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Free Study Guide-Henry VIII by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Synopsis Notes
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USE OF LANGUAGE

Shakespeare’s regular verse is in pentameter. This he continually diversifies with metrical irregularities, introducing troches, spondes, anapests, dibrachs, tribrachs, and sometimes dactyles, in various parts of his lines. But his most frequent irregularity is by ending his verses with amphibrachs. This assists in preventing monotony.

Fletcher’s use of this irregularity is for more frequent than Shakespeare’s, not less than two thirds of his lines and often a longer proportion. This can be observed in Cranmer’s long speech at the close of the play, Buckingham’s three speeches on going to his execution and so through all the Fletcherian portions of the play. Fletcher has another distinctive mannerism, frequently repeating a thought or fraction of a thought, with some variation of language; this can also be seen in the previous passages.

The play is designed to extract the most theatrical appeal from its Elizabethan audience’s melancholy acquaintance with scaffold-speeches, breaking into elegies. The language of the play sometimes comes near to strangling itself in tears - this is an extension of the relationship the play tries to show between human actions and those impersonal events which the play’s muted imagery of sun, sea and rock steadily reinforces. The play’s pathos, misery and fears are its strongest theatrical effects.


STUDY QUESTIONS

  1. Cranmer’s prophecy at the close of the play unites the Themes of tragic mysticism and national greatness. Substantiate.

  2. In Henry VIII, the dramatist wished to portray a sweep of life shaped in a restorative pattern. To what extend does he succeed in doing this?

  3. The plot of the play is rather irregular; the action does not lead up to one final tragedy but is divided into many semi catastrophes. Discuss.

  4. Although the play is titled after Henry VIII, making him the most obvious protagonist, the nation of England can just as easily be taken as the protagonist. Explain with reference to the type of play this is.

  5. The play is a celebration of the Tudor regime with special reference to the gory of Queen Elizabeth’s rule. Substantiate with examples from the play.

  6. The lives of Wolsey, Katherine and Buckingham although quite diverse follow a similar pattern, leading to tragedy. Discuss.

  7. Comment on the language and imagery used in the play.

  8. Shorn of all his power Wolsey appears to be a more admirable character than he was at the height of his glory. Discuss.

  9. State and discuss the minor Themes of the play and how they interact with the action of the play.

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