Who's Who in Shakespeare's Henry VIII

A Guide to the Personalities in the Play

To complement our guide to Who’s Who in Britain’s Bloody Crown we have created a similar guide for Henry VIII, written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher. The play was first performed in 1613, at the Globe, and the letting off of a cannon during the performance set light to the roof, burning the theatre to the ground – perhaps a fitting end!

The play, published in the First Folio of 1623, is largely about the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Katharine of Aragon. Rather cleverly, the writers contrive to make both Katharine and her successor, Anne Boleyn, positive figures, whilst dwelling lightly on Henry VIII. The play culminates with the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne, to great acclaim and prognostications of glory to come.

The named parts all relate to real individuals (although a couple are conflated into single characters). This guide gives a short biography of these individuals. Royalty are listed under their first names, and women under their maiden names, as most married more than once.