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been old men or have died at the time the last must be dated. But also the playwrights did not care about the actual sequence of events, and the historical order of events is unnecessarily disarranged in the play.
(2) The characters neither develop, nor are they consistent. An illustration of the first point may be found in the treatment of the character of Henry himself. In 1520, the date of the opening of the play, he was twenty-nine years old, in the full vigor of his young manhood, athletic, fond of pleasure, and still tricked by the external; in 1544, the latest date in the play, he was old, sick, with an indomitable will and a shrewd sense that made him the most powerful personality in Europe. But the King Henry of the play is the same from the first act to the fifth. This may be due to the fact that the writers are frankly disregarding the lapse of time. The explanation for the inconsistency of the characters is quite different. The best illustration of this is to be found in the character of Wolsey. The fallen Wolsey of Act III has little in common with the arrogant prelate that plotted the fall of Buckingham. In Act III he is a heroic character with whose misfortunes the audience sympathizes; in Act I he is a tyrant, and there is no attempt to bridge this gap. These opposing interpretations of the same person are to be found in the original authority. Holinshed's work is not a history in the modern sense. A modern historian studies the period, determines the relative values of the various incidents, and presents us with a unified 'interpretation of the events. But this is not the method of the old chroniclers. Holinshed copies previous writers, stating the fact in the margin, but he makes no attempt to reconcile them. For the character of Wolsey he relies first upon the narrative of Polydore Vergil. The latter was an Italian who came to England about 1501. He got into trouble with Wolsey and was put into prison by the latter. Consequently when he wrote his history of England, he gave an unfavorable account of Wolsey and imputed base motives for his actions. This account Holinshed followed. But toward the end of his account he ran into the life of Wolsey written by George Cavendish, who had been Wolsey's gentleman usher. Naturally to Cavendish Wolsey was ideal magnificence personified. Consequently when Holinshed grafted Cavendish's opinion of Wolsey's character upon the narrative of Polydore Vergil it formed an unexpected conclusion. In one scene of the play the two points of view are brought into sharp contrast. In Act IV, scene ii, Katharine is giving vent to ideas of Polydore Vergil, whereas Griffith replies by talking Cavendish.
(3) In any drama the scenes should have an organic relation, the succeeding scene should develop from those preceding, until in the last act the audience perceives the drama as a unified whole. That is far from the case here. The leading personage of the first part is Buckingham; then Wolsey takes the stage, then Katharine, and we end with Cranmer and the christening of Elizabeth. Thus the drama is not a drama at all; it is a series of almost unrelated scenes, describing events that occurred in the reign of Henry VIII, and with him as vaguely felt center. This again is due to the writers' dependence upon Holinshed. He had no philosophical conception of the reign, and they did little more than dramatize selected scenes as they came to them. According to the statements in the Prologue they regarded this dependence as a virtue. That is the obvious meaning of the line
'To make that only true we now intend,' and the emphasis upon truth in line 9. In other words, they felt that they were following Holinshed as carefully as possible.
THE HISTORY OF THE PLAY
On June 29, 1613, the Globe Theatre, the theatre with which Shakespeare was connected, burned to the ground, 'the house being filled with people to behold the play, viz. of Henry the Eighth.' Such is Stowe's brief account. The day following Thomas Lorkin wrote to Sir Thomas Puckering:
'No longer since than yesterday, while Burbage's company were acting at the Globe the play of Henry VIII, and there shooting off certain chambers (cannon] in way of triumph, the fire catched and fastened upon the thatch of the house, and there burned so furiously, as it consumed the whole house, all in less than two hours, the people having enough to do to save themselves.'
The most famous account is that written on July 2 by Sir Henry Wotton to his nephew:
'Now, to let matters of state sleep, I will entertain you at the present with what has happened this week at the Bankside. The King's players had a new play, called All is True, representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII, which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage; the Knights of the Order with their Georges and garters, the Guards with their embroidered coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within a while to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now, King Henry making a masque at the Cardinal Wolsey's house, and certain chambers being shot off at his entry, some of the paper, or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very grounds. This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale.'
There are other contemporary allusions to the famous fire, but the foregoing are the most precise. Thus there is no question that the Globe was set on fire during the performance of a play dealing with the reign of Henry VIII. Although there were other plays centering around Henry VIII at this time, the probability is that the particular play is, certainly for the most part, the one we have. Contemporary verses mention both Heminges and Condell as being the actors in it; and Heminges and Condell ten years later printed our play as belonging to the Shakespearean repertoire. In 1623 they could scarcely have forgotten the play that had proved so disastrous to them. If this is the play, either Sir Henry Wotton was mistaken about the title, or it was advertised under an alternative title All is True, and the lines of the Prologue may allude to this alternative title. There are two slight corroborative details. In Act I, scene iv (1. 49), a stage direction reads ‘chambers discharged'; the Globe would seem, then, to have burned at the end of the first act. And the business' of the part of King Henry was said after the Restoration to have been handed down from Shakespeare himself.
The suggestion of Chambers and others that it was an old play revamped does not seem probable. Sir Henry Wotton speaks of it as a 'new play. This seems borne out by internal evidence.
The play apparently was thrown together hurriedly, without much planning, to meet some emergency. What that emergency was it is impossible to tell at this late date. It has been suggested that the play was written to celebrate the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth with the Elector Palatine, which took place on the fourteenth of February, 1613. But as runs were very brief in that age, it is questionable whether Wotton would have described it four months later as 'new' if that had been the case. There is no need for positing a great ceremonial, or an affair of state, to call for the play. The emergency may equally well have been purely theatrical: that the manager was disappointed in a play for which he had contracted, or that the play he had intended to produce was unavailable for one of a hundred reasons, and a new play had to be substituted. At least, Henry VIII shows signs of hurried work. As we do not have the manuscript, it is always possible that the obvious errors in the text are due to the mistakes of the typesetter. That is not true in some cases here. The authors themselves must be held responsible for imprisoning Wolsey in Asher House, the residence of the Bishop of Winchester, when Wolsey was himself Bishop of Winchester. Such a slip can mean only that the authors had read their Holinshed rapidly. The banquet after the coronation is plainly stated to have been held in Westminster Hall; on a preceding page, following the account of a previous procession, Holinshed tells us that Anne retired to Whitehall. Presumably the authors lost the place in the chronicle and they have put the coronation banquet in Whitehall. Sandys, who was 'Lord' Sandys in Act I, is degraded to mere knighthood in Act II. Such mistakes as these are not due to an ignorant typesetter; they are due to a writer that cares vastly more for the theatrical significance of the scene th for historical accuracy.