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– THE play of Henry the Eighth is one of those, which still keeps possession of the stage, by the splendour of its pageantry. The coronation about forty years ago drew the people together in multitudes for a great part of the winter * Yet pomp is not the only merit of this play. The meek sorrows and virtuous distress of Katharine have furnished some scenes, which may be justly numbered among the greatest efforts of tragedy. But the genius of Shakspeare comes in and goes out with Katharine. Every other part may be easily conceived and easily written. JOHNSON.
This historical drama comprizes a period of twelve years, commencing in the twelfth year of King Henry's reign, (1521,) and ending with the christening of Elizabeth in 1533. Shakspeare has deviated from history in placing the death of Queen Katharine before the birth of Elizabeth, for in fact Katharine did not die till 1536. MALONE.
Chetwood says, that during one season, is was exhibited 75 times. See his History of the Stage, p. 68.
COME no more to make you laugh; things now,
The play may pass; if they be still, and willing,
Our own brains, and the opinion that we bring,
Therefore, for goodness' sake, and as you are known
As they were living; think, you see them great,
 Alluding to the fools and buffoons, introduced in the plays a little be.. fore our auther's time: and of whom he has left us a small taste in his own. THEOBALD.
 This is not the only passage in which Shakspeare has discovered his conviction of the impropriety of battles represented on the stage. He knew that five or six men with swords, gave a very unsatisfactory idea of an army, and therefore, without much care to excuse his former practice, he allows that a theatrical fight would destroy all opinion of truth, and leave him never an understanding friend. Magnis ingeniis et multa nihilominus habituris simplex convedit erroris confessio. Yet I know not whether the coronation shown in this play may not be liable to all that can be objected against a battle, JOHNS
King HENRY the Eighth.
Cardinal WOLSEY. Cardinal CAMPEIUS.
Duke of NORFOLK. Duke of BUCKINGHAM.
GARDINER, bishop of Winchester.
Bishop of LINCOLN. Lord ABERGAVENNY.
Sir HENRY GUILFORD. Sir THOMAS LOVELL.
GRIFFITH, gentleman-usher to queen Katharine.
Doctor BUTTS, physician to the king.
Garter, king at arms.
Surveyor to the duke of Buckingham.
Door-keeper of the council-chamber. Porter, and his
Page to Gardiner, A Crier.
Queen KATHARINE, wife to king Henry, a fterwards divorced.
ANNE BULLEN, her maid of honour, afterwards queen. An old Lady, friend to Anne Bullen.
PATIENCE, woman to queen Katharine.
Several Lords and Ladies in the dumb shows; women attending upon the queen; Spirits, which appear to her; Scribes, Officers, Guards, and other Attendants.
SCENE, chiefly in London and Westminster ; once, at Kimbolton.