Search Menu

Henry VIII

William Shakespeare

Contents

Act V, Scene ii

page 2 of 2

Act V, Scene ii

Page 1

Page 2

Act V, Scene ii

Act V, Scene ii

Act V, Scene ii

Finally the pattern of false accusations comes to a halt in the failed sentencing of Cranmer. In each preceding act (except Act IV), a character has met his or her demise and is ejected from the court. Cranmer escapes this seeming predestined fate, so it is important to explore the differences in his case.

With each previous fallen character, we see that they may actually have done something wrong (Buckingham may have had designs on the throne, Wolsey seemed to be plotting with Rome about the fate of Henry's marriage and was stealing property) or they may merely have been unlucky (Katharine did not give birth to male children or to Elizabeth). But Cranmer seems to be without possible blame. During all the previous acts, he was offstage traveling from college to college to ask scholars about the legality of Henry's divorce, so he had no role in any schemes. And more importantly, he is in no way positioned to block the birth and eventual coronation of Elizabeth, which has been the background reason for the downfall of all the other characters in this play.

Charity and forgiveness, too, are themes evoked in Cranmer's trial. The king chooses to be charitable to Cranmer and to disbelieve the vicious rumors against him, while Cranmer forgives Gardiner for having desired to bring him down.

Most importantly, we see the king take a genuinely active role in changing the turn of events. When Buckingham fell, the king barely seemed to have been involved; when Katharine was ousted, the king seemed sad but convinced that his advisors were right. With Wolsey, the king reacted against Wolsey's betrayal but was absent for his actual sentencing. But in this scene, the king not only watches from above as events unfold, he has already engineered their conclusion by giving Cranmer his ring to show to the Councilors when they try to take him to the Tower. Thus, the king is brought into the trial and tells the lords to be friends and stop trying to take each other down.

It would seem, then, that the terrible circle of rises and falls in the community of the court has been brought to a close, and now that Elizabeth has been born, the nation can return to calm. Yet Shakespeare's audience would have known that both Cranmer and Cromwell, as well as Sir Thomas More (Wolsey's historical replacement, only mentioned in the play), were executed not long after the events portrayed in Henry VIII.

Page 1

Page 2

More Help

Previous Next
Not My Favorite (In fact the opposite)

by ReadingShakespeareby450th, July 13, 2013

In reading all of Shakespeare by his 450th birthday, I just finished Henry VIII. It was my least favorite of the Bard's plays, seeming to be more a platform to praise Elizabeth I than entertain audiences. In case you're interested in my take, I've blogged about it at:

http://ow.ly/mVKQx

1 Comments

1 out of 4 people found this helpful

How I got my man back

by jenniferwalker223, December 13, 2016

It's unbelievable how fortunate I feel after finding your website. For the past 6 months, I have been so depressed after losing my husband to another woman. My money situation worsened so much that I thought I'd have to file for bankruptcy. I had a huge amount of debt and I didn't know what to do. Out of complete and total desperation, I contacted many of those so-called individuals who promised powerful magic, witchcraft or black magic. None of them worked and none were as wonderful, affectionate and warm as Dr Baba has been. He is definite... Read more

HOW I GET MY EX LOVER BACK CALL IF YOU NEED HELP ON +2348100772528

by chadjeff120, April 23, 2017

I gave Dr. Alli a call regarding sudden change of my wife and he made it clear to me that my wife will love me till the end of the world,that she will never leave my sight. Now me and my wife is back together again and has started doing pleasant things she hasn’t done before, he makes me happy and do what she is suppose to do as a woman without nagging. Email him for any kind of help you may need Email: allispellhelp1@gmail.com Or Phone number:+2348100772528

See all 24 readers' notes   →