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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 III

Summary

Lord Chamberlain and Lords Sands are ridiculing the affectations acquired by the English nobles, who have just returned from France. Sir Thomas Lovell enters with the news that the noblemen who have been disrupting the court activities have been banished from it, by the King’s orders. Since these are the very men who have brought French customs to the English court, the three noblemen present hope that their disgrace will lead to the English manner again gaining popularity, especially with the noblemen. Lord Chamberlain invites the other two to aboard his barge as they are all heading for Wolsey’s supper-party.

Notes

The first two scenes in the play are essentially serious ones. This scene, on the other hand, is one that begins on a light note, which is sustained throughout it. It serves as a break for comic relief after the serious issues that have been dealt before. The dialogue that occurs between Lord Chamberlain and Lords Sands has universal appeal. They ridicule the pretentious manners acquired by the English noblemen from this sojourn in France. Shakespeare describes with picturesque humors the appearance of the slashed breeches. The description is in keeping with the jocular Mood of the scene. This type of ridicule is something Shakespeare’s audience could have applied to their own times with its new fashions.


Wolsey throws generous parties for the nobility of the land. The parties are very popular with everyone happy to accept invitations to them. Parties on such a lavish scale bespeak money, and from sand’s sarcastic comments it is clear that Wolsey is a very wealthy man. This shows another dimension of Wolsey’s life his great personal wealth and popularity as a host.

ACT I, SCENE IV

Summary

The Cardinal’s supper party is at his York palace. Sir Henry Guilford is the master of ceremonious for the evening. Lord Sand is seated between two women, one of who is Anne Bullen and he is entertaining them with his light talk. Wolsey enters and the supper-party gets seriously underway with his arrival. The sound of drums, trumpet and cannon balls heralds the arrival of foreign noblemen who have come to join the party. Wolsey grants his permission of these men, whose faces are covered by masks. In truth, it is the King with some of his noblemen. The King chooses Anne Bullen as his dance partner and is smitten by her beauty. Wolsey guesses the identity of the masked men correctly. The King unmasks and lids everyone to be merry and enjoy an evening of wine and dance.

Notes

The English nobility is a privileged lot with a lot of money that is spent freely on entertainment. This is exemplified in Scene III that is a description of Wolsey’s supper party. Wolsey has left no stone unturned to ensure that his guests have a good time. He hires Sir Henry Guilford as his master of ceremonies, who is one of the best of his time. And as Guilford puts it, it is all there, "good company, good wine and good welcome."

The supper party provides a context for the meeting between the King and Anne Bullen. So, it is very important for the development of the plot. It is the first time Anne Bullen makes her appearance in the play. The berets of information are given about her here. Usually an important character is given more of an introduction. It is not really needed in case of Anne Bullen. Since this is an historical play, the audience is aware of the story and the dramatist doesn’t have to underline the importance of the particular character.

The scene throws light on another side of the King’s character. In the second scene, he is shown as the dutiful husband. This scene shows him to be a man eager to sample life’s sensual pleasures. He is easily smitten by Anne’s beauty and exclaims, "O beauty, till now I never knew thee!" As the evening progresses he displays a decided preference for her and asks her to stay by his side. The seeds for what is later going to turn into a near obsession with Anne Bullen have been sowed.

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