William Shakespeare

Henry VIII

King Henry VIII plans to divorce his first wife for Anne Bullen.

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Henry VIII is one of the few of Shakespeare’s plays thought to have been written with a collaborator. It was initially published in the First Folio under Shakespeare’s name only, but in 1850 James Spedding, an English author and expert on the works of Francis Bacon, suggested that the play was a collaboration with John Fletcher, a playwright who later replaced Shakespeare in the King’s Men acting company. Modern scholars mostly tend to agree, though the theory is still controversial as it’s based on textual analysis and not any historical mention of a collaboration. The play is also famous for having burned down the Globe Theatre in 1613 during one of its early performances, when a cannon shot special effect lit the theater’s thatched roof on fire.

In the play, King Henry’s closest advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, is hated by the citizens of England. Wolsey has imposed unfair taxes and unpopularly executed the Duke of Buckingham for treason. While at a party, the King falls madly in love with Anne Bullen and plans to divorce his current wife, Katherine of Aragon. Wolsey is asked to help his King in this endeavor, all the while becoming even more hated by the English and their Queen.

This Modern Serial edition is based on William George Clark and William Aldis Wright’s 1887 Victoria edition, which is taken from the Globe edition.