Monday, April 16, 2012
Henry VIII by William Shakespeare follows Henry VIII during his falling out with Cardinal Wolsey, his growing closeness with Oliver Cromwell, and his marriage to and coronation of Anne Boleyn (known as Anne Bullen in my version). I read it because after reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I was completely enthralled with every aspect of that era (anyone excited for Bring Up the Bodies? It comes out in like two weeks!). I had never read a Shakespeare history and thought that this one, placed in an era I am already familiar with and already enjoy reading about, would be perfect.
I was somewhat wrong. Don't get me wrong -- Shakespeare's writing always makes me happy. There is something very satisfying in any phrase he pens. However, for an era that has inspired so much excellent literature, the play itself was somewhat bland. I liked it, but it didn't offer me anything that I didn't already have. Which, I suppose, isn't really fair, because it came along before anything else did.
One thing I do appreciate is the fact that it is about Elizabeth I's family -- it ends with her birth. It is interesting that the play was written in her time and therefore really had to be presentable before her. If Wikipedia steers me correctly, it was written for Princess Elizabeth's (not the queen) marriage celebrations.
So -- to sum up, it is Shakespeare, so it's good, but as far as Shakespeare and Tudor England tales go, it is only mediocre. It was interesting to me in a historical sense but the actual reading experience wasn't stellar.
Warnings: Dirty Shakespeare jokes that you have to be smart to get.