses the court and the council- chamber. It is in the court and the council-chamber. It is in the court that the King hears Queen Katherine’s appeal on behalf of the people and where the testimony of the surveyor is heard. The council chamber is where the members of the King’s Privy Council met to try Cranmer’s case.

Two other, important points of interest, are the Westminister’s Abbey and Kimbolton. The Westminister’s Abbey is the venue of important official events like passing the verdict on Buckingham and then, later on it the play, Anne'’ coronation as the Queen. Due to its importance in such matters, the Abbey draws the people of London, and it in a street near the Abbey that the conversation among the "gentlemen" occurs.

After her divorce is finalized, Katherine moves her residence from Ampthill to Kimbolton. It is at Kimbolton that she receives Capucius, ambassador from her nephew the Emperor Charles V and she also meets her end while residing in Kimbolton.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

King Henry VIII

The ruler of England, he exercises considerable power on state matters. He is married to the Katherine of Aanagon, his late brother's widow. He relies on capable and trustworthy men to handle the day to day affairs of the state at first Wolsey and later on Cromwell and Cranmer.

Cardinal Wolsey

A man of humble birth, who has risen to a high rank of power in the clergy and in the state on the basis of his ability and personal merit. He is a man with a shrewd mind, ready eloquence and insatiable ambition.

Queen Katherine

The daughter of the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. She is the wife of King Henry VIII till his divorced with her is finalized. She is the mother of Princess Mary, her daughter from her marriage with Henry.

Anne Bullen

The daughter of Sir Thomas Bullen, the Viscount Rockford and one of Queen Katherine’s Maid of Honor. After her marriage with King Henry VIII and her subsequent coronation she becomes Queen Anne.


Minor Characters

Cardinal Campeius

A papal legate, who has been sent from Rome to be an indifferent hearer and to represent the Pope at the trial of the King’s divorce.

Capucius

An ambassador from the Spanish Emperor Charles V. He visits Katherine in Kimbolton on behalf of Charles V, who is Katherine’s nephew.

Cranmer

A well-learned clergyman and a faithful servant of King Henry VIII. The King makes him the Archbishop of Canterbury in return for his help with the King’s divorce.

Duke of Norfolk

One of the noblemen at the King’s court. A friend of the Duke of Buckingham, he warns the latter of the danger inherent in speaking openly against Wolsey.

Duke of Buckingham

A man of great abilities much loved by the people and held in high esteem by both the King and the Queen. His enmity with Wolsey costs him his life.

Duke of Suffolk

One of the King’s courtiers. He possesses a shrewd mind, a cutting tongue and although aware of Wolsey’s influence he is not intimidated by the former.

Earl of Surrey

The son in law of the late Duke of Buckingham. His knowledge of Wolsey’s hand in the duke’s execution makes him hate the cardinal and participate activity in the latter’s downfall.

Lord Chamberlain

One of the King’s trusted officials and he is the one who informs Anne Bullen, on the King’s behalf, that she has been made the Marchioness of Sembroke.

Lord Chancellor

He presides over the meeting of the Council when it meets to try Cranmer. Moreover, he saves the council from the King’s wrath by soothing the latter with a well-worded apology.

Gardiner

The Bishop of Winchester and a devout Catholic. He is strongly opposed to Cranmer and tries to destroy the latter because of Cranmer’s Protestant leaning in religion.

Bishop of Lincoln

The man the King approached first concerning the question of the legitimacy of the marriage with Katherine. He advised the King to consult other learned men and clergy from various Christian countries.

Lord Abergavenny

Buckingham’s son in law and is arrested along with the latter and confined to the Tower for the duration of the trial.

Lord Sands

One of the King’s courtiers, he deplores the French mannerism brought to the English court by the nobleman who have returned from the court by the nobleman who have returned from the court of the French King. He also entertains the nobleman at the supper party given by Wolsey.

Sir Henry Guildford

The comptroller of Wolsey’s supper party and welcomes the guests on the latter’s behalf.

Sir Thomas Lovell

Whom the King charges him to find out how Queen Anne’s labor is progressing. Unlike Gardiner, he does not wish Anne harm and subtly cautions Gardiner against airing verbal hostility against Cromwell and Cranmer.

Sir Anthony Denny

One of the King’s nobleman, he is charged by the King to bring Cranmer before him.

Sir Nicholas Vaur

In charge of conducting the Duke of Buckingham to his execution.

Secretaries to Wolsey

They arrange the testimony of the surveyor for Wolsey and according to his orders sent letters to every shire saying that it is due to Cardinal Wolsey’s intervention that the King has granted pardon to the people who rebelled against the new tax.

Cromwell

One of Wolsey’s most faithful servants and remains loyal to his master till the end. On Wolsey’s advice, he seeks the King’s patronage and soon rises to a position of power.

Griffith

The gentleman usher to Katherine and devoted to her welfare.

Three gentlemen

The representative of the informed citizens of the land. Their conversations reveal their concern and interest in the important events that occur in the palace.

Doctor Butts

He is the King’s physician, and it is he who informs the King of the shabby treatment Cranmer receives at the council’s hands.

Surveyor to the Duke of Buckingham

It is on the basis of his testimony that the Duke is executed on the change of high treason. Earlier, he had lost his position as the Duke’s surveyor when the Duke received complaints against him from his tenants.

Brandon

Whom the King charges to get the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny arrested and imprisoned in the tower.

Porter and his man

Responsible for keeping the masses out of the palace-yard during the christening of Princess Elizabeth.

An Old Lady

A shrewd old woman and a friend of Anne’s. She is the one 2who brings the news of the birth of Princess Elizabeth to the King.

Patience

One of Katherine’s women. Katherine entrusts for with her last wishes regarding her funeral arrangements.

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