Study Guide

Henry VIII Compassion and Forgiveness

By William Shakespeare

Compassion and Forgiveness

Did you notice how everyone was really into forgiving others in Henry VIII? Or not? We get to see both sides of the coin with here. Some characters, like Buckingham and Katherine, are super forgiving, even when their enemies don't deserve that kind of compassion. Then there are other characters (ahem, Wolsey or Cranmer) who don't seem to care about being forgiven—possibly because they know their positions are secure enough not to require it.

Even though not everyone buys into the whole forgiveness thing, it becomes an important theme in Henry VIII, if only because it happens over and over again. On top of that, we get to see who wants to forgive and forget, and who thinks it's better to just move on—and that tells us a lot about who these characters really are.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Why does Buckingham openly forgive anyone and everyone? Is it important that he delivers his speech about forgiveness right before he dies? What is the significance of this speech?
  2. Are all characters forgiven in the end? Which characters' transgressions are too painful to forgive?
  3. Do all the characters want forgiveness? Why or why not?
  4. Why does Henry ask everyone to show compassion to Cranmer? Do you think their act of forgiveness is sincere?

Chew on This

Buckingham's forgiveness shows he's apologetic over what he's done, so he must not be blameless.

Even though Henry forces the council members to forgive Cranmer, not all of them do—it's just an act.

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