Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Summary Act 4



Awaiting the procession of Anne, the lately coronated Queen, Gentleman1 greets Gentleman2 who reminds Gentleman1 of their meeting at the Duke of Buckingham’s trial. Acknowledging their previous meeting, Gentleman1 mentions of how the tenor of the occasions cannot compare. Gentleman2 agrees and noticing a paper Gentleman1 has in his hand asks him about it. Gentleman1 apprises Gentleman2 that it’s a list of claims by the nobles to certain offices, an examples of which is the Duke of Suffolk’s claim to be the High Steward, a coronation custom. Gentelman2 thanks Gentleman1 only to wonder about the Princess Dowager Katherine’s fate. He doesn’t have to wonder long, however, as Gentleman1 tells him all about it; of how the Princess Dowager failed to show at her divorce hearing; of how the divorce was formalized nonetheless; and of how she is in a state of sickness while having taken up residence at Kimmalton.

Presently, Queen Anne’s procession captivates the Gentlemen. The Gentlemen comment on the splendor of the procession’s pageantry when Gentleman3 greets them and speaks of his having attended the actual coronation ceremony. Gentlemen 1 and 2 greedily listen as Gentleman3 relates of how a great sir rippled through the assembled audience when Anne, in all her splendor, appeared; of how she and the King sat facing one another; and of how Anne eventually rose and knelt before the presiding master of ceremony to be coronated; and of how she is currently on her way to York-place where there is to be a feast in her honor. Gentleman1 reminds Gentleman3 that York-place is now Whitehall on account of Cardinal Wolsey’s disgrace. Gentleman3 corrects himself, and by and by the Gentlemen talk about the relative merits of England’s clergymen.


Queen Katherine, who is now the Princess Dowager, confides her gentleman usher Griffith about Cardinal Wolsey’s fate. Griffith tells her of how the Cardinal fell sick once he was arrested; of how he sought a degree of solace in an abbey where he spent his last days repenting and meditating; and of how he died peacefully.

Though commending the Cardinal for dying in a state of grace, Katherine speaks her mind and condemns the Cardinal’s life. She accuses him of earthly greed and ambition, of deceit and equivocation in his dealings; and of licentiousness unbecoming of a clergyman. However Griffith offers her an alternate perspective on the Cardinal’s life. He speaks of the Cardinal’s humble origins; of his impressive scholarly attainments; of his intense affection for his friends which made up for his deadly hate for his enemies; of his princely generosity that made up for his avarice; and of his contributions to man’s higher aspirations in establishing the colleges Ipswich and Oxford. Impressed, Katherine commends Griffith for seeing the good in man and urges him, that when she dies, to be her eulogist.

Presently, Katherine has her lady-in-waiting Patience attend on her as she falls asleep only to awake in a state of distress. When asked what the matter is, Katherine speaks of a wonderful dream she had just had, of angelic figures who promised her eternal happiness only to disappear. Griffith thinks the dream is a good sign and tells her so. But Patience tells Griffith of how the Princess Dowager looks increasingly worn out and weakened. Suddenly, a messenger arrives, angering the Princess Dowager with his sauciness. Consequently, Katherine prohibits the particular messenger to appear before her ever again. The message, however, pleases Katherine, as it announces the arrival of an ambassador from her nephew the Emperor--the Lord Capuchius.

Katherine welcomes Capuchius who informs her that he’s come to offer her solace on behalf of King Henry VIII. Katherine replies that it’s too late for solace, but that Capuchius can yet tender a service that would make all the difference in the world. She would like him to deliver a letter to King Henry VIII the contents of which address Katherine’s last wish. She would like the King to secure the happiness of their daughter, to provide for her ladies in waiting, and to relieve the material wants of the men in her service. Capuchius vows to perform this service if it’s the last thing he ever does, satisfying Katherine. Presently, Katherine urges Patience to stay and wait on her. 

William Shakespeare