King Henry VIII enters, with Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas Lovell. The king ascends to his throne, thanks Wolsey for stopping the plots against him, and asks that Buckingham's estate manager be called in to speak. Just then, Queen Katharine enters with Norfolk and the Duke of Suffolk.
Katharine kneels before the king, intending to make a request. She says she has been asked to speak on behalf of the king's subjects, who are upset about the levying of new taxes. While the people complain mostly about Wolsey, the originator of the taxes, they speak, too, against the king, and she warns that rebellion threatens. The king says he has not heard about this tax, but the queen reminds him that whether he created it or not, he is held responsible for it.
The king asks for more information, and the queen explains that the tax is said to help pay for campaigns in France, which angers the people. The king says this tax displeases him. Wolsey claims he only set it up because the judges told him to, but he urges the king not to make changes just to please those who would say negative things. Wolsey says that what we do best is often viewed in the public eye as our worst act, and our worst works come to look like our best. But the king thinks the tax is too much, so he undoes it and orders released any who have been imprisoned for resisting payment. Wolsey tells his secretary to release the order but quietly instructs him to let it be known that the tax was reduced through the encouragement of Wolsey himself.
Buckingham's Surveyor, who ran Buckingham's estates, enters. Katharine says to the king that she thinks it is a pity that Buckingham is out of favor, and the king agrees, but he thinks that advantageous positions sometimes lead to corruption, even in the seemingly wonderful Buckingham. Wolsey orders the Surveyor to recount what he knows of Buckingham.
The Surveyor says that he heard Buckingham say he intended to arrange for the crown to fall to him should the king die without a male heir. Apparently, a friar had led him to believe that he could be in line to the throne, and Buckingham shared this information with his friends. Katharine notes that Buckingham fired the Surveyor because of complaints from the tenants; thus, the Surveyor's commentary may be an effort to get revenge on Buckingham. But the king urges the Surveyor to continue.
The Surveyor says Buckingham declared he would have Wolsey and Lovell killed if the king died and then gain the throne himself. Further, he quotes Buckingham speaking of the role his father played in Richard III's struggle for the throne. Where his father could have stabbed Richard III to death, but was restrained by loyalty, Buckingham intends to appear loyal yet kill the king. The king now believes Buckingham is a traitor who intends to assassinate him. The king calls for a trial.
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:
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