One of the scenes I got allocated was a monologue from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, which is spoken by the character Queen Katherine in act 2 scene IV. The idea was that I would be speaking the monologue to Harry’s character who had cheated on me and was now in a relationship with Lou’s character (influenced by Jane Eyre). Admittedly this is one of Shakespeare’s Plays that I know nothing of bar the name and therefore I had to research into the character and general context. While I wouldn’t be performing the monologue as the actual character of a Katherine from the play, as shall be taking it out of context and applying it to the character I gave created for ‘Saints and Sinners’, I still think it is really important to know the reasons behind the characters speech and their relationships with other characters to ensure it is interpreted correctly and perhaps take some of this to inspire my own characterisation.
Obviously there are naturally some big differences between my own character (which I have named Rose) and Queen Katherine, some of which are mentioned in the text and may need to be edited to fit my own characters circumstances as well the overall story arch of ‘Saints and Sinners’. However I can clearly see the links between Katherine and Rose, the circumstances they have encountered in their relationships and how this may have mounded them both into headstrong women; I truly feel I can use lots of Katherine’s qualities to draw upon and help me build a more in depth and complex character. Nevertheless, I definitely want to bring my own modern angle to the speech, in regards to the dominance of the character as I feel times have changed greatly since Shakespeare wrote the play, and I don’t like the idea of Katherine appearing as being submissive and remorseful to her husband after how he treated her, instead I would rather use the words but place a more determined and strong approach to show her control over the situation.
- Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII who, becoming infatuated with Anne Boleyn, demanded a divorce on account of her having been his brother’s wife. The trial took place on June 21, 1533
- Queen Katharine is the tragic heroine within Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.
- She is portrayed as a bringer of justice when she attempts to save the Duke of Buckingham from his execution and is a mortal enemy of Cardinal Wolsey.
- When Katharine is brought to trial to defend herself in the annulment proceedings, she does the job admirably and with dignity, even daring to walk away from the court at one point.
- Nevertheless, she is shunned by the king in the end and dies alone, with only a few servants by her side.
- It is while she is on her deathbed that Katharine is informed of the death of her enemy Wolsey.
- Although, historically, the play has some in inaccuracies, such as the fact that Wolsey died over five years before Katherine herself; and additionally, did not die until three years after the birth of Princess Elizabeth.
Plot and Context Research
- Katharine was married to King Henry VIII’s brother before marrying Henry.
- Cardinal Wolsey (Henry’s right hand man) convinces the king to divorce Katharine, but she rails against Wolsey and accuses him of being her enemy.
- She refuses to let him judge her, and she will not submit to the divorce, and charges him with being a traitor and plotting to bring her down.
- She speaks of her loyal nature as a wife for more than 20 years, and she cannot believe she is being punished for it. If anything, she is being cast out for not giving birth to a male heir.
- When Katharine is finally divorced, she is made “Princess Dowager.”
- Katharine is strong willed and stands up for herself in trial, and refuses to sit by as Wolsey drags her name through mud, and instead gets up and leaves.
- Throughout the play Katharine certainly isn’t afraid to confront Wolsey to his face.
- Unlike the other characters in the play, Katharine refuses to participate in any of the shadiness and manipulation going on in court as she is sure everyone is lying.
Act II Scene IV and Katharine monologue Context
- In the scene Queen Katharine kneels at Henry’s feet and speaks, pleading him to have pity on her, and asks how she has offended Henry, what she has done to make him want to cast her off.
- She says she has been a true and loyal wife, always obeying him in every matter for 20 years, and had many children with him, and is willing to have God punish her if she has ever done anything against Henry, but she has not.
- She reminds him that Henry’s father and her father, the king of Spain, were wise men, who conferred and agreed that their marriage was lawful. She begs the king to allow her time to receive counsel from Spain before submitting to a trial.
- Wolsey declares that many learned men are on hand, yet they cannot sway the king from his course, so there is no point in delaying proceedings. Campeius agrees that they should proceed.
- Queen Katherine then addresses Wolsey and says she believes he is her enemy, but she will not allow him to be her judge. She believes that he has caused this divorce, and she repeats that she will not let him judge her. Wolsey says that she sounds unlike herself, and she does him wrong. He claims to have nothing against her and that the case against her has been discussed by many others besides himself.
- He denies having stirred up trouble in the marriage, and he notes that he is speaking before the king, who he hopes will defend him against Katharine’s assault.
- Katharine says that she is unable to defend herself against Wolsey’s cunning. She accuses him of being arrogant and proud and of having gone above the power of his office to influence the king. She repeats that she will not be judged by him, and she tries to depart.
- Campeius and the king call her back, but she insists that she will not make an appearance during the rest of the proceeding and leaves. Henry lets her go, saying that no man has had a better wife than her. He speaks further of her noble and obedient nature.
- Wolsey asks the king to declare whether he has influenced him unduly with regards to Katharine, and the king consents to clear Wolsey’s name, excusing him from Katharine’s accusations.
Sir, I desire you do me right and justice,
And to bestow your pity on me; for
I am a most poor woman and a stranger,
Born out of your dominions: having here
No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance
Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir,
In what have I offended you? What cause
Hath my behaviour given to your displeasure
That thus you should proceed to put me off
And take your good grace from me? Heaven witness,
I have been to you a true and humble wife,
At all times to your will conformable,
Even in fear to kindle your dislike,
Yea, subject to your countenance–glad or sorry
As I saw it inclined. When was the hour
I ever contradicted your desire
Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends
Have I not strove to love, although I knew
He were mine enemy? What friend of mine
That had to him derived your anger, did I
Continue in my liking? nay, gave notice
He was from thence discharged?
Sir, call to mind
That I have been your wife in this obedience
Upward of twenty years, and have been blest
With many children by you. If in the course
And process of this time you can report,
And prove it too, against mine honor aught,
My bond to wedlock, or my love and duty
Against your sacred person, in God’s name
Turn me away, and let the foul’st contempt
Shut door upon me, and so give me up
To the sharp’st kind of justice. Please you, sir,
The king your father was reputed for
A prince most prudent, of an excellent
And unmatched wit and judgment. Ferdinand,
My father, King of Spain, was reckoned one
The wisest prince that there had reigned by many
A year before. It is not to be questioned
That they had gathered a wise council to them
Of every realm, that did debate this business,
Who deemed our marriage lawful. Wherefore I humbly
Beseech you, sir, to spare me till I may
Be by my friends in Spain advised, whose counsel
I will implore. If not, i’ th’ name of God,
Your pleasure be fulfilled!