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Free Study Guide-Henry VIII by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Synopsis Notes
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SCENE SUMMARY AND NOTES

ACT I, SCENE II

Summary

The King his nobles and other dignitaries are gathered in the council chamber to carry out the proceedings of Buckingham’s trial. The King expresses his gratitude to Wolsey for saving him from a conspiracy. The Queen enters with a petition for the King. She informs him of a new tax that is being levied on the people under Wolsey’s direction. It has led the people to revolt against King. On learning about it, the King expresses his disapproval and grants pardon to people who rebelled against it. Wolsey manipulates the situation so that it appears that he is responsible for the King pandering the rebels. The Queen expresses her sorrow at Buckingham’s arrest. The Surveyor is brought to testify against Buckingham. And on the basis of this testimony the King is convinced of his intended betrayal.


Notes

The King is shown leaning on the Cardinal’s shoulder. It is a symbolic representation of the trust he places in Wolsey and his willingness to be guided by him in important matters. Even before the trial has taken place, Wolsey has convinced the King that Buckingham was conspiring against him. Since the King has already made up his mind in the matter, the formal trial is a mockery of justice.

In this scene, Queen Katherine makes her first appearance on stage. The King’s attitude toward her and the kind of relationship they share is shown, in words as well as in deeds that he is guided by her good sense in state affairs. He holds her in high regard in his mind as well as in his heart. She deserves this respect; she is truly concerned with what is happening in the country. This is further evidenced by the fact that people approach her with their grievances. The King is totally unaware of the new tax and its origins. But the Queen is more than astute; she has actual insight into the working of the political machinery. She knows that Wolsey is the one who put the new tax in action.

The tax referred to in the play is one that Wolsey lived, in the name of the King’s expensive trip to France. It consisted of obtaining one-sixth of every man’s total profit for the royal treasury. The scene shows the power Wolsey exercised behind the scenes by using the King’s name to preface his decisions. The King’s total ignorance of the new tax shows him far removed from the pertinent matters of the day. Although he redeems himself somewhat by setting the situation right, one he is made aware of the facts.

Wolsey’s skills of political manipulation and eloquence are clearly revealed. He turns a tricky situation in his own favor by using "duty" as an excuse for his actions. His star is definitely on the zenith right now in one below he extricates himself from the King’s anger and also puts a period to Buckingham’s life.

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