Study Guide

Henry VIII Three-Act Plot Analysis

By William Shakespeare

Three-Act Plot Analysis

Act I

Buckingham is arrested and executed for treason. We're not sure if he's actually guilty, or if Wolsey has just set him up. Henry meets Anne and wants to divorce Katherine. Wolsey wants to get rid of Katherine and brings in Cardinal Campeius from Rome to help Henry divorce Katherine... legally, of course.

Act II

Katherine knows that Wolsey is against her, but she doesn't really have any solid options. She accuses Wolsey of plotting her demise, but she's shipped off on the first train to Kimbolton, anyway. She's just the Princess Dowager now, and no longer Queen—and that frees Henry up to marry Anne. But trouble is brewing in paradise for the pair: Wolsey doesn't like Anne, and the nobles think Wolsey is double-crossing the king behind his back.

Act III

The nobles have a plan to take down Wolsey, but it looks like they don't need it. When Wolsey exposes his own mistakes, Henry fires him and hires Cranmer. Wolsey dies soon after, and then Katherine dies after that. But the problems keep on coming: now Cranmer is accused of all kinds of nasty crimes. The council wants to punish him, but Henry trusts him and forces the council to drop the charges. Plus, Anne has just had a baby girl, and Henry wants the council to christen his new daughter, Princess Elizabeth.

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