Study Guide

Henry VIII Act 2, Scene 2

By William Shakespeare

Act 2, Scene 2

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


  • Mail call: Lord Chamberlain reads a letter about his horses. It turns out Wolsey took a bunch of them, claiming they were for the king. Chamberlain might have wanted them and all, but he doesn't have them anymore.
  • Lord Chamberlain thinks about this. He decides that Wolsey will end up taking everything he has and then some. He's also sure that Wolsey will take and take from the nobles until nothing is left. (Foreshadowing, much?)
  • As Chamberlain is deep in thought, Suffolk and Norfolk come in and begin gossiping about the king. Norfolk has heard that Henry is worried that his marriage to Katherine hasn't been up to scratch; it seems that there's something questionable about its legality. If their marriage were illegal, then Henry would have to divorce Katherine—you know, to placate his conscience. Right.
  • Suffolk thinks it's more likely that Henry just has a new honey and is trying to make an excuse to be with her.
  • Yep, it was Wolsey's idea, Norfolk reports. Wolsey suggested to Henry that his first marriage should be annulled. Never mind that this would mean war with Spain, and never mind that Katherine has been a supportive and loving wife for twenty years: Katherine was previously married to Henry VII (Henry VIII's bro), so that might make the marriage illegal.
  • Well, how convenient.
  • Lord Chamberlain is shocked. He doesn't want to have anything to do with such a man, and he hopes Henry can see the real Wolsey soon, before it's too late.
  • Chamberlain leaves, and Norfolk and Suffolk pay a little visit to Henry. He's reading, and he isn't happy that they've interrupted him in the middle of his private meditations.
  • When Wolsey and Cardinal Campeius enter, Henry tells Suffolk and Norfolk to beat it. They do, but they whisper to each other as they're leaving that they don't trust Wolsey—or Campeius, either.
  • Alone with Henry and Campeius, Wolsey makes a speech about how no one will get mad at Henry for leaving Katherine if the Pope says it's okay.
  • Campeius seconds that. He's brought with him some papers declaring his judgment on the marriage. Henry orders for these papers to be read later on.
  • The king's secretary, Gardiner, used to be Wolsey's secretary. If you're thinking this is no coincidence, then you're right: Wolsey arranged for his man to be on the inside track with the king. As Gardiner exits, Wolsey reminds the secretary how much he's helped him. Hint, hint.
  • Gardiner picks up on Wolsey's not-so-subtle hint and confirms his loyalty to the cardinal over the king.
  • Then Henry and Gardiner leave to have a chat. Meanwhile, Campeius and Wolsey discuss current events. Campeius reports that people all around town seem to have a bad vibe about Wolsey.
  • Wolsey is surprised by this, but Campeius confirms that people think he had a hand in Buckingham's execution.
  • Gasp. Wolsey pretends to be offended by all this—even though he totally did have something to do with it.
  • Henry reenters with news that he will announce his split from Katherine at Blackfriars. He orders Gardiner to deliver a letter to Katherine. He's really down about leaving "so sweet a bedfellow" (a good wife), but his conscience tells him he has to. We're pretty sure by conscience, he means Wolsey.