Study Guide

Henry VIII Manipulation

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The devil speed him! No man's pie is freed
From his ambitious finger. What had he
To do in these fierce vanities? I wonder
That such a keech can with his very bulk
Take up the rays o' th' beneficial sun
And keep it from the Earth. (1.1.61-66)

Wolsey is soaking in the sun, which sounds really nice. Actually, the sun is a symbol for Henry, and Wolsey is stealing it all for himself. In fact, he's filling up with lumps of fat (keech), but no one knows it—except for Buckingham, of course. He's on to Wolsey's scheming ways.

I cannot tell
What heaven hath given him—let some graver eye
Pierce into that—but I can see his pride
Peep through each part of him. Whence has he that?
If not from hell... (1.1.77-81)

He can't figure Wolsey out, but Abergavenny isn't blind to the guy's overwhelming pride and ambition. His comment tells us that even if people can't understand Wolsey's ways, they get a bad vibe from the guy. So why can't the king see that? Why does Henry trust Wolsey in the beginning?

Of these exactions, yet the King our master,
Whose honor heaven shield from soil, even he
   escapes not
Language unmannerly—yea, such which breaks
The sides of loyalty and almost appears
In loud rebellion. (1.2.28-33)

Leave it to the queen to point out Wolsey's faults. She questions his actions here by commenting on the new tax the people are complaining about. Hmm… soon after this, Wolsey encourages Henry to dump Katherine. Yep, we think those two things are related.

Make yourself mirth with your particular fancy,
And leave me out on 't. Would I had no being
If this salute my blood a jot. It faints me
To think what follows.
The queen is comfortless and we forgetful
In our long absence. Pray do not deliver
What here you've heard to her. (2.122-128)

Manipulation isn't just Wolsey's doing. Even Anne joins in on the game after she has been given a new title: she tells the Old Lady not to mention it so that she won't have an awkward run-in with Katherine. This also shields her from Wolsey's wrath (somewhat). Anne might have the right intentions, but she still controls what's happening all around her for her own good.

He dives into the King's soul and there scatters
Dangers, doubts, wringing of the conscience,
Fears and despairs—and all these for his marriage.
And out of all these to restore the King,
He counsels a divorce, a loss of her
That like a jewel has hung twenty years
About his neck, yet never lost her luster; (2.2.32-38)

Norfolk tells us explicitly how Wolsey is encouraging the king to get a divorce. Did you notice how the manipulation isn't with money or bribes? It's through the soul. Now that's deep… and shady. Wolsey is using his position as a cardinal to get what he wants out of Henry. Not cool, man. Not cool.

CARDINAL WOLSEY, aside to Gardiner
Give me your hand much joy and favor to you.
You are the King's now.
GARDINER, aside to Cardinal Wolsey
But to be commander
Forever by your Grace, whose hand has raised me (2.2.138-141).

Even though Wolsey and Gardiner are in front of the king, they whisper like a couple of schoolgirls. This mini-discussion is where we find out what's going on behind the king's back… and it ain't pretty. The men are loyal to one another, instead of to the king, and they admit to it—right in front of him.

You sign your place and calling, in full seeming,
With meekness and humility, but your heart
Is crammed with arrogancy, spleen, and pride.
You have, by fortune and his Highness' favors
Gone slightly o'er low steps, and now are mounted
Where powers are your retainers, and your words,
Domestics to you, serve your will as 't please
Yourself pronounce their office. I must tell you,
You tender more your person's honor than
Your high profession spiritual, that again
I do refuse you for my judge, and here... (2.4.121-131)

Ouch. Katherine isn't afraid of Wolsey; she calls it like she sees it. And here's how she sees it: Wolsey is being arrogant and proud, instead of humble and honest like he should be. She points out his manipulation in front of the court and tells them she won't fall for it. She's the only one with the guts to stand up to Wolsey, face-to-face. Too bad she gets kicked off the throne and out of her marriage as a result.

What we can do to him—though now the time
Gives way to us—I much fear. If you cannot
Bar his access to th' King, never attempt
Any thing on him, for he hath a witchcraft
Over the King in 's tongue. (3.2.18-22)

It sure does take Chamberlain a long time to figure Wolsey out. In the beginning, he and the guys are happy to lap up the life of luxury that Wolsey provides, but eventually they see just how deceitful he really is—and they start worry about what he'll do to them.

If I loved many words, lord, I should tell you
You have as little honesty as honor,
That in the way of loyalty and truth
Toward the King, my ever royal master,
Dare mate a sounder man than Surrey can be,
And all that love his follies. (3.2.329-334)

Wolsey knows how to play the game. Here, he tells Surrey how it's done: through words. He knows how to use words to speak volumes and change kingdoms. It doesn't matter if the words are true or not—just use them to your advantage.

You were ever good at sudden commendations,
Bishop of Winchester. But know I come not
To hear such flattery now, and in my presence
They are too thin and bare to hide offenses.
To me you cannot reach. You play the spaniel,
And think with wagging of your tongue to win me; (5.2.191-196)

Following his ex's lead, Henry confronts the council members face to face about their actions. It's not okay to keep manipulating him with words, and he won't take it any longer, he says. If only he had put a stop to it in the beginning, right? Then maybe none of this would have happened. The question is: is Cranmer manipulating him, or has Henry finally seen the light?

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