Henry VIII

by: William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene iv


Many official types enter a hall at Blackfriars, including bishops, dukes, scribes, then Cardinal Wolsey, Cardinal Campeius, and the king and queen. Wolsey calls for silence while the report from Rome is read, but Henry says it has already been read; there is no need to read it again. Queen Katharine kneels at Henry's feet and speaks:

She asks him to have pity on her, now that she is a stranger in a foreign kingdom. She asks how she has offended Henry, what she has done to make him want to cast her off. She says she has been a true and loyal wife, always obeying him in every matter for 20 years, and had many children with him. She says she is willing to have God punish her if she has ever done anything against Henry, but she has not. She reminds him that Henry's father and her father, the king of Spain, were wise men, who conferred and agreed that their marriage was lawful. She begs the king to allow her time to receive counsel from Spain before submitting to a trial.

Wolsey declares that many learned men are on hand, yet they cannot sway the king from his course, so there is no point in delaying proceedings. Campeius agrees that they should proceed. The queen then addresses Wolsey and says she believes he is her enemy, but she will not allow him to be her judge. She believes that he has caused this divorce, and she repeats that she will not let him judge her.

Wolsey says that she sounds unlike herself, and she does him wrong. He claims to have nothing against her and that the case against her has been discussed by many others besides himself. He denies having stirred up trouble in the marriage, and he notes that he is speaking before the king, who he hopes will defend him against Katharine's assault.

Katharine says that she is unable to defend herself against Wolsey's cunning. She accuses him of being arrogant and proud and of having gone above the power of his office to influence the king. She repeats that she will not be judged by him, and she tries to depart. Campeius and the king call her back, but she insists that she will not make an appearance during the rest of the proceeding and leaves.

Henry lets her go, saying that no man has had a better wife than her. He speaks further of her noble and obedient nature. Wolsey asks the king to declare whether he has influenced him unduly with regards to Katharine, and the king consents to clear Wolsey's name, excusing him from Katharine's accusations.