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Summary Act 3


Unable to find any solace in music, Queen Katherine dismisses her musician when a gentleman in her attendance informs her that the Cardinals Wolsey and Campeius wish to speak to her. Reluctantly the Queen obliges only to regret that she has when the Cardinals counsel her to trust the King and to allow him to provide her with comfort and protection from whatever legal fallouts that might result from the divorce. Impassioned, the Queen argues that the Cardinals only wish to see her completely ruined; that they have no cause to do so as she has only been a most faithful wife to the King; and that she has only condemned herself to be friendless and alone in England once she had left her country of birth Spain.

Needless to say, the Cardinals do their best to refute the Queen, saying that they only have the Queen’s best interest in mind in counseling her; that their profession forbids them from contriving aught against her; that the King still loves and respects her; and that her fears are unfounded and unbecoming of her noble self. Reluctantly, the Queen concedes to the Cardinals’ will, admitting that she is at fault.


The Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Earl of Surrey, and Lord Chamberlain discuss the King’s having gotten intelligence of Cardinal Wolsey’s secret dealings with Rome, not to mention the Cardinal’s financial improprieties, and of how it will inevitably lead to the Cardinal’s downfall—and soon. Though Chamberlain warns the others to keep this thought to themselves should the Cardinal manage to talk to the King and talk his way out of it, Norfolk and Suffolk assure Chamberlain and Surrey that the Cardinal’s doom is a foregone conclusion.

Presently, from a distance, the English peers observe Cardinal Wolsey who, having exchanged intelligence with his servant Cromwell, seems a little distraught. Indeed, when the King appears and asks Norfolk about the Cardinal, Norfolk speaks of the Cardinal’s distress. By and by, the Cardinal is summoned by the King for what turns out to be a dressing down. First, the King has the Cardinal attest to his loyalty to the King only to be left twisting in the wind as the King gives the Cardinal those very documents incriminating the Cardinal of secret dealings with Rome, not to mention his financial improprieties, before angrily leaving.

Crestfallen, the Cardinal ponders on his unfortunate fate when he is confronted by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Earl of Surrey and the Lord Chamberlain. They inform the Cardinal that upon the King’s spoken words the Cardinal is to relinquish his authority and to sequester himself until further notice. Defiant, the Cardinal demands to see a written warrant and refuses to comply. Subsequently, the English peers enumerate the Cardinal’s crimes which the King is privy to. They include the Cardinal’s presumption to speak on behalf of the King to foreign princes and of the Cardinal’s having effectively undermined the powers of his fellow English clergymen by making himself—Cardinal Wolsey—the English legate to the Pope by self-appointment.

Alone, the Cardinal acknowledges that he is now doomed and curses his fate which was, is, and will be entirely dependent on the King’s good graces. He is thus distraught when Cromwell appears to deliver some news and to express his heartfelt sorrow for his master’s predicament. The Cardinal advises Cromwell to serve the King, as the Cardinal has put in a good word for him, and to avoid earthly ambition at all costs as it was ambition that has undone his master.

William Shakespeare