Last night I simultaneously watched and read Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and I have to admit, it wasn’t that bad. At the moment I’m in my final stages of being (yet again) in graduate school for a MA in Literature and I just so happened to sign up for an incredibly grueling class, otherwise I would never read/watch a play (I would just read it). The BBC version that I watched was excessively long, but that’s because it cut out maybe 40 lines of dialog total, abating my guilt further. In Shakespeare’s canon I take the Histories with a grain of salt because they are regarded as boring by so many (even the ones with Falstaff, who is great). I vastly prefer his comedies, but that’s me.
Henry VIII‘s claim to fame is that the modest cannon fanfare that accompanies it burned down the Globe. That fact is interesting and completely useless for my class, I just wanted to mention it here, because if I mention it in class my professor will be like “So what?” and then mentally note that I deserve a B in the class. I presume.
In Henry VIII the famously amorous Henry forces a divorce on the Catholic badass Catherine of Aragon. She easily has the best speeches in the play and is way smarter than everyone else, immediately seeing through Cardinal Wolsey, and laying down verbal beatings at every turn. She’s loyal to her servants, too, which I think is an excellent quality in a Queen. Of course Henry divorces her under the guise of wanting a male heir, but mostly because he wants to force the much younger Anne Boleyn to sleep with him, poor girl. She never had a chance. Anne’s “old lady” lady in waiting is my second favorite character because she’s so rude to everyone and almost gets away with it (when she lies to Henry about the first baby’s gender – because she thinks it’s funny to screw with the king’s emotions – he stiffs her on her tip, but it’s better than dying like most of his wives will).
Cardinal Wolsey is the stock bad guy who, after accidentally foiling himself by giving incriminating letters to Henry like an idiot, repents all the awful stuff he’s done. Also he realizes that when he took down Catherine he accidentally opened the doors for the Protestant Reformation, OOPS! It’s kind of hilarious that a king known for two things (one: being super fat, and two: being super amorous) took a big bite out of Catholicism. Catholicism never saw it coming!
Either way, I still think the History plays are a yawn fest, and this one is too by and large, but it’s worth experiencing for Catherine, who is amazing. Wish me luck making this all sound smart in time for my class tonight!
PS: It’s my birthday. I couldn’t figure out how to work that into the post and I wanted to say it, so … yeah.