Play Commentary
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  •       Each commentary applies the Sonnet philosophy
          to the plays and poems of Shakespeare
          to reveal their inherent meaning.

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearen Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
        Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint

                  HENRY VIII


    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.

    Henry VIII

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Nature Template <i>Sonnet</i> Numbers

    Nature template (Sonnet numbers)

    Henry VIII is the first of Shakespeare’s ‘History’ plays from the Folio of 1623 to be considered in these commentaries. The play, however, differs from the other history plays in one marked respect. While the others were written in the 1590s, Henry VIII dates from around 1612.
          Shakespeare’s decision to write a history play over a decade after the 1590s and a few years after the great tragedies suggests that the meaning of the play is not related to the date of composition or to the category under which it appears in the Folio. Julius Caesar (1599) and Anthony and Cleopatra (1606), for instance, are based on historic events but are classed as tragedies.
          Shakespeare’s decision to write a history play more than a decade after the earlier ones adds support to the contention of these commentaries that all his plays are based on the Sonnet philosophy. The philosophy of a play like Henry VIII, even though it uses material from Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, cannot be derived from a study of historic sources. Rather Shakespeare’s purpose was to show how historic events and stylistic differences could be reconciled using the natural logic of the Sonnets.
          Shakespeare uses historic incidents in his plays to show that traditional Judeo/Christian prejudices can be reconciled from the vantage of the Sonnet philosophy, and to show how the course of historic events conforms to the Sonnet logic. Because his intent was to use the accounts of such events to critique the sectarian conflicts generated by the Church and the Crown and resolve them according to natural logic, the historic reportage is always secondary to the demonstration of the consistency of the Sonnet philosophy.
          This commentary will show that Henry VIII is unequivocally based on the Sonnet philosophy. As it was written about three years after the Sonnets were published it should not surprise that only by applying the Sonnet logic does the meaning of the play emerge. Only then can the traditional denigration of parts of Henry VIII be rectified.
          As the commentary unfolds, it will become apparent why Shakespeare begins the play with the Duke of Buckingham and Cardinal Wolsey rather than King Henry (a procedure questioned by some commentators), why Katherine of Aragon and Anne Bullen are the only two of his six wives to appear, and why the eulogy to the baby Elizabeth is the closing event. Even the Epilogue, dismissed by commentators as the work of an inferior hand such as John Fletcher, summarises the play according to the Sonnet logic and numerology.
          Because the Sonnet logic is based in nature, Henry VIII begins and finds its resolution in nature. And, in accordance with Sonnet logic, the play asserts the priority of the female over the male and the priority of increase over cultural desires. On the social/political level the play addresses the evil that results from excesses of idealism. Shakespeare’s concern with the unbridled idealism/egotism that drives Cardinal Wolsey’s interference in affairs of state and Henry’s naïve acquiescence in Wolsey’s schemes foreshadows the complete separation of Church and State that occurred in revolutionary Europe and America.
          Throughout the play, Shakespeare employs arch irony when his characters make continual assertions of allegiance to the male King and to the male God of the Church. And the illogicality of the attempts of the male King and Clergy to ensure male succession is underscored at the end when Cranmer, with unwitting tongue in cheek, foretells the golden reign of Henry’s unwanted female heir Elizabeth.
          As no commentator in 400 years has understood the Sonnet philosophy and as the Sonnet philosophy is the philosophy behind all the plays, then references to previous attempts to understand Henry VIII are largely futile. Because commentators have been unwilling to admit the inadequacy of the Judeo/Christian paradigm, they have sought to excuse their ignorance by lambasting the play and, even when they find it strangely satisfying, they concoct theories to show that only the parts they prefer were written by Shakespeare.
          In the 1971 Penguin edition, for instance, the editor, A. R. Humphreys, lists a number of contradictory responses to the play and then, for his own part, asserts that ‘Henry VIII is not a deeply rewarding play to criticise’. He then trawls up the authorship issue as the only ‘incentive to critical attention’. Yet from the vantage of the Sonnet philosophy the play is a brilliant exposé of the iniquities of male-based religion and male-based succession. The same play the misguided editor dismisses as unrewarding for criticism provides a devastating criticism of the traditional paradigm to which he attempts to convert the play.
          Once it is appreciated that Henry VIII is based on the Sonnet philosophy, the understanding of Shakespeare’s intent is increased. Shakespeare not only critiques idealist contradictions but also creates a consistent model for behaviour and understanding.

    Analysis of Henry VIII

    In keeping with his intention to use the example of the male-based prejudices of King Henry VIII to illustrate the ludicrousness of male primogeniture, especially when it is a pretext for divorce and execution, Shakespeare has his Prologue inform the audience that the ‘Things’ they are about to witness have a ‘Weighty, and a Serious Brow’. He invites those that can ‘Pity’ and those who can be ‘still, and willing’ to witness the finding of ‘Truth’ presented in ‘two short hours’.

    I come no more to make you Laugh, Things now,
    That bear a Weighty, and a Serious Brow,
    Sad, high, and working, full of State and woe:
    Such Noble Scenes, as draw the Eye to flow
    We now present. Those that can Pity, here
    May (if they think it well) let fall a Tear,
    The Subject will deserve it. Such as give
    Their Money out of hope they may believe,
    May here find Truth too. Those that come to see
    Only a show or two, and so agree,
    The Play may pass: If they be still, and willing,
    Ill undertake may see away their shilling
    Richly in two short hours. Only they
    That come to see a Merry, Bawdy Play,
    A noise of Targets: Or to see a Fellow
    In a long Motley Coat, garded with Yellow,
    Will be deceived
    . For gentle Hearers, know
    To rank our chosen Truth with such a show
    As Fool, and Fight is, beside forfeiting
    Our own Brains
    , and the Opinion that we bring
    To make that only true, we now intend,
    Will leave us never an understanding Friend.
    Therefore, for Goodness sake, and as you are known
    The First and Happiest Hearers of the Town,
    Be sad, as we would make ye. Think ye see
    The very Persons of our Noble Story,
    As they were Living
    : Think you see them Great,
    And follow’d with the general throng, and sweat
    Of thousand Friends: Then, in a moment, see
    How soon this Mightiness, meets Misery:
    And if you can be merry then, I’ll say,
    A Man may weep upon his Wedding day. (Prologue.1-33)

          Shakespeare is dismissive of those who have come to the theatre expecting a ‘Bawdy Play’ or one in which characters wear a ‘motley coat’. His rejection of their lowly expectations anticipates the subsequent reception of his work in which commentators, who suggest he deliberately indulges in ‘bawdy’ or smut, avoid his logical examination of the mythic relation of the sexual and the erotic. Shakespeare dismisses those who forfeit their ‘own Brains’ when they refuse to see beyond the prejudices or ‘Opinion’ they bring with them.
          He invites them, instead, to ‘think ye see the very Persons of our Noble Story as they were Living’ and ‘think you see them Great’ only then to see ‘How soon this Mightiness, meets Misery’. Then ironically he suggests that if the audience can be ‘merry’, after witnessing the disastrous consequences of the abrogation of natural logic, then such a man would ‘weep upon his Wedding day’.
          Shakespeare begins the play with the character who is closest to nature. The Duke of Buckingham, while not given the insights of a person who understands the Sonnet logic, is nevertheless acknowledged by the King in scene 2 as being the most bound to nature.

    The Gentleman is Learn’d, and a most rare Speaker,
    To Nature none more bound; his training such,
    That he may furnish and instruct great Teachers,
    And never seek for aid out of himself: (1.2.450-3)

          Buckingham, because of his regard for nature, is a teacher of ‘Teachers’. He, somewhat like the Poet of the Sonnets whose inner thoughts are at one with nature, is able to find within himself all the ‘aid’ he requires to be the complete person. So his execution, brought about by the deceptions of the Cardinal and the gullibility of the King, identifies them with the persistent Church and State sponsored evil that runs through the play.
           Buckingham, who has been confined by an illness, opens by asking the Duke of Norfolk how things went in France when the ‘Suns of Glory, those two Lights of Men’, King Henry and Francis 1, met in the Vale of Andren. Norfolk recounts how the two kings embraced as if they were a ‘compounded one’.

    Beheld them when they lighted, how they clung
    In their Embracement
    , as they grew together,
    Which had they,
    What four Thron’d ones could have weighed
    Such a compounded one? (1.1.50-4)

          Shakespeare then has Norfolk describe the ‘earthly glory’ of their meeting as a marriage in which ‘Pomp’, once ‘single’, was now married ‘to one above itself ’.

    Then you lost
    The view of earthly glory
    : Men might say
    Till this time Pomp was single, but now married
    To one above itself
    . (1.1.57-60)

          The effect in Norfolk’s eyes was to reveal the Christian God’s historic relation to ‘Heathen Gods’ and the Gods of ‘India’.

    Today the French,
    All Clinquant all in Gold, like Heathen Gods
    Shone down the English; and tomorrow, they
    Made Britain, India: (1.1.62-5)

          Norfolk also recognises that the ‘Pride’ of men inverts the priority of the female over the male. Their pride turns the propensity for females to give birth or ‘labour’ into little more than a work of art or ‘painting’. Shakespeare, through Norfolk, critiques the belief that, because women are depicted in myth as inferior beings, they must be so in life. But the ‘Mask’ of male superiority is shown to be a ‘Fool, and Beggar’ at ‘night’, when the logic of the sexual dynamic in nature reasserts itself.

    The Madams too,
    Not used to toil, did almost sweat to bear
    The Pride upon them
    , that their very labour
    Was to them, as a Painting. Now this Mask
    Was cried incomparable; and th’ensuing night:
    Made it a Fool, and Beggar
    . (1.1.67-72)

          The punctuation of the passage is critical for understanding the relation of day and night. Editors remove the colon after ‘night’ and the comma after ‘fool’, so removing the pauses, which emphasise the way ‘Pride’ is shown to be a fool when it begs for the Madams’ pleasure. Norfolk began his description of the events in France by telling Buckingham how ‘each following day became the next day’s master’. His account does not suggest that the Kings’ ‘Suns’ were on display at night, so the ‘ensuing night’must refer to the time when the Kings’ sexual ‘Pride’was deflated by the Madams.
          The effect on the two Kings then, who appear ‘but one’ and ‘equal in lustre’ when together, is to switch from being the ‘best’ to being the ‘worst’ when one or the other was present. Shakespeare follows the sexual allusions of the preceding lines with the logical relation of beauty and truth out of the sexual. The capacity of the Kings to seem one when together, but best or worst when apart, after the introduction of Nature’s Buckingham, brings the basic components of the Sonnet logic into play.

    The two Kings
    Equal in lustre, were now best, now worst
    As presence did present them: Him in eye,
    Still him in praise; and being present both,
    ’Twas said they saw but one, (1.1.73-6)

          Shakespeare, though, has Norfolk use another sexual pun when he reports that any person who discerned the Kings’ weakness as men before women dared not wag his own ‘Tongue’ (or penis) in censure. The sight of the Kings in arms was sufficient to quell such thoughts.

    and no Discerner
    Durst wag his Tongue in censure, when these Suns
    (For so they phrase ’em) by their Heralds challenged
    The Noble Spirits to Arms, they did perform
    Beyond thought’s Compass, (1.1.76-80)

          The opening lines of Henry VIII recall the words and themes of The Phoenix and the Turtle. The similarity is confirmed by Norfolk’s reference to ‘that former fabulous Story’ and, by the reference to ‘birds of wonder’ and ‘Maiden Phoenix’ in Cranmer’s speech at the end of the play. Phrases such as ‘grew together’, ‘compounded one’, ‘single, but now married to one above itself ’, ‘equal in lustre’, ‘present both’, and ‘they saw but one’, are all reminiscent of the 1601 poem.
          In The Phoenix and the Turtle, Shakespeare critiques the excessive idealism of the two deluded birds. When they immolate themselves to gain immortality, they incur the scorn of the Poet for reducing to ashes their natural potential for posterity. Shakespeare begins Henry VIII by invoking the same critique. The Kings, when they embraced, ‘grew together’ to become a ‘compounded one’ that shone like the single idealised God. The sexual metaphor of ‘growing’ mocks the male on male conceit that precludes the ‘four Thron’d ones’ or the Kings meeting on equal terms with their Queens.
          Having characterised King Henry as a Godlike male, Shakespeare then introduces the natural logic of the female to reveal the fallacy of the King’s pride. The ‘Madams’, like the argument for posterity in The Phoenix and the Turtle, serve as a reminder that, if they are constrained to toil under male pride they might as well be ‘paintings’. But the ‘Suns’ that shine by day are eclipsed by night. They become like fools and beggars when their sexual urges acknowledge the logical priority of the female.
          If, according to the commentators, Henry VIII is an uneven play by an aging playwright, who wanted to honour a King of England by indulging in pageantry and a few stirring speeches, then their quibbles about the play should be justifiable. At the least Shakespeare’s reasons for introducing the play with Buckingham and Wolsey instead of Henry, for criticising Henry’s judgment, for featuring only two of Henry’s wives, and for ending with the birth of Elizabeth should remain incomprehensible.
          If, though, it can be shown that the whole play can be understood by applying the logic of the Sonnet philosophy, which prioritises nature over God, the female over the male, increase over truth and beauty, and provides the logical conditions for any mythic expression, then the commentators’ quibbles are unjustified. Further, if it can also be shown that the critique of excessive idealism in The Phoenix and the Turtle drives the opening 40 lines and that the theme of addressing excessive idealism is consistent with the action of the play, then the disservice given Shakespeare by 400 years of inadequate commentary needs to be rectified.
          When Buckingham suggests Norfolk goes too ‘far’ in his account of the royal excesses, Norfolk insists to the contrary that ‘Honesty’ even by a good ‘Discourser’would ‘lose some life’ when compared with the ‘tongue’ of ‘Action’s self ’. Then Buckingham, responding to the success of the pageantry in France, notes ironically that the ‘Order’ of the Great Chain of Being (with Kings and Gods at the top) has been observed, so asks who was responsible for setting ‘the Body, and the Limbs of this great sport together?’

    Norfolk. As I belong to worship, and affect
    In Honour, Honesty, the tract of every thing,
    Would by a good Discourser loose some life,
    Which Action’s self,was tongue to
    Buckingham. All was Royal,
    To the disposing of it nought rebelled,
    Order gave each thing view. The Office did
    Distinctly his full Function: who did guide,
    I mean who set the Body, and the Limbs
    Of this great Sport together
    Norfolk. As you guess:
    One certes, that promises no Element
    In such a business. (1.1.84-96)

          The passage is reproduced in full because editors, following Theobald in the eighteenth century, reallocate parts of the speeches from the Folio text. Because they are blind to Buckingham’s sarcasm, or unwilling to acknowledge it for prurient reasons, they destroy the ironic tone established by Shakespeare as he critiques the iniquities of Church and Throne.
          The mocking tone throughout the dialogue between Buckingham and Norfolk is then brought to a pitch. Buckingham’s sarcasm toward the ‘Order’ of duty anticipates his question as to ‘who’ it is that Norfolk refers, even though he knows the answer. When Norfolk, acknowledging that Buckingham can ‘guess’ who, says it was the ‘Reverend Cardinal of York’, Buckingham vents his spleen at the ‘fierce Vanities’.

    The devil speed him: No man’s Pie is freed
    From his Ambitious finger. What had he
    To do in these fierce Vanities? I wonder,
    That such a Keech can with his very bulk
    Take up the Rays o’th’beneficial Sun,
    And keep it from the Earth
    . (1.1.100-5)

          Buckingham’s retort summarises the principle concerns of the play. Shakespeare argues throughout the Sonnets, and presents case after case in the plays, against the iniquities of excessive idealism. So it is not surprising to hear Buckingham call Cardinal Wolsey a devil’s agent whose belief in God becomes evil when it is applied beyond its natural bounds. The Cardinal’s stage-management of the meetings of the two Kings as a heavenly pageant is recognised by Buckingham as being an evil expression of the ‘vanity’ or egos of all concerned, monarchy and clergy.
          Buckingham characterises Wolsey as a roll of fat or ‘Keech’ who keeps the natural rays of the beneficial sun from reaching the earth. Buckingham, already associated with nature, is aware of the unnatural consequences when the overly idealistic expectations of the Church are associated with the worldly powers of Kings.
          Norfolk reflects that the Cardinal has no legitimacy other than through the wealth his Church gathers from believers, which he then uses for selfaggrandizement and for buying favour with the King.

    There’s in him stuff, that’s put him to these ends:
    For not being propped by Ancestry, whose grace
    Chalks Successors their way; nor called upon
    For high feats done to’th’Crown
    ; neither Allied
    To eminent Assistants; but Spider-like
    Out of his Self-drawing Web
    . O gives us note,
    The force of his own merit makes his way
    A gift that heaven gives for him, which buys
    A place next to the King
    . (1.1.107-15)

          Lord Abergavenny interjects that it is not possible to tell what qualities heaven has given the Cardinal because ‘his Pride’ creates a new hell out of the God from whom the hell of Satan was originally derived. Shakespeare, through Abergavenny, rejects as wishful thinking the belief that God and Satan separated once and for all before the creation of the world. Men like Cardinal Wolsey demonstrate that an excessive belief in God in any age brings forth a renewed Hell.

    I cannot tell
    What Heaven hath given him
    : let some Graver eye
    Pierce into that, but I can see his Pride
    Peep through each part of him: whence has he that,
    If not from Hell
    ? The Devil is a Niggard,
    Or has given all before, and he begins
    A new Hell in himself
    . (1.1.116-22)

          The Cardinal’s devilry has seen many of the gentry charged penalising taxes that have so ‘sickened their estates’, which then provide a ‘most poor issue’ (a sexual pun). The peace between the English and French was not worth the cost imposed on the people. The ‘fierce Vanities’ of the Kings, which were given a glorious expression by the Cardinal, generated a ‘general Prophecy’that the ‘Peace’would experience a ‘sudden breach’, which is what transpired at ‘Bordeaux’.
          When Buckingham reflects that the Reverend Cardinal should be held responsible for the ‘business’ of the French ‘attaching’ the ‘Merchants goods at Bordeaux’, Norfolk cautions him to ‘read’ the Cardinal’s ‘Malice, and his Potency together’. He warns that the Cardinal’s ‘Hatred’, his ‘Revengeful Nature’, and his sharp ‘Sword’ make him a ‘Rock’ to be shunned.
          So when Wolsey passes by on cue, he ‘fixes’ a disdainful eye on Buckingham, and makes his intent clear by asking his secretaries about the examination of Buckingham’s surveyor. Once he has moved on, Buckingham calls him a ‘venom’d-mouth’d…Butcher’s Cur’ who he does not have the ‘power to muzzle’. Norfolk response, and Buckingham’s rejoinder, characterises the problem.

    Buckingham. This Butcher’s Cur is venom’d-mouth’d, and I
    Have not the power to muzzle him, therefore best
    Not to wake him in his slumber. A Beggar’s book,
    Out-worth’s a Noble’s blood.
    Norfolk. What are you chaffed?
    Ask God for Temp’rance, that’s th’appliance only
    Which your disease requires
    Buckingham. I read in’s looks
    Matter against me, and his eye reviled
    Me as his abject object, (1.1.188-97)

          The Butcher’s Cur or Dog is snake-like, and hence speaks like the Devil. But tradition says the Devil was once at one with God, recalling Abergavenny’s accusation that Wolsey creates a new hell through his selfserving role as God’s representative. Buckingham cannot muzzle the Dog because the Cardinal hides behind the Bible. Wolsey turns the Bible into a Beggar’s book in an attempt to out-worth Buckingham’s rights as a Noble.
          Norfolk’s mention of ‘God’ plays on the anagrammatic reversal of Dog and God. He implies that Wolsey the Cur shows by his words and deeds that God and Dog inhabit the one form. Once Buckingham appreciates that God, and God plus the Devil, are logically the same because one is the inverse one of the other, then that is the only ‘appliance’ or device he needs to cure the Cardinal’s ‘disease’. The disease is inherent in the Cardinal’s avowal of belief in an absolute God.
          Wolsey as Cardinal presumes to represent God as the absolute good. Instead, because of his ambitions, he reveals the dark side of God in his Doglike acts. And he compensates for his self-delusion by looking at Buckingham as if he was the ‘abject object’. A man who should be seen as a simple ‘object’ is twisted into an objectionable creature through the distorting lens of the Cardinal’s over-weaning faith in the power of God the absolute. Norfolk advises Buckingham to ‘let his reason’ question his ‘choler’. If Buckingham’s ‘soul’ is based on the ‘sap’ of natural reason, then he should minister to himself.

    be advised;
    I say again there is no English Soul
    More stronger to direct you than your self
    If with the sap of reason you would quench,
    Or but allay the fire of passion. (1.1.218-22)

          Buckingham agrees to moderate his anger but asserts he has ‘clear proof ’ that Wolsey is ‘corrupt and treasonous’. But Norfolk, knowing that Wolsey will listen to neither anger nor reason, again urges caution. Buckingham, though, is convinced that the Cardinal’s part in promoting the ‘costly treaty’ between England and France and its breach at Bordeaux, plus his complicity with Charles the emperor of Spain, will cause the King to turn against him.
          Before Buckingham has made his accusation, though, the sergeant at arms and guards arrive to arrest him and Abergavenny for ‘High Treason’. Buckingham and Abergavenny, by calling on the ‘will of heaven to be done’, both note the irony of being betrayed by a man of God. They appreciate that the chance of a just God emerging from the duplicitous God/Dog of Wolsey or the gullibility of Henry is zero. As he is led away, ‘Nature’s’ Buckingham expresses Sonnet based insights by reflecting on that ‘which makes my whit’st part, black’ (sonnet 127) and ‘whose Figure even this instant Cloud puts on by Darkening my clear Sun’ (sonnet 33).
          When scene 2 opens Shakespeare has Henry blindly state that Wolsey has saved his ‘life’, whereas Wolsey, through his God/Dog machinations, has taken the King further from a life at one with nature.

    My life itself, and the best heart of it,
    Thanks you for this great care: I stood i’th’level
    Of a full-charged confederacy, and give thanks
    To you that choked it. (1.2.321-4)

          The blindness of the King is further accentuated by the Queen’s accusation against Wolsey. Already Buckingham and Abergavenny have revealed the duplicity inherent in a man of God. In keeping with Shakespeare’s Sonnet logic, the male-based authority of the Bible is shown to be both self-serving and corrupt because it hides its male-based agenda behind the appearance of idealised good.
          So once the King reveals himself as a confederate in Wolsey’s male-based politics (though compared with Wolsey he is relatively benign) Shakespeare has the Queen or the representative of the Mistress from the Sonnets, clearly identify the worldly evil being wrought by the holy cardinal of God. The Queen opens her case by noting the false ‘good’ of the Cardinal, and the shielded ‘honour’ of the King.

    There have been Commissions
    Sent down among ’em, which hath flawed the heart
    Of all their Loyalties; wherein, although
    My good Lord Cardinal, they vent reproaches
    Most bitterly upon you, as putter on
    Of these exactions: yet the King, our Master
    Whose Honour Heaven shield from soil
    , even he escapes not
    Language unmannerly; (1.2.347-54)

          When the Cardinal attempts to deny his role in exacting punishing taxes, the Queen insists that he knows ‘more than others’. She uses biblical allusions (‘most pestilent to the hearing’, ‘the Back is Sacrifice to th’load’) to convey the duplicity in Wolsey’s faith, and she appeals to the King that there is ‘no primer baseness’. The effect of Wolsey’s Christian exactions is to turn the King’s subjects ‘prayers’ to ‘curses’. But Wolsey attempts to excuse his excessive taxes on the populace (and his personal aggregation of wealth) by claiming they are a necessary ‘fate’ and ‘brake’ that ‘Virtue must go through’.
          The King, whose ignorance is a consequence of male-based desires and a denial of the illogic of those desires, ironically uses natural metaphors to characterise Wolsey’s self-serving argument. Shakespeare, with deliberate irony, has Henry evoke the tree of life, which in biblical mythology becomes the tree of death in the Garden of Eden in Genesis and in the crucifix of the New Testament.

    Things done well,
    And with care, exempt themselves from fear:
    Things done without example, in their issue
    Are to be feared

    Sixth part of each?
    A trembling Contribution;why we take
    From every Tree, lop, bark, and part o’th’Timber:
    And though we leave it with a root thus hacked,
    The Air will drink the Sap
    . (1.2.424-34)

          The Cardinal’s unrelenting duplicity is revealed in his instruction for his man to send a letter, which would make it seem as if he has received the King’s ‘grace and pardon’.
          The irony is brought to a pitch when the King (after characterising Buckingham as bound to Nature), under the influence of the Christian Cardinal, falsely accuses Buckingham’s ‘mind’, rather than Wolsey’s, of ‘growing corrupt’ as if ‘besmeared in hell’.

                                        yet see,
    When these so Noble benefits shall prove
    Not well disposed, the mind growing once corrupt,
    They turn to vicious forms, ten times more ugly
    Than ever they were fair. This man so compleat,
    Who was enrolled ’mongst wonders; and when we
    Almost with ravished list’ning, could not find
    His hour of speech, a minute:He, (my Lady)
    Hath into monstrous habits put the Graces
    That once were his, and is become as black,
    As if besmear’d in hell. (1.2.453-63)

          When Wolsey instructs Buckingham’s surveyor to relate what he has ‘collected’ of his master, the surveyor first accuses him of wishing to supplant the King if the King was to have no issue. Shakespeare points to the central theme of the play (and of the Sonnets) at the decisive moment when Buckingham’s fate is sealed by Wolsey’s influence over the surveyor. Buckingham will be executed by the King because of a fabricated charge regarding his inability to produce a male heir.

    First, it was usual with him; every day
    It would infect his Speech: That if the King
    Should without issue die
    ; he’ll carry it so
    To make the Scepter his. These very words
    I’ve heard him utter to his Son in Law,
    Lord Abergavenny, to whom by oath he menac’d
    Revenge upon the Cardinal. (1.2.472-8)

          Wolsey’s response plays on the possibility of ‘conception’ both as idea and as pregnancy. He also twists the surveyor’s trumped up allegations of Buckingham’s treason into an offence by Buckingham against himself. His complicity in the surveyor’s testimony is revealed by his attempt to make himself seem like a victim of treasonable intent.

    Please your Highness note
    This dangerous conception in this point,
    Not friended by his wish to your High person;
    His will is most malignant, and it stretches
    Beyond you to your friends. (1.2.479-83)

          The Queen’s interjects that the Cardinal should not prejudice the evidence, but the King overrides her as he wants to know more of Buckingham’s threat to his succession.

    How grounded he his Title to the Crown
    Upon our fail
    ; to this point hast thou heard him,
    At any time speak ought? (1.2.487-9)

          The surveyor, in accord with Wolsey’s intention of implicating Buckingham by associating him with recalcitrant elements of the Church, claims his Confessor ‘fed him every minute with words of Sovereignty’. The surveyor purports that he obtained as ‘a matter of some moment’ the incriminating information in confidence from his own Chaplain.

    neither the King, nor’s Heirs
    (Tell you the Duke) shall prosper, bid him strive
    To the love o’th’Commonalty, the Duke
    Shall govern England. (1.2.514-7)

          But the Queen sees through the deception to which the King is blind.

    If I know you well,
    You were the Duke’s Surveyor, and lost your Office
    On the complaint o’th Tenants
    ; take good heed
    You charge not in your spleen a Noble person,
    And spoil your nobler Soul; I say, take heed; (1.2.518-22)

          But the surveyor is prepared to perjure his ‘Soul’. He claims he told the Duke that the Monk might be deceived by the ‘Devil’s illusions’. So either Buckingham and Abergavenny are right and it is Wolsey who sides with the Devil, or the surveyor is right and it is Buckingham who is in league with the Devil.
          Shakespeare leaves no doubt about the evil intentions of an ambitious churchman, and expresses his certainty through the insights of the Queen. Her part in the play role as virtual ‘Mistress’ is in keeping with the priority of the female over the male in the Sonnets. The surveyor delivers a fatal twist when he claims Buckingham was plotting to ‘stretch’ Henry with a knife as his father Henry VII should have done to ‘th’Usurper Richard’. Henry turns to the Queen who responds ‘God mend all’ in keeping with Henry’s leading role in the male-based self-delusion.
          Shakespeare adds to the already intense irony when he has the Duke’s supposed exploits with the knife read like a hilarious erotic encounter.

    Surveyor. After the Duke his Father, with the knife
    He stretched him
    , and with one hand on his dagger,
    Another spread on’s breast, mounting his eyes
    He did discharge a horrible Oath, whose tenor
    Was, were he evil used, he would outgo
    His Father, by as much as a performance
    Does an irresolute purpose.
    King Henry. There’s his period,
    To sheathe his knife in us: he is attached,
    Call him to present trial: if he may
    Find mercy in the Law, ’tis his; if none,
    Let him not seek’t of us: By day and night
    He’s Traitor to th’height. (1.2.556-69)

          In scene 3, when the Lords’ dismiss the costumes and customs brought back to England from France, Shakespeare anticipates the prejudiced reception of his nature-based philosophy by Christian orthodoxy. The ‘spells of France’, which could ‘juggle men into such strange mysteries’, are represented as ‘unmanly’ and ‘Pagan’ to the point that they have ‘worn out’ the beliefs of ‘Christendom’.

    Chamberlain. Is’t possible the spells of France should juggle
    Men into such strange mysteries?
    Sandys. New customs,
    Though they be never so ridiculous,
    (Nay let ‘em be unmanly) yet are follow’d.

    Chamberlain. Death my Lord,
    Their clothes are after such a Pagan cut to’t,
    That sure th’have worn out Christendom: how now? (1.3.570-88)

          In the exchange between the two Lords, Shakespeare unites two events from Holinshed (from February and June 1520). Because he is using the historic events to make a larger point about the inconsistencies of belief, he is not concerned with the specific dates. Only when Henry VIII is viewed as an expression of the Sonnet philosophy, with its priority of nature and women over the beliefs based in male Gods, can this exchange seem anything more than the gossip of two disgruntled English Lords.
          Scene 3 also acts as a satirical interlude before Henry and Anne Bullen meet in scene 4. As if anticipating Henry’s desire for divorce, which is enflamed by his meeting with Anne and which leads to his schism with Rome, his Lords compare the advantages of French and English seduction. So when Sir Thomas Lovell enters to announce that a Proclamation has been posted to enforce the ‘reformation’ of the ‘travel’d Gallants’, their exchange contrasts Gallic flair with English reserve. The irony is reinforced by the presence in the passage of an undercurrent of ‘faith’ and ‘converting’ and oblique references to ‘our Lady’ and Mary (‘I marry’).

    Lovell. They must either
    (for so run the Conditions) leave those remnants
    Of Fool and Feather, that they got in France,
    With all their honourable points of ignorance
    Pertaining thereunto;

                            Renouncing clean
    The faith
    they have in Tennis and tall Stockings,

    They may Cum Privilegio, wee away
    The lag end of their lewdness
    , and be laughed at.
    Sands. ’Tis time to give ‘em Physic, their diseases
    Are grown so catching
    Chamberlain. What a loss our Ladies
    Will have of these trim vanities?
    Lovell. I marry,
    There will be woe indeed Lords, the sly whoresons
    Have got a speeding trick to lay down Ladies.
    A French Song, and a Fiddle, has no Fellow.
    Sands. The Devil fiddle ’em,
    I am glad they are going,
    For sure there’s no converting of ‘em: now
    An honest Country Lord as I am, beaten
    A long time out of play, may bring his plain song,
    And have an hour of hearing, and by’r Lady
    Held current Music too.
    Chamberlain. Well said Lord Sands,
    Your Colt’s tooth is not cast yet?
    Sands. No my Lord,
    Nor shall not while I have a stump. (1.3.601-32)

          To reveal the Lord’s insensitivity to hypocrisy, Shakespeare has them excuse Wolsey’s excesses, who in ‘sparing’ for himself such excesses ‘would show a worse sin, than ill Doctrine’. Shakespeare has the Lords, who say they care more for the ‘Beauty of this Kingdom’, quibble over stylistic differences in matters of sexual license. They do not appreciate that the language they use to disparage the French is interwoven with the language of ‘ill Doctrine’, the worst of which will be used by Henry to justify the pursuit of his male-based machinations.
          The conflict between ‘doctrine’ and ‘sin’ continues in scene 4 when the Lords arrive at Wolsey’s banquet, which is replete with fair ladies. When Lovell suggests to Sands he might be a ‘Confessor, to one or two of these’, he replies he would find an ‘easy penance’ for them on a ‘downy bed’. The easy virtue of the nobles, in a context of double standards generated by the King, will reach its first pitch when the King uses ‘ill Doctrine’ to relieve himself of the ‘sin’ of his marriage to his brother’s wife, Katherine, so that he can bed the younger Anne Bullen.
          In the banter between the Lords, as they position themselves amongst the ladies, Anne first words are to ask Sands if his father ‘was Mad’. Sands self-delusion is cut short by Anne when, after the Cardinal rebukes him for not making the Ladies merry, he offers to ‘play’ with his ‘thing’. She says he ‘cannot show me’ and suggests his ‘stump’ is indeed beyond it. The proclamation against ‘foreign wisdom’ is given a sardonic twist when Shakespeare has Henry and his train arrive, speaking French and ‘habited like Shepherds’ who have left their ‘flocks’ (in mock of Christian doctrines) to ‘view these Ladies’. The Cardinal, in keeping with Shakespeare’s consummate irony, says they ‘have done my poor house grace’ and ‘prays’ that they ‘take their pleasures’.
          The King, after commending Anne Bullen for the ‘fairest hand I ever touched’, removes his mask. His pleasure at ‘dainty’ Anne, his ‘Sweet Partner’, mollifies his rancour at his leading Churchman.

    Ye have found him Cardinal,
    You hold a fair Assembly
    ; you do well Lord:
    You are a Churchman, or I’ll tell you Cardinal,
    I should judge now unhappy. (1.4.789-92)

          The second Act begins with two gentlemen commenting on the trial and the fate of Buckingham. Their comments show it is common knowledge that Wolsey has framed Buckingham, and that Buckingham’s son, the Earl of Surrey, was sent by Wolsey to Ireland to keep him from his father’s side. The gentlemen reflect that Buckingham was much loved and doted on by the common folk, and that he was called ‘bounteous Buckingham, the Mirror of all courtesy’.
          When Buckingham enters and speaks, he calls on ‘Heaven’ to bear witness to the injustice done him by those who sought his death, and wishes his accusers were ‘more Christians’ than they pretend to be. He says they should not ‘build their evils on the graves of great men’. He asks that prayers should be made into ‘one sweet Sacrifice’ to lift his ‘Soul to Heaven’.
          In the Sonnets Shakespeare criticises those who, like the Master Mistress, allow their excessive idealistic faith to blind them to the limits and dangers of their beliefs. To restore the balance he bases his understanding on the logical priority of nature over the idea of God(s) in the minds of men. So when Buckingham, who speaks first in Henry VIII, is identified by the King as being the most near nature, Shakespeare creates a character who bases his judgments in nature ahead of his belief in God and ahead of his hopes and aspirations for his ‘soul’.
          Buckingham’s qualities, associated with nature, distinguish him from those ‘Christians’ who tie their faith to the Church and Crown, and who abuse their beliefs for unnatural ends and for political and financial gain. In the play, the King’s belief in male-primogeniture and Wolsey’s belief in his divine right to personal gain are major offenses against nature. Both are inevitable consequences of a Christian faith that elevates a male God over Nature.
          As if to mock the absence of Christian virtues in the Christian King and Cardinal, Buckingham not only forgives Lovell when he asks forgiveness, he ‘forgives all’ including his ‘Grace’ the King to whom he wishes a ‘Rule…ever belov’d and loving’. Shakespeare has Buckingham exhibit the human qualities and heavenly graces that should have been shown him by the King and Cardinal. Buckingham is ‘half in heaven’ because his appreciation of the priority of nature allows only half his being, his mind, to preoccupy itself with God-like expectations.

    Sir Thomas Lovell, I as free forgive you
    As I would be forgiven: I forgive all
    There cannot be those numberless offences
    Gainst me, that I cannot make peace with:
    No black Envy shall make my Grave.
    Commend me to his Grace:
    And if he speak of Buckingham; pray tell him,
    You met him half in Heaven:my vows and prayers
    Yet are the King’s; and till my Soul forsake,
    Shall cry for blessings on him. May he live
    Longer than I have time to tell his years;
    Ever belov’d and loving, may his Rule be
    And when old Time shall lead him to his end,
    Goodness and he, fill up one Monument. (2.1.925-38)

          Buckingham is sceptical about the King’s ability to reconcile the ‘goodness’ available in his Christian values and the evil in a Christian belief that puts male-based expectations above natural processes. As in the Sonnets, where the youth is subject to the audit of time for his offences against nature, Buckingham wishes the King time enough to redress the wrongs of the Church and Crown.
          Buckingham heightens the disjunction between his nature-based understanding and the Pomp and pretension of the Crown and Clergy when he says that his previous ‘State’ will ‘mock him’ as he is no more than a ‘poor Edward Bohun’. He is aware that his naturalness and common sense make him richer than his ‘base accusers’. Because his accusers invert natural logic, and so lack the capacity to see the irony in their verdict, then they ‘never knew what Truth meant’.

    Nay, Sir Nicholas,
    Let it alone;my State now will but mock me.
    When I came hither, I was Lord High Constable,
    And Duke of Buckingham: now, poor Edward Bohun;
    Yet I am richer than my base Accusers,
    That never knew what Truth meant: (2.1.946-51)

          Buckingham accentuates the irony by recalling that his father, who was ‘felled’ without trial by Richard III, had his fortune restored by Henry VII, only to have that Henry’s son Henry VIII, after a mock trial, condemn Buckingham to death. Both were felled by their ‘servants’ and by those ‘men we lov’d most’. In keeping with his regard for nature and the role of faith within nature he reckons he has been served both unnaturally and faithlessly.

                                  Now his Son,
    Henry the Eight, Life, Honour, Name and all
    That made me happy; at one stroke has taken
    For ever from the World
    . I had my Trial,
    And must needs say a Noble one; which makes me
    A little happier than my wretched Father:
    Yet thus far we are one in Fortunes; both
    Fell by our Servants, by those Men we lov’d most:
    A most unnatural and faithless Service. (2.1.961-9)

          The dynamic of ‘Truth’ that Buckingham relied on, and which the Cardinal (and the King in his acquiescence) abused by forcing the surveyor to lie, was in the ‘Counsels’ shared with servants, and in the friendships with those in power to whom you gave ‘your hearts’. The King, who was once his friend, has overnight become his end.

    Where you are liberal of your loves and Counsels,
    Be sure you be not loose; for those you make friends,
    And give your hearts to
    ; when they once perceive
    The least rub in your fortunes, fall away
    Like water from ye, never found again
    But where they meant to sink ye: (1.2.972-7)

          When the Duke is taken away, the two gentlemen confirm that the ‘Authors’ of his downfall were the King and Cardinal. They have heard that the King intends to divorce the Queen, and that Wolsey is behind the separation to exact revenge on Katherine’s father for not giving him the Archbishopric of Toledo. The two gentlemen predict an ensuing ‘greater evil’.

    1st Gent. O, this is full of pity; Sir, it calls
    I fear, too many curses on their heads
    That were the Authors
    2nd Gent. If the Duke be guiltless,
    ’Tis full of woe: yet I can give you inkling
    Of an ensuing evil, if it fall,
    Greater than this
    . (2.1.984-90)

          So the Cardinal will act against Katherine, the one woman who is prepared to speak out against his male-based iniquities.

                                  but is’t not cruel,
    That she should feel the smart of this: the Cardinal
    Will have his will, and she must fall. (2.1.1020-2)

          The first scene of Act 2, then, sees the ‘butchering’, by the male-based Christian King and Cardinal, of the Duke most near nature, and in its last lines predicts the ‘fall’ of the woman who most objects to their machinations. If the first Act represents Buckingham as part nature and Katherine as part archetypal female who assert their natural sensibilities, Shakespeare is to demonstrate in the remainder of the play the logical consequences of the wilful abrogation of natural logic.
          The first five scenes of the play are consistent with the natural logic of the Sonnets. The division of the scenes by traditional commentators between Shakespeare (1.1 and 1.2) and Fletcher (1.3, 1.4 and 2.1) fails to recognise the content of the play out of the Sonnet philosophy.
    vAct 2 scene 2 opens with the Lord Chamberlain reading a letter complaining that the Cardinal unfairly requisitioned horses. So when Norfolk and Suffolk enter, the Lord Chamberlain is more disposed to criticise the illogicality of the interdependence of the Crown and Church. The King, who they accuse of not ‘knowing himself ’, is about to divorce for the sake of male primogeniture, and they call Wolsey, who is concerned only with the personal advantage to his ‘cloth’, ‘King-Cardinal’. Shakespeare creates two characters who, under the influence of their male God religion, demonstrate its inevitable slide into anti-natural ‘zeal’.

    Suffolk. How is the King employed?
    Chamberlain. I left him private,
    Full of sad thoughts and troubles.
    Norfolk. What’s the cause?
    Chamberlain. It seems the Marriage with his Brother’s Wife
    Has crept too near his Conscience
    Suffolk. No, his Conscience
    Has crept too near another Lady
    Norfolk. ’Tis so;
    This is the Cardinal’s doing: The King-Cardinal,
    That blind Priest, like the eldest Son of Fortune,
    Turns what he list. The King will know him one day.
    Suffolk. Pray God he do,
    He’ll never know himself else.
    Norfolk. How holily he works in all his business,
    And with what zeal. (2.2.1042-57)

          The distance between the King’s religious fundamentalism and Katherine’s womanly virtue is captured ironically in the idea that her love for him has the quality with which ‘Angels love good men’. But, paradoxically, as long as the Crown is associated with the male-driven expectations of the Church such a hope can only be ‘pious’.

    Or her that loves him with that excellence,
    That Angels love good men with: Even of her,
    That when the greatest stroke of Fortune falls
    Will bless the King: and is not this course pious? (2.2.1066-9)

          The Chamberlain echoes the sentiment, expressing the insight that the same ‘Heaven’ that has blinded the King ‘will one day’ also allow him to see.

    Heaven keep me from such a counsel:

                            Heaven will one day open
    The King’s eyes, that so long have slept upon
    This bold man. (2.2.1070-6)

          Norfolk is concerned that the Cardinal will fashion them all ‘into what pitch he please’. But Suffolk is more phlegmatic since he appreciates that the Cardinal’s pride comes from the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.

    For me, my Lords,
    I love him not, nor fear him, there’s my Creed:
    As I am made without him, so I’ll stand,
    If the King please: His Curses and his blessings
    Touch me alike
    : they’re breath I not believe in.
    I knew him, and I know him; so I leave him
    To him that made him proud; the Pope
    . (2.2.1084-90)

          When the Lords approach Henry he is at his ‘private meditations’, and asks appropriately ‘Who am I?’

    Suffolk. How sad he looks; sure he is much afflicted.
    King. Who’s there? Ha?
    Norfolk. Pray God he be not angry.
    King. Who’s there I say? How dare you thrust yourselves
    Into my private Mediations?
    Who am I
    ? Ha?
    Norfolk. A gracious King, that pardons all offences
    Malice ne’er meant
    : (2.2.1102-9)

          The King, though, summarily dismisses the Lords, but then welcomes Wolsey wholeheartedly as he enters with Campeius, the Pope’s representative. Shakespeare characterises the King as not only naïve, but also gullible because of his faith in the ‘good Lord’ of Christ.

    Who’s there? my good Lord Cardinal? O my Wolsey,
    The quiet of my wounded Conscience;
    Thou art a cure fit for a King
    ; you’re welcome
    Most learned Reverend Sir, into our Kingdom,
    Use us, and it:My good Lord, have great care,
    I be not found a Talker. (2.2.1116-21)

          Although The Famous History of the Life Of Henry the Eight (Henry VIII) was included by Shakespeare’s colleagues in the 1623 Folio without a suggestion of dual authorship, academic opinion has since assigned Act 2 scene 2 to Fletcher citing textual differences between scenes. But the differences are no greater than in those plays (or poems) which they wholly attribute to Shakespeare. So the problem for the commentators, who feel obliged to convert Shakespeare to England’s Anglican Poet, is that the offending passages contradict their prejudices.
          The representation of the King as a fool and gull increases as the scene unfolds. Shakespeare, using the play to demonstrate the evils of excessive idealism, now points to the heart of the problem, the male-based authority of the Christian hierarchy. The idea that Katherine’s trial could be a ‘free’ one within a male-dominant faith is a delusion fostered by the avaricious Cardinal and acquiesced in by Henry whose conscience is driven largely by his penis.

    Your Grace has given a Precedent of wisdom
    Above all Princes, in committing freely
    Your scruple to the voice of Christendom:
    Who can be angry
    now? What Envy reach you?
    The Spaniard tied by blood and favour to her,
    Must now confess, if they have any goodness,
    The Trial, just and Noble. All the Clerks,
    (I mean the learned ones in Christian Kingdoms)
    Have their free voices. Rome (the Nurse of Judgment)
    Invited by your Noble self, hath sent
    One general Tongue unto us. This good man,
    This just and learned Priest
    , Cardinal Campeius, (2.2.1133-44)

          Shakespeare is unrelenting in exposing the hypocrisy of the Cardinal and the King. The exchange implicates Christendom in the scandal that will befall Katherine as a woman. The King emphasises the dominance of the male when he refers to Campeius as ‘such a Man’. And in response Campeius disingenuously offers an ‘unpartial judging of this Business’. Wolsey’s generous offer to have ‘Scholars’ argue for Katherine, with the King’s agreement, is the nadir of hypocrisy.

    Wolsey. I know your Majesty, has always lov’d her
    So dear in heart, not to deny her that
    A Woman of less Place might ask by Law
    Scholars allow’d freely to argue for her.
    King. I, and the best she shall have; and my favour
    To him that does best, God forbid else: (2.2.1157-62)

          Even Campeius has doubts. He queries Wolsey about the promotion of Gardiner to King’s secretary, because he has heard rumours of foul play. But Wolsey is blatant about his ‘Christian’ motives.

    Heaven’s peace be with him:
    That’s Christian care enough: for living Murmurers,
    There’s places of rebuke. He was a Fool;
    For he would needs be virtuous. That good Fellow,
    If I command him follows my appointment,
    I will have none so near else. Learn this Brother,
    We live not to be gripped by meaner persons. (2.2.1184-90)

          Shakespeare has the King complete the litany of hypocrisy when he admits that despite the outcome of the trial he will still leave Katherine for the younger Anne Bullen.

    The most convenient place, that I can think of
    For such a receipt of Learning, is Black-Friars:
    There ye shall meet about this weighty business.
    My Wolsey see it furnished, O my Lord,
    Would it not grieve an able man to leave
    So sweet a Bedfellow? But Conscience, Conscience,
    O ’tis a tender place, and I must leave her. (2.2.1193-99)

          Scene 2 is a critical one for establishing the duplicity of the King and his Cardinal. From the vantage of the Sonnet philosophy, it explicitly identifies the iniquities that arise from a male-based system of belief. No wonder commentators want to attribute it to Fletcher, who they claim was susceptible to court gossip. The commentators argue that ‘their’Shakespeare would not have wanted to offend the monarchy.
          But if the scene was offensive to the monarchy it would have been so whoever wrote it. If there was a valid concern that Shakespeare would not have risked offending the monarchy, the presence of the scene in the play rules that out. The scene was in the play in Shakespeare’s day, so whoever put it there could have been subject to the displeasure of Crown and Church. The commentators prejudice is unwarranted.
          Shakespeare’s examination of hypocrisy continues in scene 3 where the less circumspect Old Lady openly questions the hypocrisy of the youthful Anne Bullen’s idealistic opinions about the possibility of becoming Queen. Anne first expresses sympathy for Katherine, sympathy she will later overlook when Henry proposes marriage.

    Not for that neither; here’s the pang that pinches.
    His Highness, having liv’d so long with her, and she
    So good a Lady
    , that no Tongue could ever
    Pronounce dishonour
    of her; by my life,
    She never knew harm-doing: Oh, now after
    So many courses of the Sun enthroned,
    Still growing in a Majesty and pomp, the which
    To leave, a thousand fold more bitter, than
    ’Tis sweet at first t’acquire After this Process,
    To give her the avaunt, it is a pity
    Would move a Monster
    . (2.3.1202-12)

          The bitter irony is that even a young woman such as Anne, because of her allegiance to the idealistic programme of the Church, is unprepared for the ‘truth’ she is about to experience. Shakespeare has her call on the ‘God’ whose biblical illogic separates ‘soul and body’ to save the Queen from just such a ‘severing’.

    Oh God’s will, much better
    She ne’er had known pomp; though’t be temporal,
    Yet if that quarrel. Fortune, do divorce
    It from the bearer, ’tis a sufferance, panging
    As soul and bodies severing. (2.3.1215-9)

          The deeper irony is that Anne anticipates her own fate. Shakespeare, as he does for the youth in sonnets 1 and 55, has Anne imagine the prospects of both living ‘Content’ (as in contented) and living with the ‘Content’ (as in knowledge) of her mind at one with natural logic.

    So much the more
    Must pity drop upon her; verily
    I swear, ’tis better to be lowly born,
    And range with humble livers in Content,
    Than to be perked up in a glittering grief,
    And wear a golden sorrow. (2.3.1222-7)

          The Old Lady concurs that ‘our content is our best having’. If ‘content’ in the Sonnets relates to the appreciation of the dynamic of increase and truth and beauty out of nature, then Anne’s next vow pits her potential to increase against her capacity for truth, or her ability to vow honestly.

    By my troth, and Maidenhead,
    I would not be a Queen. (2.3.1230-1)

          But the Old Lady knows human nature too well. The issue is not only that Anne might ‘stretch’ her maidenhood, but that the hypocrisy of her idealised faith conceals from her the possibility that she might.

    Beshrew me, I would,
    And venture Maidenhead for’t, and so would you
    For all this spice of your Hypocrisy:
    You that have so fair parts of Woman
    on you,
    Have (too) a Woman’s heart, which ever yet
    Affected Eminence,Wealth, Sovereignty
    Which, to say soothe, are Blessings; and which gifts
    (Saving your mincing) the capacity
    Of your most Cheveril Conscience, would receive,
    If you might please to stretch it. (2.3.1232-41)

          Shakespeare makes a direct link, as he does in sonnet 151, between the derivation of love from the increase potential and the faculty of conscience. If the King has had his ‘tender’ conscience tested, and Anne Bullen is about to have her ‘soft...Conscience’ exercised, and the Old Lady suggests Anne’s conscience might be ‘stretched’, Shakespeare is drawing on the logical relation expressed in the Sonnets between physical love (increase sonnets) and deliberations about the logic of love (the truth and beauty sonnets).
          The connection to the Sonnets, and particularly to the last of the Mistress sonnets that explores the dynamic of truth, is also apparent in the number of times Anne pledges her ‘troth’ or ‘swears’ she will not sacrifice her maidenhead. The exchange between the two women mimics sonnet 152 that mentions truth twice, swearing or foreswearing 7 times, oath 3 times, vow 3 times and perjury twice.

    Anne. By my troth, and Maidenhead,
    I would not be a Queen.

    Anne. Nay, good troth.
    Old Lady. Yes troth, and troth; you would not be a Queen?

    Anne. No in truth.

    How you do talk;
    I swear again, I would not be Queen,
    For all the world: (2.3.1230-57)

          But intertwined with the litany of avowals are Anne’s protestations of sexual innocence and the Old Lady’s erotic suggestiveness. As in the Sonnets, which derive the logic of truth and beauty from the increase dynamic out of nature, Shakespeare’s Henry VIII demonstrates the close link between the forces of life and the conscience.

    Beshrew me, I would,
    And venture Maidenhead for’t

    You that have so fair parts of Woman on you,

    Of your soft Cheverel Conscience, would receive,
    If you might please to stretch.

    Have you limbs
    To bear
    that load of Title.

    If your back
    Cannot vouchsafe this burthen, ’tis too weak
    Ever to get a Boy

    In faith, for little England
    You’ld venture an emballing. (2.3.1232-59)

          Sonnets 137 to 152 examine the relation between excessive avowals of faith and their inevitable forswearing or disavowal. To demonstrate the Sonnet logic, when the Lord Chamberlain enters, he and Anne exchange half-truths that reflect their undeclared agendas. She because she does not want to admit that most of her conversation with the Old Lady centered on the possibility of her accession, and he because he comes offering sweeteners to further the King’s desire to bed Anne before he has divorced Katherine.
          The deceptiveness evident in the exchange between Anne and the Chamberlain derives directly from the disjunction between the excessive idealism of their beliefs and the natural logic of life. Although the Chamberlain is inquisitive about the ‘secret’ the women were sharing, Anne says she will not reveal all. And despite his suspicions, because he has his own agenda, he commends them as ‘good women’.

    Chamberlain. Good morrow Ladies; what wer’t worth to know
    The secret of your conference
    Anne. My good Lord,
    Not your demand; it values not your asking:
    Our Mistress’ Sorrows we were pitying.
    Chamberlain. It was a gentle business, and becoming
    The action of good women
    , there is hope
    All will be well
    . (2.3.1263-70)

          Because the Chamberlain knows the King is torn between his conscience and his penis, he overstates Anne’s piousness by patronising her ‘heavenly blessings’. His words lack the ‘sincerity’ he claims as his.

    Anne. Now I pray God, Amen.
    Chamberlain. You bear a gentle mind, and heavenly blessings
    Follow such Creatures. That you may, fair Lady
    Perceive I speak sincerely, and high notes
    Ta’en of your many virtues; the King’s Majesty
    Commends his good opinion of you, to you; (2.3.1271-6)

          The irony is pure Shakespeare. The reference to ‘Creatures’ recalls the first sonnet that declares, ‘From fairest creatures we desire increase’. Ironically, Shakespeare then has the Chamberlain reveal his deceit with the equivalent of a Freudian slip.
          When the Chamberlain announces the King’s gift of a title and a thousand pounds, Anne is sent into a litany of erotic compliance. She unwittingly depicts herself as a receptive vessel that is ‘tender’, ‘nothing’, ‘hallowed’, ‘empty’, yet sexually ‘blushing’.

    I do not know
    What kind of my obedience, I should tender;
    More than my All, is Nothing:Nor my Prayers
    Are not words duly hallowed; nor my Wishes
    More worth, than empty vanities:

                            and my obedience,
    As from a blushing Handmaid, (2.3.1281-8)

          The Chamberlain finds himself attracted, like Henry, to Anne’s charms. He reveals his awareness of Henry’s intentions when he acknowledges that from Anne a ‘lemme’, or the wished-for male child, will be born that might ‘lighten all this Isle’. If a male ‘lemme’ is born to Anne then that would justify Henry’s object or argument (lemma) based on male primogeniture. Shakespeare not only highlights the evil in male primogeniture from which the ‘light’ of God is expected to shine, but also the deep irony that the great light that did shine from Anne Bullen was Henry’s famous female heir, Elizabeth.
          So the Old Lady sardonically asks Anne if the ‘taste’ of Henry’s largesse is ‘bitter’. Her sexual puns make it clear that she understands the cause of Anne’s blushing. Anne’s sexual receptivity is now ‘filled up’.

    A very fresh Fish here; fie, fie, fie upon
    This compell’d fortune: have your mouth filled up,
    Before you open it.

    With your Theme, I could
    O’er-mount the Lark: …
                            Honour’s train
    Is no longer than his fore-skirt
    ; (2.3.1305-19)

          Anne has to admit that she is aroused and wonders what is to ‘follow’. Her previous concern for Katherine’s predicament is now coupled with an anxiety that Katherine might hear of her excitement at the thought of becoming Queen.

    Good Lady,
    Make your self mirth with your particular fancy,
    And leave me out on’t. Would I had no being
    If this salute my blood a jot; it faints me
    To think what follows
    The Queen is comfortless, and we forgetful
    In our long absence: pray do not deliver,
    What here y’have heard to her
    . (2.3.1322-29)

          When the court assembles to determine the legitimacy of the King’s marriage to Katherine, Katherine rises from her seat and addresses Henry. Rather than accuse him directly of rejecting her because of her inability to produce a male heir and because of his desire to marry a younger woman, she appeals to the ‘Rights and Justice’ she deserves from his faith in ‘heaven’ and ‘God’.

                            Heaven witness,
    I have been to you, a true and humble Wife,
    At all times to your will conformable: (2.4.1375-7)

          Instead of berating Henry’s gullibility, as she did Wolsey for his religious duplicity, the Queen appeals to her husband’s troubled sense of decency. She represents herself as always obedient to Henry, as amicable to the point of personal effacement, as the bearer of his ‘many children’ (most of whom died young), and as faithful in wedlock. In her willingness to subject her female intuitions to his male-based machinations, she fails to address the logical point that she has a surviving child by him, albeit a female.
          Katherine deepens the paradox when she calls on the ‘prudence’ and ‘wisdom’of Henry’s father, King Henry VII, and that of her father Ferdinand V. While she reminds Henry that their fathers’ deemed their marriage lawful, she does not address the critical issue of his God driven male pride or his sexual desire for the maidenhead of a younger women. Because of her inability to identify the fault in Henry’s attitude, she paradoxically allows that if he does not heed her plea then it will be under the ‘name of God’ that his ‘pleasure be fulfilled’.
          Katherine’s speech is full of the equivocations. As a woman she is caught between her feminine insights and her unwillingness to question the male prerogative, which secured her a good 20 years of wealth and advantage. Shakespeare demonstrates that even a woman capable of insights into the evil of Wolsey does not necessarily have the fortitude to address the same God-derived evil in her husband that makes him so susceptible to Wolsey’s deceit.
          Shakespeare’s persistent argument in the Sonnets and throughout the plays is that evil arises just as readily from those whose beliefs are benign. The sexual sea change in Angelo in Measure for Measure dramatically illustrates the problem with the belief in an idealised God. Equally, a character such as the otherwise testy Katherine can be blind to the benign evil in others. By the end of the play, Shakespeare identifies Elizabeth as the woman who will be wise enough to temper the machinations of God-based pride. Queen Elizabeth more than Queen Katherine will be true to the logic of the Mistress sequence.
          So when Wolsey and Campeius insist that Katherine will be given a fair hearing she objects, but still does not appreciate that both Wolsey and Henry are agents of the God who usurps the priority of the female in nature. Shakespeare, in Katherine’s tirade against the Cardinal, captures her confusion of values. Her appeals to ‘God’ for herself and for her husband are ignorant of Henry’s plan to achieve his desires while maintaining his beliefs. Facetiously she wishes that ‘God’s dew quench’ the Cardinal’s evil, even while her ‘Sacred’(2.4.1394) husband’s ‘dew’ is about to be quenched (sonnets 153 and 154) in the valley of Anne Bullen.

                            For it is you
    Have blown this Coal, betwixt my Lord, and me;
    (Which God’s dew quench). (2.4.1435-7)

          Wolsey responds by reminding her of her ‘gentle’ acquiescence ‘o’ertopping woman’s power’. Wolsey is quiet clear about the need to subject the natural power or priority of women to the ‘wisdom’ of men through the ‘Charity’ of the male God.

    I do profess
    You speak not like your self: who ever yet
    Have stood to Charity, and displayed th’effects
    Of disposition gentle
    , and of wisdom,
    O’er-topping woman’s power. (2.4.1442-6)

          Wolsey appeals to his friend, the gullible King, to affirm that he is free of the accusations Katherine makes against him. His duplicity is captured in an echo of the biblical confusion of ‘Truth’ and ‘Falsehood’.

                                  If it be known to him,
    That I gainsay my Deed, how may he wound,
    And worthily my Falsehood, yea, as much
    As you have done my Truth, (2.4.1453-6)

          Ironically, in Wolsey’s Christian need to constrain the female to prevent her from exercising her natural right, Shakespeare has him acknowledge the logical priority of female over the male, and then leads him on to invert the logic of truth by corrupting the relation between the true and the false. Shakespeare’s critique of the Cardinal is equally a critique of the Church, which dogmatises the priority of the male God and then institutes commandments of God, the first three of which demand unquestioned obedience and worship of the jealous male God to obscure the perversion of natural logic.
          The Queen, who admits she is a ‘simple woman’unable to argue against the cunning of Wolsey’s appeal to the King’s pride, is still able to assert that his ‘meekness and humility’ in public belies the ‘arrogance, spleen, and pride’ in his ‘heart’. Faced with her inability to argue in defense of her rights as a woman, she has no option but to depart. In Measure for Measure, Isabella is similarly unable to defend herself against the deceptions of Angelo, and it is only later under the tutelage of the Duke that she gains the capacity to do so. (Other heroine’s such as Lucrece learn from the evil consequences of their earlier gullibility.)
          Henry, struck by Katherine’s independence of mind, ironically misattributes her qualities to the very male-based prerogatives that keep him blind to Wolsey’s deceitfulness. As ‘Queen of earthly Queens’ he keeps her in her place, under the God given powers of his monarchy, but in doing so he ironically identifies the source of her greater insights over his male–based delusions.

    Go thy ways Kate,
    That Man i’th world, who shall report he has
    A better Wife, let him in naught be trusted,
    For speaking false
    in that; thou art alone
    (If thy rare qualities, sweet gentleness,
    Thy meekness Saint-like,Wife-like Government
    Obeying in commanding, and thy parts
    Sovereign and Pious else, could speak thee out)
    The Queen of earthly Queens: (2.4.1496-1504)

          Wolsey, in thanking ‘God for such a Royal lady’, moves to take advantage of the King’s homily to Katherine. He asks if he has ever within the King’s hearing maligned the Queen. The King replies with unwittingly irony that any who do so are ‘like to Village Curs’ (evoking the God/Dog relationship). Whatever Henry may think of Wolsey, he has a more pressing reason for ‘excusing’ the good Lord Cardinal. He needs Wolsey’s friendship to expedite a divorce so he can bed Anne Bullen. So, after summarily dismissing the Queen’s accusations against Wolsey, he explains why his marriage has given him a tender ‘conscience’.
          Henry begins by claiming that when the legitimacy of his marriage to the Queen was raised, during a debate concerning the marriage of their daughter Mary, the implications ‘shook the bosom of his conscience’ and made ‘tremble the region of my Breast’.

                            Thus it came; give heed to’t:
    My Conscience first receiv’d a tenderness,
    Scruple, and prick, on certain Speeches utter’d
    By th’Bishop of Bayon, then French Ambassador,
    Who had been hither sent on the debating
    And Marriage ’twixt the Duke of Orleans, and
    Our Daughter Mary
    : I’th Progress of this business,
    Ere a determinate resolution, he
    (I mean the Bishop) did require a respite,
    Wherein he might the King his Lord advertise,
    Whether our Daughter were legitimate,
    Respecting this our Marriage with the Dowager,
    Sometimes our Brother’s Wife
    . This respite shook
    The bosom of my Conscience
    , enter’d me;
    Yea, with a spitting power, and made to tremble
    The region of my Breast
    , which forc’d such way,
    That many maz’d considerings, did throng
    And pressed in with this Caution. (2.4.1535-52)

          Shakespeare, whose first child was conceived out of wedlock, would have been particularly conscious of the irrationality of an argument based on legitimacy. Henry’s conscience would not otherwise have stopped him having mistresses, as was common practice, and his conscience, racked by issues of legitimacy, was not going to stop him bedding Anne Bullen whether Katherine consented to a divorce or not (2.2.1199). But when in a passage lifted from Holinshed, Henry attempts to justify his actions by connecting the male God and male primogeniture, Shakespeare has him by the proverbial balls.

                            First, me thought
    I stood not in the smile of Heaven, who had
    Commanded Nature, that my Lady’s womb
    If it conceiv’d a male-child by me, should
    Do no more Offices of life to’t; than
    The Grave does to th’dead
    : For her Male Issue,
    Or died where they were made, or shortly after

    This world had air’d them. Hence I took a thought,
    This was a Judgment on me, that my Kingdom
    (Well worthy the best Heir o’th’World) should not
    Be gladded in’t by me. Then follows, that
    I weigh’d the danger which my Realm stood in
    By this my Issues fail
    , and that gave to me
    Many a groaning throw: thus hulling in
    The wild Sea of my Conscience, I did steer
    Toward this remedy, whereupon we are
    Now present here together: that’s to say
    I meant to rectify my Conscience, which
    I then did feel full sick, and yet not well,
    By all the Reverend Fathers of the Land,
    And Doctors learned. (2.4.1552-72)

          Commentators recognise the explanation of Henry’s concerns about his inability to produce a ‘Male Issue’ as the key passage in the play. Significantly for Shakespeare’s demonstration of the logic of the Sonnet philosophy, the passage is nearly word for word from Holinshed. The Holinshed passage, where Henry uses his fear of ‘God’s indignation’ to justify a divorce from Katherine, is the centre of hypocrisy around which Shakespeare constructs his play.
          The wonderful irony begins with the recollection that Henry already has an heir in Mary, his daughter with Katherine. Shakespeare emphasises the point with relish at the end of the play when he rejoices in the golden reign of Elizabeth the daughter of Anne Bullen who Henry executed. Shakespeare celebrates the reign of Elizabeth but was also conscious that the older Mary did reign briefly, although disastrously, before her.
          The deeper irony lies in the difficulty Henry has with his ‘conscience’, which can be attributed directly to the religious and political forces that drove him to want a male heir. Holinshed gives Shakespeare the lead by explicitly identifying the male-God of Christianity with the command to beget a male heir, and with Henry’s consequent ‘guilt’ at not being able to do so. Because male-based religions and their political counterparts usurp the logical priority of the female, they resort to denigration and murder to stop a female from claiming right of ascendancy. Henry’s guilty ‘conscience’ at not maintaining the charade of male priority was exacted on his wives.
          From the vantage of the Sonnet philosophy, Shakespeare recognises that Henry’s appeal to the male God in Holinshed to justify his actions is the critical moment of unwitting self-condemnation. Henry reveals the hypocrisy in religious belief when he uses the righteous male God/Dog syndrome to justify divorcing Katherine, while concealing the Dog/God dynamic of his desire to lie with Anne Bullen.
          To highlight the illogicality of Henry’s vengeful male-based God assuming priority over the natural forces of life, Shakespeare adds the word ‘Nature’ to the passage from Holinshed. Shakespeare points to the logical basis of the hypocrisy by emphasising the illogicality of a male God ‘commanding Nature’ to emasculate Henry’s line of descent. By introducing ‘Nature’ into Henry’s speech, Shakespeare shows that when Holinshed’s Henry argues that God is punishing him for an illegitimate marriage, then Henry’s God was acting against natural logic by ‘commanding’ the death of the male issue from Katherine’s womb.
          Shakespeare also points to the irony that the ‘wild Sea’ of the conscience, which the King appeals to for a divorce from the Queen, can only be ‘rectified’ by the ‘Reverend Fathers of the Land’. As sonnet 151 of the Mistress sequence makes the logical connection between the ‘conscience’ and ‘love’ derived from the increase dynamic in nature, then the ‘wild Sea of my Conscience’doubly identifies the female with the conscience. Henry’s appeal to his conscience disingenuously uses the feminine side of his mind to ‘steer’ his ‘hull’ or penis toward a male-based landing or outcome.
          Henry’s dependence on his male colleagues is emphasised when he calls on Lincoln and Canterbury to confirm the ‘oppression’ he originally felt when pondering the state of his marriage. Lincoln admits that Henry’s ‘question’ had ‘staggered’ him, so he ‘entreated’ Henry to submit to a trial by ‘Doctors learned’. Again Henry, despite his determination to marry Anne whatever the outcome, claims he would remain with Katherine if the marriage is found lawful. But the men who Henry so desperately needs to help rid him of Katherine have their own religious agendas. When Campeius suggests an adjournment because the Queen will not return, the King senses that the Cardinals ‘trifle’ with him, a premonition borne out as the play progresses.
          Shakespeare’s Henry VIII is patently not about the glories of Henry’s reign nor is it about retrospectively exonerating the King who established the Church of England. The opposite is the case. Shakespeare takes the historical account in Holinshed that justifies Henry’s deeds by invoking the prejudices based in the male God to show how Holinshed’s account reveals the hypocrisy of belief in a male God, and exposes the iniquitous influence of male primogeniture on the culture.
          Before scene 4, in which Henry attempts to conceal his double standards behind the will of God, Shakespeare has considered some of the iniquities that arise when Church and Crown collude. The introduction of the word nature into Henry’s exculpation is consistent with the roles Buckingham and the Queen have played in anchoring the play in the natural logic of the Sonnets. The following scenes will show that the natural logic of the priority of nature over God and female over male cannot be suppressed, despite the machinations of Church and Crown.
          When the Queen enters in Act 3, Shakespeare has her confirm the relation between the conscience and the sea. Not only is the Mistress of the Sonnets associated with the sea through her numbering of 28 (the lunar number), and with the immediacy of the conscience as the source of beauty and truth, she is also associated with the natural interval in music, the octave. So it is not surprising that the song sung by the Queen’s women mentions all three.

    Orpheus with his Lute made Trees,
    And the Mountain tops that freeze,
    Bow themselves when he did sing.
    To his Music, Plants and Flowers
    Ever sprung; as Sun and Showers,
    There had made a lasting Spring.
    Every thing that heard him play,
    Even the Billows of the Sea,
    Hung their heads, and then lay by.
    In sweet Music is such Art,
    Killing care, and grief of heart,
    Fall asleep, or hearing die. (3.1.1620-31)

          The word ‘Music’ is mentioned twice in the song, as it is in first line of the music sonnets 8 and 128. Sonnets 8 and 128 both argue that music is an expression of natural concord, and the relationship of the two sonnets to sonnet 145 identifies the Mistress as the natural font of music on which the Master Mistress plays. The 3 sonnets connect the concord the youth can find in music to the natural dynamic of increase and thence to the logic of beauty and truth. The ‘care’ or ‘grief ’ of the Queen’s conscience finds its natural resolution in the features of nature, the ‘Spring’ of increase, and particularly in the ‘Billows of the Sea’.
          The evocation in the song of the qualities of the Queen in terms similar to the logical characteristics of the Mistress prepares for the exchange between her and the two Cardinals. Shakespeare represents Katherine as a woman who is partly aware of the logic of beauty and truth out of the Mistress sonnets 127 to 154, but who does not appreciate the logic of truth and beauty in the Master Mistress sonnets 20 to 126. Unlike the Poet who critiques the excessive idealism of the Master Mistress, she only partially appreciates the relation of human nature to nature at large. When the Poet attempts to lift the understanding of the Master Mistress to maturity, because the female and male are also personae of the mind, he seeks to make the female aware of the masculine side of her character.
          The Cardinals bring to Katherine their God-given desire to distort the relation of true and false. While she has the capacity to appreciate that they bend argument to suit themselves, she is unable to counter their persistent deceit. They mercilessly exploit her 20 years of servile acquiescence to the King.
          So when the Cardinal’s are announced the Queen immediately expresses her mixture of insight and wariness.

                            what can be their business
    With me, a poor weak woman, fallen from favour?
    I do not like their coming; now I think on’t,
    They should be good men, their affairs as righteous:
    But all Hoods, make not Monks
    . (3.1.1639-43)

          And again she reveals her lack of masculine guile.

    Your Graces find me here part of a Housewife,
    (I would be all) against the worst may happen:
    What are your pleasures with me, reverent Lords? (3.1.1646-8)

          When they suggest retiring to her ‘private Chamber’ Katherine expresses her dislike of anything other than ‘open dealing’.

    Speak it here.
    There’s nothing I have done yet o’my Conscience
    Deserves a Corner
    :would all other Women
    Could speak this with as free a Soul as I do.
    My Lords, I care not (so much am I happy
    Above a number) if my actions
    Were tried by ev’ry tongue, ev’ry eye saw ’em,
    Envy and base opinion set against ’em,
    I know my life so even. If your business
    Seek me out, and that way I am Wise in;
    Out with it boldly: Truth loves open dealing. (3.1.1652-62)

          In his Katherine, Shakespeare creates a woman as Queen who has a sense of her own limits. Yet, while she can make cutting remarks about the clergy (‘Hoods not Monks’), her continued commitment to her faith means she lacks the circumspection to out-argue the Cardinals or see into the Kings heart. There is bitter irony in her claim to be freer in ‘Soul’ than all other ‘Women’.
          In the fitting organic metaphor ‘breed’, Shakespeare has Wolsey reveal the hypocrisy of his ‘faith’.

    I am sorry my integrity should breed,
    (And service to his Majesty and you)
    So deep suspicion, where all faith was meant; (3.1.1674-6)

          And Cardinal Campeius unwittingly puns on ‘nature’ as he adds his support to Wolsey’s argument.

    Most honour’d Madam,
    My Lord of York, out of his Noble nature,
    Zeal and obedience he still bore your Grace,
    Forgetting (like a good man) your late Censure
    Both of his truth and him (which was too far)
    Offers, as I do, in sign of peace,
    His Service, and his Counsel. (3.1.1685-91)

          Not only are the two Cardinals dishonest, Shakespeare indicates the nature of their deceit by having them echo the Queen’s questions about their ‘pleasures’ with words like ‘breed’ and ‘service’ (twice). The subtle Freudian slip gives away their real purpose of supplanting her with another bedmate for Henry.
          For her part the Queen accuses them of betraying her, but again she conditions her response with a sense of feminine inadequacy.

    To betray me.
    My Lords, I thank you both for your good wills,
    Ye speak like honest men, (pray God ye prove so)
    But how to make ye suddenly an Answer
    In such a point of weight, so near mine Honour,
    (More near my Life I fear) with my weak wit;
    And to such men of gravity and learning;
    In truth I know not.

    Alas, I am a Woman friendless, hopeless. (3.1.1692-705)

          Wolsey attempts to reassure her of the ‘infinite’ love and friendship of the King but she says she trusts only her Spanish kin. When Campeius suggests she put herself in the protection of Henry or else face being disgraced before the Law, she calls them both corrupt Christians.

    Ye tell me what ye wish for both, my ruin:
    Is this your Christian Counsel? Out upon ye.
    Heaven is above all yet; there sits a Judge.
    That no King can corrupt. (3.1.1728-31)

          Katherine’s slating of ‘Christians’, and her avowal of a faith in ‘heaven’ or ‘God’ as a ‘Judge’ above the King, suggests Shakespeare casts her more as a deist than a theist. Her determination to reject the authority of the Church is increased when Campeius says she is mistaken because she is in a ‘rage’.

    The more shame for ye; holy men I thought ye,
    Upon my Soul two reverend Cardinal Virtues:
    But Cardinal Sins, and hollow hearts I fear ye:
    Mend ’em for shame my Lords: Is this your comfort?
    The Cordial that ye bring a wretched Lady?
    A woman lost among ye, laugh’d at, scorned?
    I will not wish ye half my miseries,
    I have more Charity. But say I warn’d ye;
    Take heed, for heaven’s sake take heed, lest at once
    The burthen of my sorrows, fall upon thee. (3.1.1733-42)

          Campeius’ claim that she turns the ‘good we offer, into envy’, elicits a further condemnation from her of ‘Churchmen’.

    Ye turn me into nothing. Woe upon ye,
    And all such false Professors. Would you have me
    (If you have any Justice, any Pity,
    If ye be anything but Churchmen’s habits)
    Put my sick cause into his hands, that hates me?
    Alas, he’s banished me his Bed already,
    His Love, too long ago. I am old my Lords,
    And all the Fellowship I hold now with him
    Is only my Obedience. What can happen
    To me above this wretchedness? (3.1.1745-54)

          Shakespeare’s examination of Katherine’s state of mind can only be understood in the light of the Sonnet philosophy. The logical relationship between the Mistress and the Master Mistress and the unification of their personae in the Poet’s understanding applies in these passages. Shakespeare as Poet pits the adolescent idealistic misrepresentations of the Churchmen against the elementary appreciation of the logic of beauty and truth of the Queen. Because traditional commentators do not understand the Sonnet logic, and because many are psychologically disposed toward the institution of the Church and Crown, they seek reasons to attribute the scene to a hand other than Shakespeare’s. Yet from the vantage of the Sonnet philosophy, Henry VIII has a consistency of development from the opening scene that makes Shakespeare’s authorship unimpeachable.
          When Katherine defends her unblemished service as a ‘Wife’, she reveals a lack of insight into her husband’s male persona. The Mistress of the Sonnets demonstrates in sonnets such as 138, where she and the Poet ‘lie’ together, her awareness of the full dynamic of truth. Katherine’s avowal reveals only the influence of her cloistered womanhood.

    Have I lived thus long (let me speak my self,
    Since Virtue finds no friends) a Wife, a true one?
    A Woman (I dare say without Vainglory)
    Never yet branded with Suspicion?
    Have I, with all my full Affections
    Still met the King? Lov’d him next Heav’n? Obey’d him?
    Been (out of fondness) superstitious to him?
    Almost forgot my Prayers to content him?
    And am I thus rewarded? ’Tis not well Lords.
    Bring me a constant woman to her Husband,
    One that ne’er dreamed a Joy, beyond his pleasure;
    And to that Woman (when she has done most)
    Yet I will add an Honour; a great Patience. (3.1.1757-69)

          It has been noted already that Shakespeare takes ‘virtuous’ characters like Isabella in Measure for Measure and Helena in All’s Well that Ends Well and, without compromising their virtuousness teaches them a lesson about the logic of the male or masculine side of their personalities. In the Famous History of Henry VIII, Shakespeare does not attempt give a lesson to an historical person but shows, from the evidence of the Chronicles, that their natural logic was inadequately realised, so leading to their misfortune or iniquity. The patent iniquities of the Church/Crown are an obvious target. Also interesting is the misunderstanding between individuals who thought they understood one another.
          Like the Churchmen and academics over the last 400 years who have refused Shakespeare his natural right to the scenes they would rather Fletcher have written, Wolsey does not appreciate that there is a truth to be weighed behind the Queen’s musings. Instead, in keeping with the interests of his evil intent, he says,

    Madam, you wander from the good
    We aim at. (3.1.1770-1)

          But Katherine, in the defense of her ‘Dignities’, refuses to divorce the King. Despite her spirited attack, though, on the hypocrisy of the Cardinals she does not see, as Shakespeare demonstrates in the overall plot of his play, that her greatest weakness is her faith in a male God who provides her Henry with an excuse to leave her ‘Bed’ on the pretext of his search for a male heir. Instead she thinks her fortunes would be kinder if she could resort to her Spanish countrymen for succour and pity. Yet sixteenth century Spain no less than England is beholden to the unnatural logic of male priority, particularly over women such as her.

    Would I had never trod this English Earth,
    Or felt the Flatteries that grow upon it:
    Ye have Angel Faces; but Heaven knows your hearts.
    What will become of me now, wretched Lady?
    I am the most unhappy Woman living.
    Alas (poor Wenches) where are now your Fortunes?
    Shipwrack’d upon a Kingdom, where no Pity,
    No friends, no Hope, no Kindred weep for me
    Almost no Grave allow’d me? Like the Lily
    That once was Mistress of the Field, and flourish’d,
    I’ll hang my head, and perish. (3.1.1778-88)

          Katherine’s lack of introspection into natural logic leads her to self-pity, which in turn makes her more susceptible to the Cardinal’s persistent claim of honesty. Wolsey not only claims honesty but also plays on her sense of dignity.

    If your Grace
    Could but be brought to know, our Ends are honest,
    You’d feel more comfort. Why should we (good Lady)
    Upon what cause wrong you? Alas, our Places,
    The way of our Profession is against it;
    We are to Cure such sorrows, not to sow ’em.

    The hearts of Princes kiss Obedience,
    So much they love it. But to stubborn Spirits,
    They swell and grow, as terrible as storms.
    I know you have a Gentle, Noble temper,
    A Soul as even as a Calm; Pray think us,
    Those we profess Peace-makers, Friends, and Servants. (3.1.1789-803)

          And Campeius adds his bit.

    You wrong your Virtues
    With these weak Women’s fears. A Noble Spirit
    As yours was, put into you, ever casts
    Such doubts as false Coin from it. (3.1.1805-8)

          When the Queen acquiesces to their continual dissembling of her ‘Spirit’, Shakespeare has her apologise to the Cardinals with a pun on her inability to counter their male-based conceits. She, unlike them, lacks a ‘wit’ or a penis.

    Do what ye will, my Lords:
    And pray forgive me;
    If I have used myself unmannerly,
    You know that I am a Woman, lacking wit
    To make a seemly answer to such persons. (3.1.1812-6)

          The second scene of Act 3 sees Cardinal Wolsey, and with him the Christian Church, caught in the excesses that follow inevitably from their abuse of natural logic. Shakespeare takes Wolsey all the way from a self-proud male, who has just come from lording his power over the hapless Katherine, to the point where he finds himself ‘playing the Woman’.
          If Wolsey deserves a complete reversal of ‘Fortunes’, then Henry’s fate for marrying the beautiful Anne Bullen to ease his male-driven conscience is also appropriate. Ironically, Anne Bullen’s first and only child, Elizabeth, fails to ease Henry’s male God-driven ‘conscience’, leading to the atrocity of executing the beauty for whom he rejected Katherine.
          Despite the efforts of the Church and Crown to gloss over Henry’s murderous male-driven ambitions, he remains an unsavoury founder for the Church of England. The gradual decline of the influence of the Church and Crown in English political life could be attributed to a long-term reaction to Henry’s willingness to murder to preserve the priority of the male sanctioned by male-based beliefs.
          When Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey and the Lord Chamberlain enter, they share the intelligence that the King has evidence of Wolsey’s duplicity. Surrey particularly is ‘joyful’ of the chance to ‘revenge’the Duke of Buckingham. Ironically, the Cardinal will fall not because he opposes Henry’s divorce but because he connives to have Henry marry the Catholic Duchess of Alanson rather than the Lutheran Anne Bullen. His fate is not aided by the fact that Henry has already secretly married Anne, even before the Court of Learned Doctors grants a divorce from Katherine. And Henry is further annoyed to find that Campeius has delayed proceedings by returning to Rome.
          While Suffolk is able to appreciate Anne’s qualities, Shakespeare has the four Lords unwittingly acknowledge the support they give to the male-based hierarchy. To Suffolk’s ‘My Amen to’t’ Norfolk responds ‘All men’s’. (A similar play on ‘Amen’ occurs in Macbeth.) And there seems to be agreement among the men that Anne is a ‘gallant Creature, and compleat in mind and feature’.
          When the Cardinal returns, his ‘moody’ entry is observed by the Lords. His desire to maintain the power of the male God is reflected in his objection to the role women play in the ‘Lutheran’ Church. Shakespeare captures Wolsey’s institutionalised misogyny in the iteration of the word ‘Mistress’.

    The late Queen’s Gentlewoman?
    A knight’s Daughter
    To be her Mistress’ Mistress? The Queen’s, Queen?
    This Candle burns not clear, ’tis I must snuff it,
    Then out it goes. (3.2.1950-4)

          Then the King enters pondering the evidence of the Cardinal’s excessive penchant for possessions. Shakespeare’s general condemnation of the Christian Church with its fabulous wealth and compromised spirituality can be read in Henry’s condemnation of the Cardinal’s avariciousness.

    If we did think
    His Contemplation were above the earth,
    And fixed on Spiritual object
    , he should still
    Dwell in his Musings, but I am afraid
    His Thinkings are below the Moon, not worth
    His serious considering.

    Good my Lord,
    You are full of Heavenly stuff, and bear the Inventory
    Of your best Graces, in your mind
    ; the which
    You were now running o’er: you have scarce time
    To steal from Spiritual leisure
    , a brief span
    To keep your earthly Audit, sure in that
    I deem you an ill Husband, and am glad
    To have you therein my Companion. (3.2.1994-2011)

          Shakespeare loads the King’s facetious comments with a veiled warning straight out of sonnet 126, which threatened the idealistic Master Mistress with the ‘Audit’ of nature if he is unwilling to appreciate the logic of increase and truth and beauty. The irony is intense as Henry indirectly accuses Wolsey of accumulating material wealth in lieu of ‘Spiritual’ husbandry. In Shakespeare’s mind the Cardinal’s earthly greed is a logical consequence of the poverty of ‘Heavenly stuff ’. Shakespeare sardonically has Wolsey acknowledge his failure to appreciate the logical role of ‘Husband’ and ‘son’ with his pitiful invocation of ‘Nature’.

    For Holy Offices I have a time; a time
    To think upon the part of business, which
    I bear i’th’State: and Nature does require
    Her times of preservation
    , which perforce
    I her frail son, amongst my Brethren mortal,
    Must give my tendance to. (3.2.2013-18)

          When Henry facetiously compliments him for ‘saying well’, Wolsey seeks to have the benefit allied with his ‘doing well’. But Henry will not allow it.

    King. You have said well.
    Cardinal. And ever may your Highness yoke together,
    (As I will lend you cause) my doing well,
    With my well saying.
    King. ’Tis well said again,
    And ’tis a kind of good deed to say well,
    And yet words are no deeds. My Father lov’d you,
    He said he did, and with his deed did Crown
    His word upon you. (3.2.2019-27)

          Shakespeare has Henry characterise the Cardinal as incapable of unifying ‘word’ and ‘deed’. The double irony, of course, is that the King proves to be no more a man of his word than the Cardinal. The Cardinal is too much a man of the ‘word’ of the male God to see that his ‘deeds’ are unnatural to husbands and sons in nature. An appreciation of the logic of words (or truth) and their relation to the dynamic of life or nature, which Shakespeare articulates in the Sonnets, is missing from the deeds of both Henry and Wolsey.
          As if to reinforce the connection to his Sonnet philosophy, and particularly the 14 increase sonnets that provide the logical relation between nature and husbands and sons as the basis for truth and beauty (sonnet 14), Shakespeare has Surrey say as an aside,

    The Lord increase this business. (3.2.2033)

          The exchange between King and Cardinal has compared ‘Heavenly stuff ’ and ‘Holy Offices’ with ‘earthly Audit’ and ‘Nature’s requirements’. In a single breath, Surrey’s comment conjoins the illogicality of ‘the Lord’ (Christ?) undergoing physical increase, with the hope that the Cardinal increases his ‘business’ of offending the King, and with the illogicality of Wolsey’s relationship to nature as an ‘ill husband’ and ‘frail son’ who has no empathy with the logic of increase. The words and tone of the exchange are derived directly from the arguments the Poet advances to the Master Mistress to cure his illogical attitude toward increase in the first 14 sonnets.
          Henry continues to elicit from Wolsey affirmations of loyalty and obedience. The double irony of the King receiving an assurance from the lying Wolsey, who says his ‘ends’ are toward the King’s ‘most Sacred Person’, indicates Shakespeare was aware of the conceit of divine rule sanctioned by a male God, as he was of the deceit by a divinely appointed cardinal concealing his God/Dog driven need for ‘Bounty’.
          As the King is about to leave, he hands Wolsey a ‘paper’, which is an account of ‘all that world of Wealth’Wolsey has ‘drawn together for mine own ends’. Included also is a letter Wolsey sent to the Pope explaining the need to hinder the divorce to prevent the marriage of Henry and the Lutheran Anne Bullen. Wolsey even associates his desire for wealth with his plan to ‘gain the Popedom’, directly aligning his greed with the Vicarship of Christ. He even associates this God/Dog moment with the ‘cross Devil’, who is present in Christ on the ‘cross’, the central symbol of Christendom.

                      (Indeed to gain the Popedom,
    And see my friends in Rome.) O Negligence!
    Fit for a Fool to fall by: What cross Devil
    Made me put this main Secret in the Packet
    I sent the King. (3.2.2091-5)

          Wolsey, as if meeting Surrey’s earlier expectation, again identifies his holy deceit as the ‘Business’. His evil business is the consequence of his absolute allegiance to a male God whose devilish underbelly emerges in Wolsey to reveal the illogicality in Christian belief. Shakespeare highlights the grossness of the conceit when the Cardinal refers to his worldly glory as his ‘Greatness’, and his ‘fall’ as a disappearance from the sight of ‘man’. The opposite has been the case, as attested by the ignominy that has descended on the divine conceit over the last four centuries.

    I have touch’d the highest point of all my Greatness,
    And from the full Meridian of my Glory,
    I haste now to my Setting. I shall fall
    Like a bright exhalation in the Evening,
    And no man see me more. (3.2.2102-6)

          Contrary to the Cardinal’s pious hopes, sonnet 14 argues against the psychology of looking to the stars or heavens for a God-like expectation. Rather it presents the logic of the relation between human eyes and truth and beauty. Shakespeare has Wolsey describe his meteoric descent, not to human understanding but against it. Wolsey’s convenient piety in the remaining scenes reveals the hypocrisy of religious psychology.
          When the Lords enter to retrieve the ‘Great Seal’ from Wolsey, he persists in his conceit. Suffolk re-invokes the ‘cross’ reference by challenging Wolsey’s right to ‘cross’ the ‘words’ of the divine King. The suggestion is that Wolsey makes a Christ of himself above the ‘word’ of God’s King. Wolsey acknowledges the implication when he accuses the Lords of ‘envy’ and ‘Malice’ and demands a ‘Christian warrant’ to verify their ‘words’. Surrey adds to the accusation of Christian corruption when he calls Wolsey a ‘proud Traitor’, a ‘Scarlet sin’ and a ‘piece of scarlet’ and accuses him of absolving Buckingham with an ‘Axe’.
          The constant reiteration of the power and value of ‘words’ throughout this part of the scene corresponds to Shakespeare’s detailed analysis of the logic of truth in the Mistress sequence (137 to 152) and his attempt to teach the idealising youth the logic of truth (20 to 126). So by the time Wolsey claims that his innocence will surface when the ‘King knows my Truth’, the value of words has been completely undermined.
          The Lords give an extensive list (from Holinshed) of the Cardinal’s offences and then leave. Wolsey, now alone, drops all pretence and bemoans his fall from greatness. Shakespeare sardonically has him express his slide in an organic metaphor of growth and decay in keeping with the denial of nature and increase in biblical belief.

    This is the state of Man; today he puts forth
    The tender Leaves of hopes, tomorrow Blossoms
    And bears his blushing Honours thick upon him:
    The third day, comes a Frost; a killing Frost,
    And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
    His greatness is a ripening, nips his root,
    And then he falls as I do. (3.2.2252-8)

          Shakespeare then has Wolsey depict himself as a ‘boy’ who goes beyond his depth at ‘sea’. The words recall the adolescent pride of the Master Mistress that keeps him from reconnecting with the Mistress, whose lunar numbering (28) associates her with the sea.

                                  I have ventur’d
    Like little wanton Boys that swim on bladders:
    This many Summers in a Sea of Glory,
    But far beyond my depth:my high-blown Pride
    At length broke under me, and now has left me
    Weary, and old with Service, to the mercy
    Of a rude stream
    , that must for ever hide me. (3.2.2258-64)

          Wolsey’s earlier description of himself as a ‘star fallen’ is now complemented by a further image from sonnet 14. He ruminates on the fate of those who hang on Princes’ favours. In sonnet 14 the favour of Princes is proscribed and replaced with the sense of truth and beauty available from the eyes.

    Vain pomp, and glory of this World, I hate ye.
    I feel my heart new open’d. Oh how wretched
    Is that poor man, that hangs on Princes’ favours?
    There is betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
    That sweet aspect of Princes, and their ruin,
    More pangs, and fears than wars, or woman have;
    And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
    Never to hope again
    . (3.2.2265-72)

          Abergavenny’s assessment of Wolsey’s God/Dog status early in Act 1 is now Wolsey’s self-actualisation. His self-pity, though, unlike Shakespeare’s incisive vision into the implications of belief in a male God, allows him to evoke only the inevitability of natural logic with no awareness of the implications for male-based religions. The priority of the female over the male, so clearly articulated in the Sonnets, appears only as a lament on the nature of ‘woman’ as he senses the God/Dog flip in his fortunes.
          Cromwell’s entry brings out the disoriented sense of the Cardinal’s newfound ‘still and quiet conscience’. He feels at ‘peace above all earthly Dignities’ as if he realises his only ‘hope for Heaven’ is in abject self denial. Even in his ‘cured’ state he still maintains the conceit of wanting to be ‘greater far than my Weak-hearted Enemies’.

    Never so truly happy, my good Cromwell,
    I know myself now, and I feel within me,
    A peace above all earthly Dignities,
    A still, and quiet Conscience

    O ’tis a burden Cromwell, ’tis a burden
    Too heavy for a man, that hopes for Heaven

    I am able now (me thinks)
    (Out of fortitude of Soul, I feel)
    To endure more Miseries, and greater far
    Than my Weak-hearted Enemies
    , dare offer. (3.2.2282-97)

          The lesson of the Sonnets is that any form of idealised pride whether of Kings or paupers, whether holy or most evil, remains self-serving pride if there is no recognition of the priority of nature and the female over the male. This Wolsey does not do. Shakespeare laces Wolsey’s speech with Sonnet terminology to show how the logic of language is based on natural logic whether or not the speaker is aware that he turns to it in extremis.
          The Shakespearean irony that Wolsey is ‘pulled down’ by ‘one woman’ (Anne Bullen) is given another twist when the Cardinal somewhat ashamedly is forced to ‘play the Woman’.

    Cromwell I did not think to shed a tear
    In all my Miseries: But thou hast forc’d me
    (Out of thy honest truth) to play the Woman. (3.2.2342-4)

          Cromwell’s patronising statement that Wolsey is ‘so good, so Noble, and so true a Master’wrings from Wolsey an understanding of ‘truth’ so corrupt that he can only ‘play’the ‘Woman’. As the Sonnets acknowledge the Mistress is the source of beauty and truth, Wolsey’s bizarre conjunction of ‘truth’ and ‘woman’ is a misrepresentation that Shakespeare deliberately gives to a character in the play who represents the illogical psychology of biblical belief. Wolsey, as long as he is ignorant of natural logic, can never do more than ‘play’ the woman. His ‘unmannerly’ or ashamed playing of the ‘Woman’, though, has devastating consequences.
          Wolsey counsels Cromwell to learn from his abuse of power. After ‘sounding the depths’, he imagines he can offer Cromwell a way to avoid his own ‘wrack’.

                                  Say I taught thee;
    Say Wolsey, that once trod the ways of Glory,
    And sounded all the Depths, and Shoals of Honour,
    Found thee a way (out of his wrack) to rise in:
    A sure, and safe one, though thy Master missed it.
    Mark but my Fall, and that that Ruin’d me: (3.2.2348-53)

          The imagery can only be reconciled from the vantage of the Sonnet philosophy. Shakespeare takes Wolsey to the brink of natural logic but shows how Wolsey’s continued faith in the male God leaves him blind to the nature of his downfall. The two references to ‘woman’ at a time when Wolsey is down on his luck are an involuntary recognition by him of the priority of the female. He resists the need to identify his condition in terms of the female, and that resistance indicates his incomplete connection to his true self. When he talks of ‘sounding all the depths, and Shoals of Honour’ he again indirectly accedes to the greater profundity of the female.
          In sonnet 126 Shakespeare cautions the adolescent Master Mistress about the reckoning he will be subjected to by ‘Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)’. And Shakespeare has taken Wolsey through just such a reckoning. Wolsey identifies the sea, the symbol of Nature (the sovereign mistress), as the cause of his ‘wrack’, and even identifies himself as the male adolescent ‘Master’ or Master Mistress.
          But Wolsey does not understand the logical implications of the words Shakespeare puts in his mouth. He goes on to characterise the nature of his ‘Fall’, by paradoxically implicating ‘man’ and his male ‘Maker’ in the fall of God’s ‘Angels’.

    Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away Ambition,
    By that sin fell the Angels
    : how can man then
    (The Image of his Maker) hope to win by it?
    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 thy ends thou aim’st at, be thy Countries,
    Thy Gods and Truths
    . (3.2.2354-62)

          Within the dynamic of the play, sourced from an historical instance of male-based iniquity, Wolsey’s fall represents a partial recovery of natural logic. Shakespeare has introduced into Wolsey’s speeches elements of his Sonnet philosophy but does not allow Wolsey a full realisation of its nature-based logic. Instead, in keeping with the historic precedent, Wolsey capitalises on his turn of fortune by espousing Christian exemplars and virtues in the name of the God, whose inner Devil he has epitomised. Despite his pious exhortations to Cromwell, he ends by misunderstanding the direct connection between ‘my God’ and the persistence of his ‘enemies’.

                      Then if thou fall’st (O Cromwell)
    Thou fall’st a blessed Martyr.
    Serve the Kin

    Had I but serv’d my God, with half the Zeal
    I serv’d my King: he would not in mine Age
    Have left me naked to mine Enemies
    . (3.2.2362-71)

          Shakespeare has Wolsey again unwittingly admit to a fatal blindness when he persists in inverting the relation between ‘Court’ and ‘Heaven’. As a Cardinal he used his hopes of heaven to advance his material well being.

    The Hopes of Court, my Hopes in Heaven do dwell. (3.2.2373-4)

          After the long scene in which Wolsey is exposed and brought to Audit, Act 4 begins with the coronation of Anne Bullen. The action is watched by three gentlemen who reflect on the divorce of Katherine, which was effected after she refused to appear before the ‘learned men’. When Anne appears they note her ‘Angelic sweetness’, sweet enough they think to ease the King’s ‘conscience’. They describe a moment in the rejoicing when a group of pregnant women were so pressed together they seemed ‘woven so strangely in one piece’.
          Shakespeare notes the irony of the gentlemen’s acquiescence to the logic of increase, despite their penchant to see all in terms of God and King. So when Anne is crowned, the Anne who previously rejected such a possibility by vowing on her ‘troth and maidenhead’, the third gentleman describes her approach to the Altar as ‘Saint-like’ as she casts her ‘fair eyes to Heaven’ and prays ‘devoutly’. But he has already characterised her sexually as the ‘goodliest woman that ever lay by man’. The Sonnet logic predicts that all pretence of sanctity and virtue is superceded by the logic of increase in nature.
          The second scene appropriately cuts to a conversation between Katherine and her man Griffith. After the confirmation of her divorce and the public rejoicing at the coronation of Anne, the Queen begins by describing herself as psychologically damaged by her experiences. Her idealised expectations of marriage and the King have meant her natural disposition to increase, instead of being a tree of life has become ‘loaden Branches’ whose fruit has weighed her down.

    O Griffith, sick to death:
    My legs like loaden Branches bow to’th’Earth,
    Willing to leave their burthen: (4.2.2552-4)

          Sardonically, she calls her nemesis Wolsey ‘that Child of Honour’. His adolescent male-God belief (Master Mistress) over-rides what should have been her triumph as a childbearing female (Mistress). Again, while Katherine can perceive the evil in Wolsey, she does not have the insight to see the dark side of believing in the absoluteness of a male God that makes Wolsey’s evil ambition and greed absolutely evil.
          Griffith captures something of the irony when he reports that Wolsey, unlike Christ, ‘could not fit his mule’. Wolsey’s last words, recounted by Griffith, sustain the false sense of ‘Charity’ and the odious sight of a man on his deathbed, now full of repentance to ensure he gains God’s ear. His wish that his ‘Honours’ go to the ‘world’ and his ‘blessed part to Heaven’ is the final indignity of a God-fearing man.
          Katherine, though, is in no mood to be so charitable toward Wolsey soul. She gives a true account of his ‘graces’.

    So may he rest,
    His Faults lie gently on him:
    Yet thus far Griffith, give me leave to speak him,
    And yet with Charity. He was a man
    Of unbounded stomach, ever ranking
    Himself with Princes. One that by suggestion
    Tied all the Kingdom. Simony, was fair play,
    His own Opinion was his Law. I’th’presence
    He would say untruths, and be ever double
    Both in his words, and meaning
    . He was never
    (But where he meant to Ruin) pitiful.
    His promises,were as he then was, Mighty:
    But his performance, as he is now, Nothing
    Of his own body he was ill, and gave
    The Clergy ill example
    . (4.2.2585-99)

          When Griffith attempts to ‘speak his good’, he manages only to be more damning of a man who used his knowledge for personal aggrandizement. The deep irony that ‘Christendom’ would speak Wolsey’s ‘Virtue’ because he established Oxford University is a joke Shakespeare anticipated and would have appreciated of a man who ‘died, fearing God’.

    This Cardinal,
    Though from an humble Stock, undoubtedly
    Was fashion’d to much Honour. From his Cradle
    He was a Scholar, and a ripe, and good one:
    Exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading:
    Lofty, and sour to them that lov’d him not:
    But, to those men that sought him, sweet as Summer
    And though he were unsatisfied in getting,
    (Which was a sin) yet in bestowing, Madam,
    He was most Princely
    :Ever witness for him,
    Those twins of Learning, that he rais’d in you,
    Ipswich and Oxford: one of which, fell with him,
    Unwilling to out-live the good that did it.
    The other (though unfinished) yet so Famous,
    So excellent in Art, and still so rising,
    That Christendom shall ever speak his Virtue.
    His Overthrow, heap’d Happiness upon him:
    For then, and not till then, he felt himself,
    And found the Blessedness of being little.
    And to add greater Honours to his Age
    Than man could give him; he died, fearing God. (4.2.2606-26)

          The litany of Wolsey’s ‘good’ amounts to that of an academic who sourly guards his meager reputation, but generously uses his influence to expand the only institution in which he feels valued. Griffith’s linking of Wolsey’s academicism with his last minute fear of God is a brilliant parody by Shakespeare of the vacuous relation between ‘learning’ and religion. Shakespeare predicts the succession of academic Christian commentators, such as Samuel Johnson, who have misinterpreted the ‘great’ passages in his plays, and have converted through emendation and denigration the passages patently critical of Christianity. In Griffith’s pathetic eulogy Shakespeare anticipates the traditional commentaries on Henry VIII that iniquitously slight him by attributing passages to Fletcher.
          Shakespeare’s deeper concern is with how a woman such as Katherine, who sees clearly into the evil that is God’s Wolsey, can be so blinded by claims based on academic learning and achievement. When she describes Griffith as an ‘honest Chronicler’ Shakespeare is drawing attention to the extent to which his account of the natural logic of humankind differs from the supposedly factual account available in chronicles such as Holinshed’s. Holinshed conforms to the expectations of ‘Religious Truth’ that Shakespeare demonstrates to be an inversion of the logic of truth in his Sonnets and in all his plays.

    After my death, I wish no other Herald,
    No other speaker of my living Actions
    To keep mine Honour, from Corruption,
    But such an honest Chronicler as Griffith.
    Whom I most hated Living, thou hast made me
    With thy Religious Truth, and Modesty,
    (Now in his Ashes) Honour: (4.2.2627-33)

          By showing the susceptibility of a woman whose intuitions are razor sharp in identifying the evil in Wolsey but are next to blunt when faced with ‘knowledge’ beyond her station as a housewife/Queen, Shakespeare reveals the close link between vulnerable intuition and religious fantasy. When the ex-Queen calls for music she slips into a slumber in which she has a ‘vision’ of ‘celestial harmony’.
          As in all Shakespeare’s works the realm of fantasy is clearly differentiated from natural processes of the world. In this case the Queen sleeps and dreams of dancing figures and then of herself, holding ‘up her hands to heaven’. To emphasise the logic of the fantasy the stage instruction indicates that only in her sleep does it makes sense to hold her hands to heaven. The fantasy of ‘spirits of peace’ is accentuated when the Queen awakes to ‘wretchedness’ with the realisation that the ‘blessed Troupe’ is no more than a dream.

    No? Saw you not even now a blessed Troupe
    Invite me to a Banquet, whose bright faces
    Cast thousand beams upon me, like the Sun?
    They promised me eternal Happiness,
    And brought me Garlands (Griffith) which I feel
    I am not worthy yet to wear: I shall assuredly. (4.2.2664-9)

          Shakespeare traces with exactness the path from intuition, through inadequate knowledge, to superstitious fantasy. The abuse of intuition by those with knowledge for the sake of power and personal gain is a significant theme in Henry VIII. Katherine’s willingness to be beguiled by the ‘vision’ in her dream, and her wretchedness immediately after, confirm the psychological nature of her experience. Consequently, despite her recent near-heaven encounter, she vents her frustration on the messenger when he enters. She not only calls him a ‘saucy fellow’ and demands ‘more Reverence’, but gives orders that she ‘ne’er see (him) again’. In contrast to Wolsey, who she recently pilloried, she demands the messenger acknowledge the ‘Greatness’Wolsey so conveniently relinquished.
          Lord Capuchius enters to convey the King’s ‘grief ’ for Katherine’s increasing ‘weakness’ and hopes she ‘take good comfort’. But Katherine will not entertain such last minute sentiment.

    O my good Lord, that comfort comes too late,
    ’Tis like a Pardon after Execution;
    That gentle Physic given in time, had cur’d me: (4.2.2708-10)

          She reflects on her ‘chaste love’ and asks that her daughter be given ‘virtuous breeding’ fitting to her ‘Noble modest Nature’. But Shakespeare knew that Queen Mary’s reign as a Catholic Queen was even more ‘Bloody’ than Henry’s. Katherine also asks that her servants be provided for on the basis that Capuchius would ‘wish Christian peace to souls departed’. But it would not bode well for her servants if he imitated her angry behaviour when waking from a Christian fantasy. Her request to be remembered as a ‘chaste Wife’ and laid out ‘like a Queen’ completes the picture of a woman whose ‘Christian’values keep her from seeing deeper into the minds of men such as the King her husband.
          The examination of the psychology of the old Queen as one of strong feminine intuitions but feeble judgment when confronted with male-based ‘Learning’, complements the characterisation of Buckingham as the male most near nature but still not able to act consistently with natural logic. Because they both lack a conceptual connection from their intuitions to nature they, as do so many erstwhile people who seek a mature mythic understanding of their relationship to the world, fall back on adolescent expressions of faith in traditional male-based Christianity. In the inconsistency between religious fantasy and ordinary behaviour Shakespeare shows the ludicrousness of such psychological reinforcement. He particularly examines Wolsey’s gross fulfillment of the idealistic excesses and his even more abject expression of piety when his God-like ambitions fail.
          If Henry VIII is a play deliberately structured by Shakespeare to demonstrate the consistency of his Sonnet philosophy, then his choice of the aspects of Henry’s life to depict should bear that out. His decision to play Wolsey and Buckingham off against each other, and more significantly, his decision to consider only Henry’s first two Queens is consistent with such a plan. So far the logical relations revealed in the play support the idea that three years after publishing the Sonnet philosophy Shakespeare wrote a history play specifically to show how the philosophy could be applied to the politically doctored accounts of the Holinshed Chronicles.
          The Sonnet logic presents a consistent understanding of truth and beauty based on the logic of increase out of nature. The argument of the Sonnets is that if human understanding does not acknowledge the priority of nature over God and the priority of the female over the male then truth and beauty are compromised. Wolsey and Henry represent two males whose idea of truth is inconsistent with the natural course of events. While they differ in their degree of contradiction, the one malignant the other benign, as heads of Church and State their actions create major divisions and injustices.
          At the start of Act 5 the system of control based in a male King and a male God still prevails. But a great irony is about to be realised when Anne Bullen gives birth to a girl and not a boy. The opening scene confirms that the male Lords of Church and State cannot resolve their differences. Because they avow their allegiance to ‘Religious Truth’ based in a male God and divine King they have no hope of doing so.
          But an unconscious transformation occurs in Henry in Act 5, partly through the consequences his rejection of Katherine and the fall of Wolsey. The principal influence on his temperament, however, is the birth of Elizabeth. Inspired by her entry into his life he at least attempts to bring the dissenting Lords to an amicable agreement.
          It is not by chance that Shakespeare has Henry call on the female Virgin Mary three times in the scenes before he enforces a truce. Shakespeare is not out to convert his characters to a new religion, but to show them that only under the priority of the female can peace between the competing male Gods of the Reformation (Catholic and Protestant) be maintained. As Shakespeare knew, the reign of Elizabeth was to be an unprecedented though partial surfacing of natural logic.
          Scene 1 opens with an exchange between Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, and a boy. The boy affirms that it is one o’clock, to which Gardiner sets the theme for the whole Act by suggesting it is time to ‘repair our Nature with comforting repose’. Shakespeare not only begins the Act with a statement of its purpose, which is to recover the priority of natural logic over male-based religions, but signals that the clock strikes ‘one’ or is in unity with the numerological value of nature (154 = 1) in the Sonnets. (The numbers 1 and 10 at the beginning of the Epilogue confirm the numerological reading.)

    Gardiner. It’s one a clock Boy, is’t not.
    Boy. It hath strook.
    Gardiner. These should be hours of necessities,
    Not for delights: Times to repair our Nature
    With comforting repose
    , and not for us
    To waste these times. (5.1.2771-5)

          Nature is again mentioned when Gardiner asks Lovell for a ‘touch of his late business’. Gardiner suggests that the complexity of nature can be better seen at night than in daylight.

                                  Affairs that walk
    (As they say Spirits do) at midnight, have
    In them a wilder Nature, than the business
    That seeks dispatch by day. (5.1.2786-9)

          Lovell divulges that Anne is in a difficult labour and may die, to which Gardiner responds that he wish it were so.

    The fruit she goes with
    I pray for heartily, that it may find
    Good time, and live
    : but for the Stock Sir Thomas,
    I wish it grubb’d up now. (5.1.2795-8)

          But Lovell is not so bloody-minded and confesses that his ‘Conscience’ says she is a ‘good Creature, and sweet-Lady’. Gardiner’s concern, after acknowledging that Lovell is a ‘Gentleman of mine own way, Wise, Religious’, is that Cranmer and Cromwell are her ‘hands’ and it will not be well until all are in their ‘Graves’.
          Shakespeare examines the pattern of the religious conflict between the Catholic and Lutheran Lords against the background of Anne Bullen’s labour and the birth of Elizabeth. As nature introduces Act 5, it is consistent with the Sonnet logic that the idea of ‘increase’ should be introduced before, and as a pretext for, differences between the Lords over ‘Religious Truth’.
          Appropriately, Shakespeare shows how the logic of increase out of nature is the basis for a consistent appreciation of the dynamic of truth, in this case ironically enforced by the unwitting King. If there was any doubt of Shakespeare’s intent to provide a logic to regulate religious intolerance, Gardiner states the case succinctly when he calls Cranmer an ‘Arch-Heretic, a Pestilence that does infect the Land’.
          The religious conceit is sustained by Suffolk when he wishes the King a God-given ‘Heir’.

    God safely quit her of her Burthen, and
    With gentle Travail, to the gladding of
    Your Highness with an Heir
    . (5.1.2853-5)

          When Cranmer enters the King at first suggests there is a case to answer against him, but on Cranmer’s appeal of loyalty decides to stand by him.

    Stand up, good Canterbury,
    Thy Truth and thy Integrity is rooted
    In us thy Friend. Give me thy hand, stand up,
    Prithee lets walk. Now by my Holidame,
    What manner of man are you. (5.1.2912-6)

          Shakespeare gives Henry the words that indicate his change of attitude. Cranmer is ‘rooted’ in him as if by increase, and when he exclaims in the name of the Virgin Mary (Holidame), and asks what ‘manner of man’ Cranmer is, he indicates a sensitivity to the question of the role of the female. Previously when Henry has apostrophised he has called on God, but tellingly he now turns to the Virgin Mary (as Lutherans did not cultivate a devotion to her). Shakespeare uses Mary as a symbol of Henry’s partial recovery of the logic of the female in nature.
          In their conversation Henry and Cranmer refer not only to ‘Truth and Integrity’ but also ‘Truth and Honesty’ and ‘Justice and the Truth’. Their desire to find the ground of truth is not enunciated explicitly, but their common cause in the issue of Anne’s pregnancy leads them toward reconciliation of their differences and then to seek a reconciliation of the opposing Lords. Truth in the logic of the Sonnets is discovered not by contemplating ‘Religious Truth’ but by aligning oneself with natural logic from nature to the increase dynamic from which, in practice, the logic of truth and beauty are derived.
          Henry, chastened by Wolsey’s deceptions, takes it upon himself to describe the corruption in the ‘world’to Cranmer. As if Henry was reflecting on Buckingham’s untimely fate, he accepts Cranmer was naïve or full of innocence like himself. He warns Cranmer to be wary of not seeing the danger in a hidden ‘Precipice’.

    Know you not
    How your state stands i’th’world
    , with the whole world?
    Your Enemies are many, and not small; their practices
    Must bear the same proportion, and not ever
    The Justice and the Truth o’th’question carries
    The dew o’th’Verdict with it; at what ease
    Might corrupt minds procure, Knaves as corrupt
    To swear against you
    ; Such things have been done.
    You are potently oppos’d, and with a Malice
    Of as great Size. Ween you of better luck,
    I mean in perjur’d Witness, than your Master,
    Whose Minister you are, whiles here he liv’d
    Upon this naughty Earth? Go to, Go to,
    You take a Precipice for no leap of danger,
    And woe your own destruction. (5.1.2927-41)

          To protect Cranmer from his enemies Henry gives him a royal Ring. Again, as he recognises Cranmer’s ‘true-heart’, he calls on the ‘Mother’ of ‘God’.

                            Look, the Goodman weeps:
    He’s honest on mine Honour. God’s blest Mother,
    I swear he is true-hearted, and a soul
    None better in my Kingdom. (5.1.2955-8)

          But the entry of an Old Lady who brings the tidings of Anne’s labour elicits from the King his ingrained preference for a male heir.

    Now by thy looks
    I guess thy Message. Is the Queen deliver’d?
    Say Ay, and of a boy. (5.1.2967-9)

          The Old Lady initially plays to the King’s ‘God of heaven’ driven prejudice, and then anticipates his disappointment by claiming the baby girl looks like him. Shakespeare extends the irony of Henry’s exclamations on the name of Mary by having the new Queen ask for Henry’s ‘Visitation’.

    Ay, Ay my Liege,
    And of a lovely Boy: the God of heaven
    Both now, and ever bless her: ’Tis a Girl
    Promises Boys hereafter
    . Sir, your Queen
    Desires your Visitation, and to be
    Acquainted with this stranger; ’tis as like you,
    As Cherry, is to Cherry. (5.1.2970-6)

          When Cranmer is brought to trial, he is kept waiting, an inconvenience observed by the King from an alcove. Again Henry resorts to apostrophising ‘holy Mary’ as he conveys his anger to the physician Butts. When Cranmer is finally admitted, the Lord Chancellor, as one of the ‘men’ whose ‘natures’ are ‘frail’, accuses him of ‘heresies’.

    But we all are men
    In our own nature’s frail, and capable
    Of our flesh, few are Angels; out of which frailty
    And want of wisdom, you that best should teach us,
    Have misdemean’d your self, and not a little:
    Toward the King first, then his Laws, in filling
    The whole Realm, by your teaching and your Chaplains
    (For so we are inform’d) with new opinions,
    Divers and dangerous
    ; which are Heresies;
    And not reform’d, may prove pernicious. (5.2.3058-67)

          Shakespeare’s philosophy was developed in the aftermath of the Reformation across all Europe including Britain. The continual bloodletting between the Catholic and Protestant sects was restrained during the reign of Elizabeth. If Shakespeare was looking to formulate an understanding that avoided the sectarian impasses of the old faith, the example of Elizabeth and his own reflections on nature would have provided ample material to arrive at the comprehensive and consistent nature-based philosophy of the Sonnets. He critiques both the new Protestant Henry and the old Catholic Wolsey because he reasserts the priority of nature over all male Gods.
          So as the play draws to a conclusion it is not surprising to find the King leaning toward an involuntary compromise elicited by the birth of a daughter. Shakespeare has guided him toward the possibility of reconciliation by structuring the play according to the logic of the Sonnets, and has given his characters roles, in part derived from the Chronicles, but largely to express an awakening to the natural logic within them which their malebased faith has obscured. Gardiner’s reiteration of the Chancellor’s accusations is explicit.

    Which Reformation must be sudden too
    My Noble Lords; for those that tame wild Horses,
    Pace ’em not in their hands to make ’em gentle;
    But stop their mouths with stubborn Bits and spur ’em,
    Till they obey the mannage. If we suffer
    Out of our easiness and childish pity
    To one man’s Honour, this contagious sickness;
    Farewell all Physic: and what follows then?
    Commotions, uproars, with a general Taint
    Of the whole State
    ; as of late days our neighbours,
    The upper Germany can dearly witness:
    Yet freshly pitted in our memories. (5.2.3068-79)

          Shakespeare’s sense of irony ensures that Gardiner’s condemnation of Cranmer is couched in terms that identify the underlying problem as one of managing the ‘childish’ consequences of a belief in ‘one man’, the King/God of religious division.
          Despite Cranmer’s plea of loyalty, the Lords are determined to consign him to the Tower, so he challenges Gardiner’s friendship and Christian mercy.

    Ah my good Lord of Winchester: I thank you,
    You are always my good Friend, if your will pass,
    I shall both find your Lordship, Judge and Juror,
    You are so merciful. I see your end,
    ’Tis my undoing. Love and meekness, Lord
    Become a Churchman
    , better than Ambition: (5.2.3107-12)

          After Cromwell tempts the same fate, Cranmer shows the King’s ring, but Gardiner is determined to have him off to the Tower. With the entry of the King, however, Gardiner delivers a barrage of religious patronisation.

    Dread Sovereign,
    How much are we bound to Heaven,
    In daily thanks, that gave us such a Prince;
    Not only good and wise, but most religious:
    One that in all obedience, makes the Church
    The chief aim of his Honour
    , and to strengthen
    That holy duty out of dear respect,
    His Royal self in Judgment comes to hear
    The cause betwixt her, and this great offender. (5.2.3183-90)

          Again Shakespeare’s irony is superb as the ‘Churchman’ completely misrepresents the course of events that are leading to the partial reformation of Henry’s attitude. God and his Churchmen have no part in the series of natural events and realisations that are impacting on Henry’s subconscious sense of natural justice. Henry has learnt enough, though, to see through Gardiner’s God driven flattery. Shakespeare has him play the God/Dog in his dismissal of the Bishop’s ‘wagging tongue’.

    You were ever good at sudden Commendations,
    Bishop of Winchester. But know I come not
    To hear such flattery now, and in my presence
    They are too thin, and base to hide offences,
    To me you cannot reach. You play the Spaniel,
    And think with wagging of your tongue to win me
    But whatsoe’re thou tak’st me for; I’m sure
    Thou hast a cruel Nature and a bloody.
    Good man sit down. (5.2.3191-9)

          The objection of the Lords is over-ruled by a King no longer willing to be subjected to Church deceit. Then when Henry insists all the Lords embrace, he asks Cranmer to be Godfather to Elizabeth.

    Make me no more ado, but all embrace him;
    Be friends for shame my Lords: My lord of Canterbury
    I have a suit which you must not deny me.
    That is, a fair young Maid that yet wants Baptism,
    You must be Godfather, and answer for her. (5.2.3230-4)

          And then again.

    Once more my Lord of Winchester, I charge you
    Embrace, and love this man. (5.2.3242-3)

          Shakespeare’s persistent argument throughout the Sonnets and in all the plays is that the idealism of religion should be contextualised within nature from which it logically derives. To contextualise nature within religion leads to the inconsistencies and religious persecutions evident in the history influenced by the male-based Bible. Once Henry acts, if only intuitively, in accord with nature, then it is possible to accommodate the psychology of faith, with its rituals and institutions, under natural logic.
          Shakespeare has the scene end with Henry effecting a unity between the Lords. Against their prejudices the agreement is based in Nature and the female principle, and the unity of understanding typified by the Poet of the Sonnets who reconciles nature and religion in terms of sexual logic and the erotic logic of mythology. Natural logic ultimately imposes reconciliation upon enmity and accommodates the psychological deficiencies of a populace. (See Volume 4 for Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution with its Bill of Rights.)

                                              I long
    To have this young one made a Christian.
    As I have made ye one Lords, one remain:
    So I grow stronger, you more Honour gain. (5.2.3252-5)

          Scene 3 then reiterates the priority of nature and increase over the rituals of Church and Crown. (Editors make an unnecessary alteration by beginning scene 3 when the Council assembled, but it is clear that the Council meets in the same space as scene 2, while the King remains in the alcove above.)
          The Porter, struggling with the mass of people gathered to witness the Christening of Elizabeth, is led to remark in lay terms on its implications and consequences.

                                  Is this Moorfields
    to muster in? Or have we some strange Indian with the
    great Tool
    , come to Court, the women so besiege us?
    Bless me, what a fry of Fornication is at door? On my
    Christian Conscience this one Christening will beget a
    , here will be Father, Godfather, and all together. (5.3.3291-7)

          The Porter’s man continues the sexual repartee by invoking noses, mortar pieces, clubs, truncheons, broom staffs, and pebbles personified as sexual objects. The Chamberlain’s concern for the safety of the Ladies returning from the Christening is met with the Porter’s laconic response that ‘we are but men’.
          Shakespeare, after the male God driven action of the play, has a final tilt at male-based prejudices with the irony that Henry’s daughter Elizabeth will have a golden reign as Queen Elizabeth. Both the King and Cranmer use God talk to celebrate the birth of a princess who neither Church nor Crown want. Politically they would prefer the persistence of male primogeniture in keeping with the Church’s institutionalised priority of the male God. Cranmer begins fatuously with the presumption that Elizabeth will make her parents truly happy.

    All comfort, joy in this most gracious Lady,
    Heaven ever laid up to make Parents happy
    , (5.4. 3371-2)

          The ‘truth’ that Shakespeare has Cranmer speak in eulogy over the baby Elizabeth, is true in its prediction of her golden reign as Queen but false in its expectation that Elizabeth’s ‘heir’ will be a male to restore the primogeniture Henry sought for himself when he married Anne Bullen.
          Cranmer’s characterisation of Elizabeth as a Phoenix whose male progeny will rise from the ashes of her death is contrary to Shakespeare’s parody of such expectations in The Phoenix and the Turtle. The allusions to the 1601 poem at the beginning of the play, where the union of the two Kings fails, is completed at the play’s end by the historic failure of Henry’s line to produce a male heir through Elizabeth (or Edward or Mary).
          Because Henry’s sensitivity to nature is only partially transformed by his recent experiences he is still susceptible to the flattery about to be bestowed on him by the naive Cranmer.

    Let me speak Sir,
    For Heaven now bids me; and the words I utter,
    Let none think Flattery; for they’ll find ’em Truth.
    This Royal Infant, Heaven still move about her;
    Though in her Cradle; yet now promises
    Upon this Land a thousand thousand Blessings,
    Which Time shall bring to ripeness.

    Truth shall Nurse her,
    Holy and Heavenly thoughts still Counsel her:
    She shall be lov’d and fear’d.

    Nor shall this peace sleep with her: But as when
    The Bird of Wonder dies, the Maiden Phoenix,
    Her Ashes new create another Heir
    As great in admiration as her self.
    So shall she leave her Blessedness to One,
    (When Heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness)
    Who, from the sacred Ashes of her Honour
    Shall Star-like rise, as great in fame as she was
    And so stand fix’d. Peace , Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror,
    That were the Servants to this chosen Infant,
    Shall then be his, and like a Vine grow to him;
    Where ever the bright Sun of Heaven shall shine,
    His Honour, and the greatness of his Name,
    Shall be, and make new Nations. He shall flourish,
    And like a Mountain Cedar, reach his branches,
    To all the Plains about him: Our Children’s Children
    Shall see this, and bless Heaven. (5.4.3384-426)

          The success and failure of Cranmer’s predictions are predetermined by Shakespeare’s historic perspective on the Chronicles and in the illogical hope for the priority of the male in faith and politics. The ultimate irony is that ‘our Children’s Children’ are witnesses to the failure of God and Heaven to deliver on such idealised expectations. Then Shakespeare has Cranmer return to Henry’s earlier references to the Virgin Mary. He predicts Queen Elizabeth will remain virginal, if not a virgin, sadly fulfilling her father’s murderous inability to appreciate natural logic.

    She shall be to the happiness of England,
    An aged Princess;many days shall see her,
    And yet no day without a deed to Crown it.
    Would I had known no more: But she must die,
    She must, the Saints must have her; yet a Virgin,
    A most unspotted Lily shall she pass
    To th’ground, and all the World shall mourn her. (5.4.3428-34)

          Henry’s response is in keeping with the prejudice in Cranmer’s speech,

    Thou hast made me now a man. (5.4.3436)

          His interest in Elizabeth’s future has been heightened but only to the degree that he would want to watch her progress from ‘heaven’. Ironically such a murderer only warrants a heaven reserved for wrackful males.

    This happy Child, did I get anything.
    This Oracle of comfort, has so pleas’d me,
    That when I am in Heaven, I shall desire
    To see what this Child does, and praise my Maker. (5.4.3437-40)

          Shakespeare’s version of the influence of Henry VIII is a logical lesson in the psychology of male-God based evil and the curative powers of nature. Shakespeare could foresee, though, the Church and Crown would be unwilling to accept his logic based in nature. They were too wedded to the psychology of personal worldly largesse and a communal reward in an idealised heaven.
          As these volumes reveal, Shakespeare’s philosophy has remained unappreciated for 400 years, so in the Epilogue it comes as no surprise to find a prediction of the degree to which the play will please, and the confirmation that the play is about the logical priority of women over men.


    ’Tis ten to one, this Play can never please
    All that are here
    : Some come to take their ease,
    And sleep an Act or two; but those we fear
    W’have frighted with our Trumpets: so ’tis clear,
    They’ll say ’tis naught. Others to hear the City
    Abus’d extremely, and to cry that’s witty,
    Which we have not done neither
    ; that I fear
    All the expected good w’are like to hear.
    For this Play at this time, is only in
    The merciful construction of good women,
    For such a one we show’d ’em: if they smile,
    And say twill do; I know within a while,
    All the best men are ours; for ’tis ill hap,
    If they hold, when their Ladies bid ’em clap
    . (3450-63)

          The Epilogue predicts the inadequate understanding of those who, because they are ‘asleep’ or dumb to its content, will attribute half the play to Fletcher. And it anticipates others who, because they do not see past the politics of the Chronicles and see only bawdy humour in Shakespeare’s erotic logic, will pass the play off as a late dalliance by the aging Shakespeare. It also predicts that the play will not be understood until men acknowledge the priority of women. If the play has been a casualty of male-based beliefs and politics then the Sonnets that were written to expound its philosophy have been even more so.

    The relation of Henry VIII to the Sonnet template

    The disparagement of Henry VIII in the traditional Shakespearean literature arises partly because of a proprietorial design on Shakespeare’s works by the Anglican Church and the British Crown. The above analysis also reveals that the misunderstanding prevails because of the commentator’s ignorance of the Sonnet philosophy. The ignorance leads to a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of the play and, in compensation, the conversion of the play to conform with the traditional male-based expectations.
          The need to attribute half the play to the lesser playwright Fletcher is symptomatic of the degree of difficulty the traditional approach has with Henry VIII. Because the scenes allocated to Fletcher are considered unworthy of ‘our Shakespeare’, to sustain the charade Fletcher is dismissed as a ‘court gossip’. And even the scenes that are attributed to Shakespeare are deliberately misinterpreted to read as evidence of a Christian belief and loyalty to the Crown.
          But Henry VIII was included without hesitation in the 1623 Folio published by Shakespeare’s fellow actors and associates who knew his works intimately. And the commentaries in this volume show that Shakespeare’s other works in the earlier quartos and in the Folio (such as Macbeth, Pericles, and others) on which traditional scholarship casts doubt, are indubitably Shakespeare’s when viewed from the vantage of the Sonnet logic. Significantly Two Noble Kinsmen, the only play attributed at the time to Shakespeare and Fletcher, was not included in the Folio and was not published until 1634. Pericles, one of the more denigrated plays, was not included in the complete works until 1664. Yet despite its absence from the Folio it went through three quarto editions in Shakespeare’s name before 1623.
          The inclusion of Henry VIII in the Folio as Shakespeare’s without qualification by those who knew him and his work was over-ridden by academic prerogatives based not in Shakespeare’s natural logic but in the male-based power structures of Church and its influence on the State. Shakespeare has been forcibly converted and colonialised to the opportunistic male God psychology, which his works, and particularly Henry VIII, unequivocally argue against.
          The persistent attempts to sanitise Henry VIII highlight the fact that in 400 years no one has come close to understanding the Sonnet philosophy. The commentators are doubly paralyzed in front of Henry VIII. Not only are they determined to bastardise the text in the service of Church and State, they have not been able to penetrate the Sonnet logic because they are determined to defend the traditional view. The issue then becomes one of professional standards of interpretation. Rather than openly admit their inability to understand Henry VIII, they commit the literary crime of emendation and denigration while claiming that only they best know Shakespeare’s mind.
          When the organisation of Henry VIII is compared with the template derived from the Sonnet logic, the continuity in the play, with its basis in nature through increase to the dynamic of truth and beauty, is evident throughout. The examination of only two of Henry’s Queens redoubles the focus on the priority of the female over the male in nature and the logical significance of the increase dynamic over male-based expectations.
          The roles of Buckingham as a male cognizant of nature and Katherine as a female still capable of responding to her feminine intuition form the basis on which Shakespeare examines the truth and beauty of the other characters. The logic of truth and beauty is examined both in terms of the prejudiced history of the Chronicles, and with Shakespeare’s continual assessment of true and false in the statements of the Cardinal (as the representative of the Church) and the King (as the representative of the Crown).

    Nature Template <i>Sonnet</i> Numbers

    Nature template (Sonnet numbers)

    Henry VIII, as with all of Shakespeare’s other plays, shows how the Sonnet logic applies to the dynamic of human relationships in the world. And Henry VIII probably more than other plays based on historic events takes the dynamic of female and male from the Sonnets to reveal the psychology of political and religious prejudice. Shakespeare shows that only in the light of the Sonnet logic can the hypocrisy of history be shown in its true light, and only through the Sonnet logic can the iniquities be corrected.
          There is evidence that The Famous History of the Life of Henry the Eight, to give the play its full title from the Folio, was called All is True at the time of its first performances around 1613. The recent Oxford edition (1988) reverts to All is True for the play and attributes it to Shakespeare and Fletcher without providing a convincing reason for the laconic title other than to throw doubt on the authenticity of the Folio’s attribution to Shakespeare alone.
          Ironically if the play is accepted as fully Shakespeare’s and a full expression of his Sonnet philosophy, its critique of Church and State and the use of only two of Henry’s wives, elements questioned by the Oxford editors, are ‘true’ to the Sonnet logic. If ‘all is true’ then Shakespeare shows that only nature-based logic is true to life and that male-based religious and political prejudices give rise to the worst of injustices, particularly to women.

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    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

    Introduction    Venus and Adonis    Rape of Lucrece    The Phoenix and the Turtle
        A Lover's Complaint    Love's Labour's Lost    Measure for Measure
    Macbeth    Twelfth Night    Henry VIII