Norfolk, Suffolk, Lord Chamberlain, and Surrey enter. Norfolk urges for them to combine their complaints against Cardinal Wolsey, for Wolsey wouldn't be able to resist a united front. Lord Chamberlain says the only way to get at Wolsey is to bar his access to the king, but Norfolk says that the king has already become displeased with Wolsey. Norfolk tells that Wolsey's double-dealing in the divorce proceedings has come to light, and Suffolk explains: Wolsey's letters to the Pope were intercepted by the king, who discovered that Wolsey urged the Pope to deny Henry the right to divorce until Henry had gotten over his infatuation with Anne Bullen. In fact, the king has already married Anne, reveals Lord Chamberlain. Suffolk compliments Anne, who he thinks will bring blessings to the land. According to Suffolk, Cranmer returns soon from his trip to the famous colleges of Christendom, and thereafter the new marriage will be published, and Katharine will be renamed "Princess Dowager."
Wolsey and Cromwell enter, and the other lords stand aside to observe them. Wolsey asks about the delivery of his letters, and when Cromwell leaves, Wolsey comments to himself that the king shall marry the French king's sister, not Anne Bullen. Wolsey suggests that he objects to Anne on religious grounds, since she is a Lutheran. And he speaks against Cranmer, who is now in favor with the king. The lords cannot hear him speak, but they observe that Wolsey seems ill at ease.
The king enters with Lovell, muttering to himself about the wealth Wolsey has accumulated. He asks the lords if they have seen Wolsey, and they reply that he is nearby but strangely upset. The king says it may be because of misdelivered papers the king just encountered, including a surprisingly large inventory of Wolsey's holdings. Lovell summons Wolsey, who confronts the king.
Henry comments to Wolsey that he must be too busy contemplating spiritual matters to consider the earthly world, but Wolsey says he has time for both. Henry reminds Wolsey that Henry's father gave him his post, and Wolsey has been a right-hand man throughout Henry's own reign. Drawing him out, the king asks Wolsey to admit that he had been made the principal aide to Henry. Wolsey says that the praises showered on him by the king have been more than enough reward for his efforts and that all his work has been aimed at the good of the king and the profit of the country. Wolsey declares his loyalty, and the king observes that his speech makes him sound like a loyal servant--though he clearly doubts it. He comments that the reward for loyalty and obedience is honor, as the reward for disloyalty and corruption are their own punishment, bringing dishonor. Wolsey repeats that he has always worked for good and honorable ends.
Then, the king gives Wolsey the papers he has intercepted and exits with the nobles. Wolsey wonders how he has caused such annoyance in the king, then examines the paper. Immediately he sees that his career is over. The first paper is the inventory of the wealth Wolsey has gained for his own ends. He opens the second paper, which is his letter to the Pope. Wolsey knows there is nothing he can do; he has reached the highest point in his career and now must fall. Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, and Lord Chamberlain re-enter and announce the king's order for Wolsey to give over the seal of his office, which Wolsey carries, and confine himself to his house. Wolsey is unwilling to step down before these lesser lords, and he accuses them of envy. He charges the lords with being too eager to view Wolsey's disgrace and his fall, and he says he prefers to give the seal directly to the king.
Surrey accuses Wolsey of being ambitious and heartless in bringing about the death of Surrey's father-in-law, Buckingham, and sending Surrey away to Ireland from where he could not protest the death. Wolsey says he was innocent of holding any private malice toward Buckingham, and he reminds Surrey that a jury sent Buckingham to his death. Surrey, angered at Wolsey's arrogant speech, reminds Wolsey of his efforts to take the lands and holdings of other nobles and the scheme he had been cooking up with the Pope against the king. Norfolk tells Wolsey that he holds a set of articles enumerating the faults of Wolsey, written in the king's hand, but Wolsey says his innocence will be found when the king knows of his loyalty.
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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