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Henry VIII Characters


The Prologue/Epilogue comes forward to set the tone at the beginning of the play, explaining to which sectors of the audience the play may be expected to appeal, and asking the audience to lend its minds a little to imagining those aspects that the players cannot present. 

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King Henry the Eighth

King Henry VIII is not exactly the Holbein portrait yet. A young man still growing into his rule, he relies much too much on the advice of Cardinal Wolsey, but grows to be a worthy king over the course of the play. 

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Cardinal Wolsey

Cardinal Wolsey is King Henry’s Lord Chancellor and chief adviser. He is deeply ambitious, thoroughly corrupt, and very generous. 

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Cardinal Campeius

Cardinal Campeius is sent by the Pope to act as co-judge with Wolsey in the matter of the validity of the King and Queen’s marriage. 

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Duke of Norfolk

The Duke of Norfolk is a cautious friend of Buckingham’s who attempts to keep him for acting or speaking too rashly. 

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Earl of Surrey

The Earl of Surrey is Buckingham’s son-in-law and is delighted to be able to join a plot to topple Cardinal Wolsey, who caused Buckingham’s fall and sent Surrey to rule Ireland so that he could not be around to plead for him. 

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Lord Chamberlain

Lord Chamberlain is the head of the King’s household, an old-fashioned, conservative chauvinist who doesn’t want to see English noblemen dressing like Frenchmen and who has an eye for the ladies.

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Gardiner, King Henry’s secretary and later Bishop of Winchester, is entirely Wolsey’s creature, placed as the King’s secretary by the Cardinal because he will obey the latter before the former. 

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Gardiner’s Page

Gardiner’s Page lights his way when he walks about at night, and keeps track of the time.

Lord Abergavenny

Lord Abergavenny is Buckingham’s son-in-law, and detests Cardinal Wolsey’s as much as the older man, particularly because the terms of the peace with France. 

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Lord Sands

Lord Walter Sands is a blunt country lord who despises the French fashions invading the English court. 

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Sir Henry Guilford

Sir Henry Guilford is a young man who serves Cardinal Wolsey and acts as his master of ceremonies.

Sir Anthony Denny

Sir Anthony Denny is sent by the King to fetch Archbishop Cranmer to the King.

Wolsey's Second Secretary

Wolsey's Second Secretary follows the Cardinal with his paperwork, and informs Wolsey that Buckingham’s Surveyor is ready to be interrogated.


Griffith is Queen Katherine’s Gentleman Usher, in charge of walking before her to official functions and of controlling access to her presence. 

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Garter King-of-Arms

Garter King-of-Arms is the chief Herald of the realm. As such he is part of the coronation procession of the new Queen, and announces the Princess Elizabeth to the world. 

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Brandon is charged with arresting the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Abergavenny, a task he finds distasteful, along with the others accused of plotting with him. 

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The Sergeant-at-Arms is brought by Brandon to arrest the Duke of Buckingham. He carries the silver mace into Queen Katherine’s trial.

Doorkeeper of the Council Chamber

Doorkeeper of the Council Chamber is under orders not to let Archbishop Cranmer into the Council Chamber until he is called, despite his rank.


The Porter is in charge of keeping people out of the palace, but is not having much luck the day of Princess Elizabeth’s christening. 

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Porter’s Man

The Porter’s Man has been trying to beat back the crowds pressing in to see the Princess Elizabeth’s christening, but has only succeeded in breaking his cudgel and being pelted with pebbles by boys. 

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The Crier is an official at Queen Katharine’s trial, whose office is to summon the participants.

Queen Katherine

Queen Katherine is King Henry’s wife of twenty years, a Spanish princess, widow of his elder brother Arthur, and the mother of his daughter. 

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Second Gentleman

Second Gentleman arrives too late to actually witness the Duke of Buckingham’s trial, and must hear of it secondhand from the First Gentleman. 

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Third Gentleman

The Third Gentleman arrived early enough at Queen Anne’s coronation to get a good place to see it all, though he ends up escaping from the press of people and the stench of their sweat and bad breath. 

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Tipstaves [mute roles] are officers of the court who precede Buckingham as he is led from court to execution; one carries an axe with its blade towards Buckingham, signifying that he is condemned.


Halberdiers [mute roles] guard the Duke of Buckingham as he is led to execution.

Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury [mute role] attends Queen Katherine’s trial, which he agreed the King might hold. He is later replaced by Cranmer.

Two Gentlemen Bearers

Two Gentlemen Bearers [mute roles] bear silver pillars into Queen Katherine’s trial. They later carry bowls for receiving gifts in Princess Elizabeth’s christening procession.

Gentleman Purse-Bearer

Gentleman Purse-Bearer [mute role] follows the Lord Chancellor with a purse containing the Great Seal of England.

Two Priests

Two Priests [mute roles] carry silver crosses into Queen Katherine’s trial, marking the court as a religious one.

Bishop of Ely

The Bishop of Ely [mute role] attends Queen Katherine’s trial.

First Scribe

The First Scribe is an official at Queen Katherine’s trial, and begins the proceedings by ordering that the King be called into the court. He is dressed as a doctor (scholar).

Second Scribe

The Second Scribe is an official at Queen Katherine’s trial, and begins the proceedings by ordering that the Queen be called into the court. He is dressed as a doctor (scholar).

Two Noblemen

Two Noblemen [mute roles] carry the Sword of State and the Mace, respectively, into Queen Katherine’s trial, marking it as a high State occasion.

Six Vision Dancers

Six Vision Dancers, [mute roles] dressed in white, crowned with bays, wearing gold masks and carrying branches of bay or palm dance in a vision Queen Katherine has as she approaches death, seemingly promising her entrance into heaven.


Pursuivants [mute roles] are officials of no great importance milling around outside the Council Chamber, with whom Cranmer is forced to mix while waiting to be called in.


Pages [mute roles] are boys and young men who attend on the nobility, persons of no great importance who are milling around outside the Council Chamber and with whom Cranmer is forced to mix while waiting to be called in.


A Servant is a worker in the royal larder, but is trapped in the crowd pressing to see the Princess Elizabeth’s christening, and cannot get back in to his work despite his pleading with the Porter.

Two Vergers

Two Vergers, [mute roles] carrying short silver wands, open the procession into the Legatine Court, marking this as a religious occasion.

Two Aldermen of London

Two Aldermen of London [mute roles] precede the Lord Mayor in the Princess Elizabeth’s christening procession.

Four Noblemen

Four Noblemen [mute roles] have the honor of carrying the canopy over the Princess Elizabeth in her christening procession.

Marchioness Dorset

Marchioness Dorset [mute role] is Princess Elizabeth’s second godmother.

Princess Elizabeth

Princess Elizabeth [mute role] is a baby covered with a very rich mantle, who will grow up to be Queen Elizabeth I.


A Lady [mute role] carries the train of the Princess Elizabeth’s mantle in her christening procession.

Marquess Dorset

Marquess Dorset [mute role] carries the royal scepter in Queen Anne’s coronation procession.

Lord Mayor of London

Lord Mayor of London [mute role] bears his mace of office in Queen Anne’s coronation procession.

Two Judges


Two Judges [mute roles] lead the coronation process of Queen Anne, establishing the legal side of the ceremony.


A Gentlewoman is one of Queen Katherine’s attendants, who sings while accompanying herself on the lute.


A Gentleman is shocked and appalled that the Old Lady should attempt to burst in on the King, but is unable to hold her back from doing so.


Choristers sing in Queen Anne’s coronation procession.


Countesses [mute roles] form the end of Queen Anne’s coronation procession. They wear small crowns denoting their rank.

Council Guards

Council Guards [mute roles] are called in to escort Cranmer to the Tower.


Maskers accompany King Henry when he crashes Wolsey’s party. They are disguised as shepherds.


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