David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY VIII: A Retelling in Prose — Cast of Characters and Prologue


Male Characters

King Henry VIII.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He is Archbishop of York and also Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor is custodian of the Great Seal.

Cardinal Campeius.

Capucius, Ambassador from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Thomas Cranmer, later Archbishop of Canterbury.

Duke of Norfolk.

Duke of Buckingham.

Duke of Suffolk. His name is Charles Brandon, and he married Mary Tudor, King Henry VIII’s sister.

Earl of Surrey, Buckingham’s Son-in-Law.

Lord Chamberlain.

Lord Chancellor.

Gardiner, Secretary to the King; later Bishop of Winchester.

Bishop of Lincoln.

Bishop of Ely.

Bishop of Rochester.

Bishop of Saint Asaph.

Bishop of Canterbury.

Lord Sands.

Sir Henry Guildford.

Sir Thomas Lovell.

Sir Anthony Denny.

Sir Nicholas Vaux.

Secretaries to Wolsey.

Cromwell, Servant to Wolsey; later Secretary to the Privy Council.

Griffith, Gentleman-usher to Queen Catherine.

Three Gentlemen.

Doctor Butts, Physician to the King.

Garter King of Arms. The Garter King of Arms is the King of England’s heraldic advisor; he is an expert on ceremonials and heraldry.

Former Surveyor to the Duke of Buckingham. He oversaw the Duke of Buckingham’s estates.


A Sergeant-at-Arms.

Doorkeeper of the Council Chamber.

Porter, and his Assistant.

Page to Gardiner.

A Crier.

Female Characters

Queen Catherine, First Wife to King Henry, afterwards divorced and becomes Princess Dowager.

Anne Boleyn, her Maid of Honor, afterwards Henry VIII’s Second Wife and Queen.

Old Lady, Friend to Anne Boleyn.

Patience, Woman Servant to Queen Catherine.

Minor Characters

Several Lords and Ladies in the Dumb Shows.

Women attending upon the Queen.

Scribes, Officers, Guards, and other Attendants.



London; Westminster; Kimbolton.

Nota Bene:

Anne Boleyn is Anne Bullen in Shakespeare’s play, and Catherine is Katherine in Shakespeare’s play. I have used the spellings that are most often used in our time.

Catherine is Catherine of Aragon; she married King Henry VIII in 1509, and they were divorced on 23 May 1533.

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer pronounced the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn valid on 18 May 1533. The marriage had taken place on 25 January 1533, but was kept secret until Anne became noticeably pregnant.

Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533, and she gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I on 7 September 1533.

William Shakespeare is thought to have co-written this play with John Fletcher.



The Prologue speaks directly to you, the readers:

“If I remember correctly, the last time I appeared before you, it was in a comedy, but I come no more to make you laugh. We the characters now present things that bear a weighty and a serious aspect. They are solemn, lofty, and moving, full of stateliness and woe, such noble scenes as draw the eye with tears to flow.

“Those who can feel pity, may, if they think it good to do, let a tear fall here while reading this work of art. The theme of our work of art will deserve such pity.

“Such as give their money out of hope they may believe what they read, may find truth here, too.

“Those who come to read about only a spectacle or two will approve of this work of art, if they will be still and willing to pay attention. I’ll venture to say that they may agree that their small amount of money was well spent for the few short hours it takes to read this work of art.

“Only they who come to read a merry and bawdy work of art and to imagine a noise of swords against shields or to imagine seeing a fellow in a jester’s long motley coat trimmed with yellow will be disappointed.

“Gentle readers, you should know that our work of art shows the truth we choose to focus on. To rank it as of equal worth to such a show as is filled with fools and fights, besides forfeiting the labor of the brain and characters that created this work of art and forfeiting the goal that we have of revealing only truth, will leave us no understanding friends and audience. Such readers who rank it like that misunderstand what we are attempting to do.

“Therefore, for goodness’ sake, and as you are known as the best and happiest readers of the town — you are reading this in London, aren’t you? If you aren’t, pretend that you are — be serious as you read this, as we want you to be. Imagine that you see the very persons of our noble story as if they were living. Imagine that you see them great and high on the Wheel of Fortune, and followed by the general throng and sweat of a thousand friends, and then in a moment, see how quickly the Wheel of Fortune turns and this mightiness meets misery.

“And, if you can be merry then, I’ll say that a man may weep upon his wedding day.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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