Henry VIII

  • Katharine Goodland
  • John O’Connor
Part of the A Directory of Shakespeare in Performance Series book series (DSP)


Henry VIII served up a feast of spectacle, Tudor spectacle. The designers turned to portraits by Holbein and his contemporaries for the styles worn by Henry, Katharine, Cromwell, Wolsey, and others. While the casting accentuated the resemblances in many cases (Leon Pownall looked like the stout, lively Henry of the 1530s), William Hutt, tall and slender, pretended to none of Wolsey’s pounds. He was a commanding presence nevertheless. He looked magnificent, partly because his height required yards of scarlet for his soutane, and his acting provided a lesson in the power of subtlety, for Hutt’s Wolsey remained composed even when driven by ambition, ruthlessness, or cunning; nor was he beyond pathos in his demise … One mark of the success of the production (and no slight to Pownall’s performance) was that Henry seemed but one force among many contending for real power over others. Like the machinations of those struggling for ascendancy, the pitiful falls of others from positions of influence—that of the feisty Katharine of Aragon (Elizabeth Shepherd) above all—made for a more complex, more engaging imaginative environment. The Avon Theatre stage assisted both the spectacle and the scheming. The ornate proscenium arch framed nicely the magnificence of Henry s court. Lovely music, also Tudor, and some elegant dancing by the king and his company enhanced the atmosphere. The dancing had dramatic point, too: while the masquers performed with some harmony as a group, one among them was clearly pursuing his own desire for the daughter of Thomas Boleyn. A series of platforms rising to the back corners of the stage made a kind of thrust stage of the Avon’s rectangular box.


Real Power Moving Scene Henry VIII Character Writing Metal Gratis 
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Copyright information

© Katharine Goodland and John O’Connor 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharine Goodland
  • John O’Connor

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