Henry VIII and Pericles

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Henry VIII
by William Shakespeare
★★★

Henry VIII is the final play in the histories series. Although it’s frequently challenged as being written solely by Shakespeare, I'm accepting it as part of the canon.  The histories begin, chronologically, with Richard II and take us all the way through the Wars of the Roses.

The plot covers the execution of Buckingham, the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey, the divorce of Henry VIII and Queen Katherine, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, the birth of Elizabeth, and more. The play itself is rarely produces and not well known, but  pieces of it will be familiar to anyone who has read Wolf Hall or The Other Boleyn Girl.

There's a lot crammed into this one, but a few of the characters truly shine. Your heart breaks for the neglected Katherine. She’s tossed aside by her husband of 20 years when someone younger catches his eye. She has some fantastic moments when she challenges Cardinal Wolsey.

“Y’ are meek and humble-mouth’d,
You sign your place and calling, in full seeming, with meekness and humility;
but your heart is cramm’d with arrogance, spleen, and pride.”

Buckingham is also a sympathetic character with some great speeches. Overall the play doesn't flow as well as many of his others. It's too scattered, too many moving pieces, but it's still got some beautiful language.

“Yet I am richer than my base accusers,
That never knew what truth meant.”

“Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot
That it do singe yourself.”

“Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.
Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace,
To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not:
Let all the ends thou aim'st at be thy country's,

Thy God's, and truth's.”


Pericles, Prince of Tyre 
by William Shakespeare
★★★

In only a few minutes we’re in the midst of incest and attempted murder. There’s soap opera level drama from the start. There’s a storm at sea, shipwreck, a lost infant, lost wife, prostitutes, pirates, and so much more. Pericles escapes a dangerous situation, on the run for his life. He ends up in a new kingdom and falls in love with a princess there. In a plot straight out of The Tempest, Shakespeare has the princess’ father pretends to be against the pairing to encourage the two to fall even faster in love. There is a narrator who helps the reader navigate the many location and time changes in each act. Pericles’ lost wife plot is reminiscent of Winter’s Tale.

This is one of Shakespeare’s “romance” plays. Though the ending might be happy, the story is full of tragedy. Redemption doesn’t come until the characters are heartbroken by loss. The play is interesting, but it does feel like a pieced together effort that combines some of his better work. It was the very last of his plays that I read and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment that I've finally read ALL of his plays!

“Few love to hear the sins they love to act.”


“Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.”

1 comment:

Brona Joy said...

Bravo Melissa! That is a huge accomplishment. Have you also seen all of Shakespeare’s plays as well?