King Henry VIII and the Tempest: Shakespeare’s Romances/Histories

After reading King Henry VIII and the Tempest I can understand where people would think they are romances but personally I think they should be considered History plays instead of romances albeit The Tempest has more characteristics of a romance then King Henry VIII does.

 

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King Henry VIII is the history surrounding his famous divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. It also covers the other trials of various “traitors” and even Cardinal Wolsey. Honestly it has been a while since I read it but from what stood out to me the most about this play was the portrayal of Catherine and Anne. Catherine was seen as very sympathetic and Anne was simply in the background as far as the plot line goes. She only has lines in one act of the play and the scene she is, is her coronation and then she disappears from the play. Scholars say that has something to do with Queen Elizabeth being on the throne or King James but honestly I think it was nice seeing Catherine as sympathetic because too often the focus is on Anne Boleyn and her beheading. Countless books and movies have been dedicated to poor Anne Boleyn but what of King Henry’s wife Catherine of thirty plus years? I would much prefer to watch or read a story about her and the divorce trial because there was more to it than King Henry’s wandering eye. Shakespeare’s play did a very good job of exploring that different side of history.

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I didn’t enjoy the Tempest very much nor did I enjoy the movie version by Julie Taymor. It wasn’t exciting enough for me and the overall depiction of the native Caliban just reminded me of early colonization and my overall hatred of people who categorize people as “other” based on something about their appearance, personality, religion, etc. I couldn’t sympathize with Prospero or Miranda, even though I think she is a very much overlooked character. Miranda was an extremely strong female and she had Ferdinand wrapped around her little finger. I didn’t believe very strongly in their love story either because the whole play occurred in the period of three hours and even most disney princesses take longer than three hours to fall in love. I liked the character of Ariel and in the time period I would understand why this story would appeal to Elizabethans, the new world and all, but to someone in the twenty-first century whose idea of exploring new lands is Mars, it is just not exciting.

-A

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