Study Guide

Cranmer in Henry VIII

By William Shakespeare

Cranmer

This Archbishop of Canterbury is Henry's "learnèd and well-belovèd servant" (2.4.263). Too bad not everyone agrees: the council members won't even let the guy in the door when he's accused of some wrongdoing. Luckily for us, we learn a lot about Cranmer while he's waiting out in the cold.

The Truth Will Out

Cranmer doesn't get angry or swear revenge; instead, he prays. He asks: "God turn their hearts! I never sought their malice— / To quench mine honor" (5.2.20-21). Cranmer isn't after the judgment of men; instead, he looks to a higher power. He introduces the idea of religious forgiveness when humans themselves won't offer it. His search for forgiveness, like Katherine's honesty, reminds us that not everyone is after something from the nobles and the court.

On the other hand, perhaps he can sleep soundly knowing he's got an in with the man upstairs. It's probably easier to focus on religion when you know the king's got your back.

How secure does Cranmer feel? Well, he can't even seem to understand why the council members would have anything against him at all. When Henry warns him that Gardiner is after him, he doesn't budge; he simply says, "The good I stand on is my truth and honesty / if they shall fail" (5.1.151-152). Well, okay.

Confident that he won't be found guilty, Cranmer holds fast to the truth. It's curious that he's so confident in the truth when it is nowhere to be found in his trial. Indeed, the councilors seem more interested in locking him up and throwing away the key than they do about finding the real truth behind the accusations.

Seal of Approval

When Henry stands up for Cranmer, it's all over: no one wants to mess with a king. It's pretty telling what kind of guy Cranmer is that even the king is willing to stand up for him. And that's an interesting point. Let's break it down.

Henry seems to believe that Cranmer is really and truly a good, faithful guy, and we don't see much to make us think otherwise. After the incident with Wolsey, we can see why Henry would want someone good and faithful on his side; even the king wants a friend.

But we can take it further. Which other character is known for goodness, loyalty, and honesty? That's right: Katherine. It's almost as if Henry finally understands what he's lost through Wolsey's manipulation and is trying to get it back in the figure of Cranmer. It's almost as if Henry has taken one ring off Katherine's finger and put another on Cranmer's. If so, that doesn't bode too well for Anne...

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