Study Guide

Henry VIII Act 1, Scene 2

By William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 2

Read the full text of Henry VIII Act 1 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • King Henry, Wolsey, and Sir Thomas Lovell enter. Henry thanks Wolsey for doing such a good job catching the bad guys, and he asks to speak to Buckingham's estate manager to get the inside scoop about what's happening with his land.
  • Just then, Queen Katherine enters, kneels, and then decides to stay kneeling in order to ask the king a favor. She's here for the people: they're aren't thrilled about the new taxes, and they don't like that Wolsey started the taxes in the first place. Katherine doesn't want these squabbles to turn into something much bigger—like a rebellion.
  • All of this is news to Henry's ears; he didn't even know there was a new tax. (Hmm… seems like Wolsey is running things behind the king's back, after all).
  • Well, that's not really an excuse, Katherine says. She tells the king that he's in charge, so he should still know about the tax in his own country. Anyway, the tax is for the campaign in France.
  • Henry doesn't like the new tax. Wolsey quickly jumps in and passes the blame. Sure, he issued the tax, but the judges made him do it. Plus, he says, we can't just go around changing what we do whenever somebody has a problem with it.
  • Still, Henry thinks the tax is way too high. He gets rid of the tax and orders that everyone who was locked up for not paying it should be let out of prison.
  • Wolsey gives in and orders the secretary to get rid of the tax. But—he whispers—the secretary should make sure to let everyone know that it was Wolsey who got rid of the tax. This dude is so up to something.
  • Then Katherine brings up Buckingham: it's a shame he's on the outs, she says. Henry agrees. Buckingham's a good guy, he says, so it's surprising that he could commit treason.
  • Wolsey asks the Surveyor (the guy in charge of Buckingham's land and property) to give them the deets on Buckingham.
  • The Surveyor says that every day Buckingham would deliver a little speech about wanting to be king if Henry died. Wolsey quickly points out how dangerous Buckingham is.
  • Katherine isn't convinced: didn't Buckingham fire this guy because too many people complained about him? This whole testimony is a sham; it's just payback.
  • Henry lets the Surveyor continue. The Surveyor goes on to give more incriminating evidence against Buckingham, like how Buckingham plans to kill Wolsey and Lovell if Henry dies. Oh, and did the Surveyor mention the help Buckingham's dad gave Richard III when he was killing his way to the throne? Buckingham plans to stab Henry in the back.
  • That's enough to convince Henry: yep, Buckingham's a traitor all right.
  • King Henry calls a trial.