Henry VIII

by: William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene ii

The two cardinals arrive in the king's chamber to deliver the decision from Rome, but it is some time before that decision is revealed. It has been suggested that the king has had a crisis of conscience because Katharine was first married to his dead brother, and he now thinks his marriage to her may have been unlawful. Wolsey convinced the king of this possibility because he wants Henry to marry the sister of the king of France--but Henry actually wants to marry Anne Bullen.

We know that Henry was responsible for the religious break with Rome leading to the birth of the Church of England, allegedly spurred on by the Pope's refusal to grant him a divorce from Katharine. Yet little is made of this break in this play. Campeius' judgment is not nearly as important as the decision Henry seems to have already made about leaving Katharine.

We see another small example of Wolsey's actual scheming in this scene, when he reminds Gardiner that Gardiner was Wolsey's secretary first, and Gardiner assures Wolsey that he is still working more for him than for the king. It seems Wolsey does have undue influence over the king--or at least he wants to be sure he has access to all information first. But it is unclear if the placement of Gardiner proves Wolsey's inherent rottenness or not.

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