‘Sick interpreters’: Criticizing Historical Adaptations of Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII

Nadia Thérèse Van Pelt


This article examines the ways in which Shakespeare’s Henry VIII self-consciously and thematically reflects on representing the historical Cardinal Wolsey onstage. In so doing the play rewrites history by moving away from the type-cast images in chronicles and earlier Jacobean history plays that represent the cardinal as pure evil. Shakespeare furthermore invites audience members to reflect on the fact that the characters represented were once England’s real-life leaders, who carefully presented and protected their image, just as the leaders of Shakespeare’s own day did in the ‘here and now’ of 1613. The following case study explores Shakespeare’s criticism of the act of ‘interpreting’ historical figures, including his own act.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12745/et.20.1.2663

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