Study Guide

Henry VIII Truth

By William Shakespeare

Truth

They say the truth will set you free, but we're not sure that holds up in Henry VIII. For starters, we're not even sure what the truth is when it comes to certain characters.

In true Shakespearean fashion, we're left with more questions than answers: did Wolsey set Buckingham up, or is the Surveyor telling the truth? Was Buckingham really trying to become king? Did Wolsey regret his actions and turn to the good in the end? Were the charges against Cranmer made up?

As you can see, the truth is hidden in this play, which makes the play's first title, All is True, kind of ironic. Shakespeare leaves us searching for the truth in this play, but the question is: can we find it?

Questions About Truth

  1. The Prologue tells us that the play is showing us truth. Do you agree or disagree? In what ways does the play abandon the search for truth?
  2. Why does Henry stand up for Cranmer when he doesn't for anyone else? Are we supposed to believe Cranmer is telling the truth? Why or why not?
  3. Do we buy what the Surveyor testifies against Buckingham, or is it all part of Wolsey's plan? Why doesn't the play tell us one way or another?

Chew on This

Henry VIII is obsessed with finding truth, no matter what the cost.

Even though Henry VIII talks about finding the truth, it leaves it up to the audience to decide what the truth really is.

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