Henry VIII: Novel Summary: Act 5 Scenes 3 & 4, and Epilogue

Average Overall Rating: 5
Total Votes: 113

 

Summary
A large crowd of people has gathered at the court entrance to see the baby Elizabeth, who is being christened today. A Porter is trying in vain to keep the crowd away from the entrance so that the royal party can pass through. The Lord Chamberlain enters and rebukes the Porter for not ensuring that there will be enough room for the ladies of the christening party to pass. He says the Porter and his men are lazy, and tells them to make room or face prison.
Trumpets sound to announce the arrival of the royal party. The Porter shouts at the crowd to make way. The procession enters, with the Duchess of Norfolk carrying the princess Elizabeth under the royal canopy. The king enters.
Cranmer makes a speech in which he prophesies a great future for Elizabeth. She will bring many blessings to the nation and will be an example of good government for her successors. She will be virtuous, loved and respected. England will enjoy peace and prosperity under her reign. She will die a virgin, and, as the mythical phoenix is reborn out of its own ashes, her successor will inherit her greatness, and found new nations (a reference to the English colonization of America, which started in earnest in James I's reign).
The King is pleased with Cranmer's words. He feels that producing Elizabeth was his greatest accomplishment. He says that after he is dead, he will take delight in watching what Elizabeth does from heaven. He leads the party off to greet the queen.
The Epilogue enters and says he is sure that the play could not have pleased everyone. Some came to sleep, but have been woken up by the trumpets, so they will not be pleased. Others came to see the ordinary citizens made fun of, but they will have been disappointed. The only people who will be pleased with the play are good women, who will be happy at seeing another good woman portrayed in the character of Katherine. And if they like the play, and clap, then their men will feel they have to follow.
Analysis
Cranmer's speech prophesying Elizabeth's great future is the climax of the play and the end to which all the plotlines have been leading. Henry's delight in his daughter as his greatest achievement also excuses, by implication, the mistakes and relative chaos of his reign. His role was ultimately to bring her into the world.
Cranmer also predicts that all Elizabeth's good qualities will be carried on in her heir, James I, who ruled England at the time when Henry VIII was written. Shakespeare is complimenting James by describing him as the worthy successor to Elizabeth.

Quotes: Search by Author

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z