Before Showtime put The Tudors on TV and Bring Up the Bodies topped the bestseller list, Shakespeare exposed the devious world of England’s royal rake. Now, 400 years after premiering at Shakespeare’s Globe in 1613, Henry VIII makes its Chicago premiere in the uniquely personal setting of CST’s Courtyard Theater under the masterful hand of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines. Audiences are thrust into the political machinations and exploits of England’s most opulent king—notorious for his habit of wedding and beheading—as Anne Boleyn rises to power and Queen Katherine is ousted from her throne.
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes including intermission.
Henry VIII is presented in the Jentes Family Auditorium.
Lord Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, now perhaps the richest man in the kingdom, is hated by England’s nobility. The low-born Wolsey remains the power behind the throne, and he wields it for his own gain. The Duke of Buckingham attempts to warn the king of Wolsey’s trespasses, but the Lord Cardinal strikes first, accusing Buckingham of placing himself as the rightful successor to the throne if Henry produces no heir; Buckingham is charged with high treason.
Queen Katherine is the first of the king’s six wives—and widow to Henry’s elder brother, who died in his adolescence. Through eight pregnancies, Katherine has given birth to only one child still living, Princess Mary. Henry fears that this marriage to a brother’s widow must exist against the will of heaven and, with Wolsey’s help, he looks to Rome to annul his twenty-year marriage. With his eye on the papacy for himself, Wolsey handpicks England’s future queen from France’s Catholic royal family, but Henry’s eye strays elsewhere—to the beauty of the English, and decidedly Protestant, Anne Boleyn, whom he first meets at Wolsey’s palace.
It appears that Wolsey’s power is limitless, until evidence of his unbounded ambition and double-dealings land back in Henry’s hands. The dissolution of a marriage—and a revolution within the Church—follow, along with a new bride and the birth of a princess named Elizabeth. Here, before an audience that knows well the story’s “real” ending, Henry VIII: All Is True draws to a close, revealing the nuances of history and myth—and the refusal of our experiences, memories and imaginative powers to be neatly categorized for long.