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Free Study Guide-Henry VIII by William Shakespeare-Free Plot Synopsis Notes
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SCENE SUMMARY AND NOTES

ACT II, SCENE IV

Summary

The King, the Queen and the clergymen, who are going to preside over the divorce, are all gathered in the hall of the 2Black-Friars. Before the proceedings begin, Katherine interrupts, appealing directly to the King for justice. She has been an impeccable wife and asks the King to explain his desire for divorce. She ends by requesting a postponement of the proceeding till she has consulted with her friends in Spain. Wolsey points out that she is well represented in England. She accuses him of being responsible for the rift that has developed her and the King. She refuses to have Wolsey as the judge of the proceedings and walk out saying that she wants the Pope to preside over the matter. The King summons her back but she refuses to return, further adding that she will never again make her appearance in the court regarding this matter. The King absolves Wolsey of the change the Queen placed on him. Cardinal Campeius says that since the Queen is not present the court should be adjourned. This is done but the King suspects that the Cardinals are not Wholly on his side. He eagerly awaits the return of Cranmer on whose unstinting help and support he can count on.

Notes

This scene initiates the formal beginning of the divorce proceedings. The King’s eagerness to hasten the matter is clearly seen when he tells Wolsey that there is no need to formally read the commission from Rome since everyone is well aware of it.


In direct contrast to this is the Queen’s grave and solemn manner. She directly appeals to the King for justice and fairness. Her verbal appeal is very informative for the audience. It throws light on the fact that she has been an impeccable wife and also paints a picture of the wedded bliss they enjoyed.

Katherine is Spanish by birth and English by marriage. Hence her blood relations are far away from her in this hour of need. Her words paint a poignant picture of her isolation in England, a foreign land for her.

She is aware that she can count on Englishman’s unstinting support. Her only comfort lies in Spain and she asks for time so she can consult them. Wolsey knows that the King has the upper hand in the situation right now and he is determined that it remain so, hence he cleverly invalidates her reason for asking for a postponement.

The Queen has been quite solemn till now but Wolsey’s manipulation succeeds in angering her. She has always shown perfect restraint till now but now she speaks her mind and another fact of personality is revealed. She is determined to see that justice be done to her and refuses to be intimidated or trapped by Wolsey’s cunning and hence she leaves the proceeding demanding the Pope to be the judge.

The reactions of King and Wolsey in the face of the Queen’s justified indignant departure are noteworthy. Wolsey uses his smooth tongue to persuade the King to declare that he is innocent of the change the Queen had accused him of creating a rift between her and the King. The King is troubled by his guilty conscience hence declares Katherine to be an exemplary wife. His speech giving reasons necessitating the divorce show his need to convince himself that what he is doing is justified.

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