Henry VIII

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scenes i-ii

Summary Act IV, Scenes i-ii


One gentleman meets another in the city street, where they wait to see Anne, now queen, pass on the way to her coronation. The last time they met in the street was for the sad event of Buckingham's trial, so they are glad for a return to the more usual pomp of the royalty. They discuss a list of those who are to be promoted today, including Suffolk and Norfolk, and they note that Katharine has been renamed "Princess Dowager" after the divorce.

The coronation passes with Suffolk, Norfolk, Anne, Surrey, and other important state officials. The gentlemen comment on who holds which decoration of state and how impressed they are with Anne. A third gentleman arrives, having just seen the coronation ceremony. He relates it to the other two.

He tells how everyone filed into the Abbey and that the people were so impressed with the beauty of Anne. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer, performed the ceremony making her queen, the choir performed, and the procession passed out of the church to the court for celebrations. The third gentlemen notes that Gardiner was there and is not fond of Cranmer. But the gentlemen agree that nothing can come of this rivalry, as Cranmer has one friend who will not abandon him--namely Cromwell, who is in favor with the king and just got a promotion. The gentlemen depart.

In Katharine's apartments, she asks her attendants to tell her about the death of Cardinal Wolsey. Apparently, after his arrest Wolsey grew ill and died a broken man. Katharine says she will speak of him with charity but goes on to mention how his enormous ambition shackled the kingdom; he used bribes for ecclesiastical favors, he said lies and was duplicitous in words and actions, and he was generally a bad example for the clergy.

But her attendant Griffith speaks well of Wolsey, noting that he was a good scholar, kind and generous to his friends, and a patron of education. Upon his demise he discovered humility and found himself and died fearing God. Katharine listens to Griffith's speech and says she hopes Griffith will eulogize her when she dies, since he speaks so well. Griffith's words have made her want to honor the man who she hated most. She wishes Wolsey peace in death.

Katharine goes to sleep with her attendants by her. She sees a vision of six people in white robes with garlands around their heads. They dance around Katharine, offering her a garland, and then dance away. Katharine wakes and calls to her attendants, asking if they have seen anything. She tells about the vision, saying it promised her eternal happiness. The attendants note to each other that they think she has not yet long to live if she is seeing such visions.