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As, to do good, for the honour and glory of a supreme Being, and in conformity to his commandments, is the highest perfection of mortal man--so, to commit evil, under the pretence of religious duty, and, in his sacred name, constitutes the most flagrant impiety of which a human creature can, in the full premeditation of guilt, be chargeable.
The crimes, which, unhappily, form all the incidents of this drama, are, by the hardened perpetrators of them, all ascribed to the holy will and pleasure of Heaven. King Henry casts from his bed and throne, his loving and obedient wife; because his conscience dreads the anger of his Maker:-and Cardinal Wolsey devotes himself to pomp, amasses unbounded wealth, and exacts from his neighbours every honour short of adoration ; whilst his profession announces—his imitation of an humble Redeemer.
The qualities and characters of both the King and the Cardinal underwent almost a total change, from their youth to their manhood; or to that period in which they are here delineated. Henry, when young, possessed personal beauty and grace—his mind was · susceptible of all the softer delights, and a peculiar
passion for music seemed to have tuned his soul to harmony.-Wolsey, even at the age of forty, would laugh, sing, and dance when he was younger,
he would drink also-and once, for some tumult which he raised, at a country fair, he suffered the disgrace of being placed in the stocks; though he was, at that very time, rector of a living in the neighbouring village.
Who, that had beheld the gay, the graceful, the accomplished Henry, at a ball or concert, enraptured with sweet sounds, could have predicted, that-he would divorce four virtuous wives, and behead two of them ?-And who, that had seen the riotous Wolsey, with his legs imprisoned in a market-place, could possibly have descried, in that object of condign punishment,-a future archbishop, England's prime minister, an illustrious cardinal, and an aspirer at the popedom?
From the many artful praises of Anne Bullen, which Shakspeare has introduced in this play, but, above all, from his many prophetic insinuations, and, at length, his bold prophecy, that the infant daughter of Henry and beauteous Anne-shall prove a blessing to this realm-- it is conjectured, that the play of Henry the Eighth was written and performed during the reign of that very child, Queen Elizabeth.
With all his desire to please his royal mistress, Shakspeare has yet never once depreciated the virtues of the good Queen Katharine, or drawn a veil over her injuries. He has made her the most prominent, as well as the most amiable, sufferer in his