Henry VIII


Writers: William Shakespeare


Show Information

Number of Acts
Drama, Historical/Biographical
Cast Size
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult characters


In Great Britain in the 1500s, Cardinal Wolsey is a powerful and ruthless man who has made many enemies. He has the Duke of Buckingham arrested on charges of treason. Henry VIII is good friends with Wolsey, but Queen Katherine complains to him about Wolsey's abuse of the taxation system. Henry confronts Wolsey and eliminates the measures that Wolsey implemented on the taxation system, though Wolsey claims that he himself revoked them. He also defends the arrest of Buckingham and produces the accuser, the Duke's Surveyor. At a banquet, while wearing a mask, Henry meets Anne Bullen, or Anne Boleyn. Buckingham is convicted and executed. Wolsey then attempts to start a trial for Queen Katherine as well. Anne Bullen feels sympathy towards the Queen and is suddenly made Marchioness of Pembroke. Henry defends Wolsey's actions against Katherine on the basis of the questionable legitimacy of their marriage, and Katherine leaves in protest. Various enemies of Wolsey, including the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, find that Wolsey is lying to both the King and the Pope about his support for the divorce of the King and Queen. They reveal the truth, and Wolsey is in disgrace. However, his servant, Thomas Cromwell, is spared and rises in power. The divorce with Katherine goes through, and Henry marries Anne Bullen. Henry supports Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he is disrespected by the King's Council, and shortly later, the future Queen Elizabeth is born.

Lead Characters

Henry VIII guide sections