Study Guide

Henry VIII Act 2, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

Act 2, Scene 1

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


  • Two guys meet on a street, rushing. Why so fast? Guy #2 is on his way to Buckingham's trial, but Guy #1 has just come from there and says it's finished already.
  • Well, that was fast.
  • What happened? Guy # 1 explains the trial: Buckingham pled not guilty, but he was found guilty and sentenced to death. It didn't matter that he was eloquent or that he stood up for himself rationally; he was found guilty, anyway.
  • The gents agree that Wolsey is behind all this. This isn't the first time it's happened, either: Wolsey also kicked Earl Surrey, the Deputy of Ireland, and Kildare out of their positions… and the list goes on.
  • Wait a minute, says Guy # 1: it seems like Wolsey gets rid of anyone the king likes. Maybe Guy #1 on to something...
  • As the men are talking, Buckingham enters with Lovell, Vaux, Sands, and a bunch of commoners. Buckingham delivers a heartfelt speech about how he's been wrongly accused. But he's not calling for revenge; instead, he forgives the men who did this to him. Now he's off to heaven.
  • There's not a dry eye in the house. Lovell asks for forgiveness, and Buckingham grants it—in fact, he forgives everyone.
  • Vaux orders for a barge to be prepared to take them away. Oh, and it should be made nice enough for a duke, since Buckingham is a duke and all.
  • Buckingham jumps in and stops Vaux: he might have come in as a duke, but he leaves as plain old Edward Bohun. He thinks back to his father's role in English history, and he thinks about the past few kings who ruled.
  • Buckingham recognizes that he's repeated history in some ways: his dad thought his buddies were loyal to him, but they killed him. Now something similar is happening to Buckingham himself. At least he got a trial?
  • Too bad it wasn't much of a trial.
  • Buckingham warns everyone to be careful whom you trust, since not everyone is loyal.
  • Then Buckingham's off.
  • The gents think this is sad: a guiltless man taken away to execution is neither fair nor just. The gents pray that the angels keep them from wicked men who play in evil trickery and deceitful trials.
  • Then Guy #2 asks Guys #1 if he's heard the latest rumor around the water cooler: Henry is splitting up with Katherine.
  • The gents agree that this must all be Wolsey's doing. Katherine doesn't obey Wolsey blindly, and she's suspicious of him. On top of that, Katherine's dad (the King of Spain) didn't hire Wolsey for a job that one time. No wonder Wolsey's orchestrated the break-up.
  • This isn't an ordinary rumor, though: Cardinal Campeius from Rome has arrived to talk to Henry about it. Married people can't just go and break up (at this time), so this is a really big deal. The gents think this means the rumor is true.
  • Then the gents look around. They're out in the open, and they've been talking about a private matter. They don't want to get in trouble, so they hightail it right out of there.