Henry VIII

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scenes i-ii

A messenger enters, announcing the arrival of Capucius, an ambassador from Katharine's father, Charles V of Spain. Capucius says he has been sent by Henry to ask after her health, but Katharine says he is too late, since she is already dying. She gives Capucius a letter for the king, in which she asks Henry to care for their daughter and to provide for her servants, who have all been faithful during Katharine's life. Katharine asks Capucius to tell the king of her in all humility, saying that she will soon die and not be a trouble to him. Calling to her servants, she prepares for bed.


As in the street scenes after Buckingham's trial, we see that the citizens of Henry's reign are very interested in the events of the court and anxious to be on hand to witness pivotal events. Seeing the coronation is very exciting for them. They seem very impressed with Anne and pity Katharine; they seem to hold judgment of the king's actions.

Katharine, meanwhile, hears of Wolsey's death and foresees her own. She is able to forgive Wolsey's bad treatment of her because of the good words Griffith speaks on his behalf, explaining how Wolsey came to be a humble man in the end. Later Katharine stresses her own humility to the king, through Capucius. Humility and forgiveness come to all those cast off by the king in the end; even Katharine, who held her wrath for Wolsey the longest, can forgive him. Yet neither she nor Wolsey is able to live long after being exiled from the court.

These two scenes have unusually long stage directions during the procession and Katharine's vision. Many critics believe Shakespeare co-wrote Henry VIII with John Fletcher, the man who followed Shakespeare as chief playwright at the Globe, though proof is inconclusive. At the very least, these long stage directions are uncharacteristic of Shakespeare's usual style and may have been added by someone else, whether or not it was Fletcher.

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