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King Henry the Eighth

William Shakespeare


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Description

King Henry the Eighth is a history play generally believed to be a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the life of Henry VIII of England. The play implies, without stating it directly, that the treason charges against the Duke of Buckingham were false and trumped up; and it maintains a comparable ambiguity about other sensitive issues. The disgrace and beheading of Anne Boleyn (here spelled Bullen) is carefully avoided, and no indication of the succeeding four wives of Henry VIII can be found in the play. However, Catherine of Aragon's plea to Henry before the Legatine Court seems to have been taken straight from historical record.

Part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World set.

This book has 158 pages in the PDF version, and was originally written in 1623.

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Excerpt from 'King Henry the Eighth'

I come no more to make you laugh: things now,
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe,
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow,
We now present. Those that can pity, here
May, if they think it well, let fall a tear;
The subject will deserve it. Such as give
Their money out of hope they may believe,
May here find truth too. Those that come to see
Only a show or two, and so agree
The play may pass, if they be still and willing,
I'll undertake may see away their shilling
Richly in two short hours. Only they
That come to hear a merry bawdy play,
A noise of targets, or to see a fellow
In a long motley coat guarded with yellow,
Will be deceived; for, gentle hearers, know,
To rank our chosen truth with such a show
As fool and fight is, beside forfeiting
Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring,
To make that only true we now intend,
Will leave us never an understanding friend.
Therefore, for goodness' sake, and as you are known
The first and happiest hearers of the town,
Be sad, as we would make ye: think ye see
The very persons of our noble story
As they were living; think you see them great,
And follow'd with the general throng and sweat
Of thousand friends; then in a moment, see
How soon this mightiness meets misery:
And, if you can be merry then, I'll say
A man may weep upon his wedding-day.

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