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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 IV, SCENE I

Summary

The two gentlemen of the earlier public scene once again encounter each other, this time in a street in Westminister. The whole place is agog with the excitement of Anne’s coronation and the two men wait to catch a glimpse of the new Queen. The Archbishop of Canterbury has finalized the King’s divorce to Katherine, now the princess dowager. As the royal procession passes by the two men are all praise for the new queen. A third gentleman, who has just witnessed the coronation, joins the two men. He gives them a detailed account of the coronation ceremony. Thomas Cromwell, he tells them, has been taken under the King’s wing and has been made a member of the Privy Council. He invites the other two men to the court and they accept his offer.


Notes

It is the second public scene in the play and calls to notice all the changes that have occurred since the first public scene at Buckingham’s execution. All the major events of the play have already occurred: Buckingham’s execution, the King’s divorce, his marriage to Anne Bullen and her coronation, Wolsey’s fall, the rise of Cromwell and Cranmer. This scene brings with a sense of perspective and makes the audience realize that events they have just witnessed have led to the making of history. This is effectively achieved by showing what has occurred through the two gentlemen’s conversation and their reactions to various events.

The people are in a festive Mood, ready for celebration and joy. It is clear they wish to forget the past and are eager to embrace the future. It is clear they are sorry for Katherine’s fate but their loyalty towards their King is untainted. The public heartily approves of Anne and applauds the King’s choice. The keen interest in Anne has displaced, to some extent, the loyalty they bore Katherine. This shows the temporal nature of the public’s loyalty, subject to the changes that occur in the higher realms of power. The one constant sentiment the people have is their regard for the King shown in the lines, "the citizens, I am sure, have shown at full their royal minds."

The third gentleman that joins the conversation brings with him much information. Through him the playwright paints a word picture of Anne’s coronation for his audience. The newcomer is well informed concerning the new appointments that have been made by the King. Wolsey’s fall has led to a shift in the power structure and new men, loyal to the King, like Cranmer and Cromwell are rising into prominence.

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