Shakespeare's 'Henry VIII' Munch and Learn Recap by Linley Schmidt

Have you ever seen a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII? According to Stephanie Shine, General Manager and Education Director for Tennessee Shakespeare Company, you probably have not.  Many people think it’s not one of Shakespeare’s best plays.  Some scholars even think it was not completely authored by the famous playwright, because according to many, it’s badly written.  Stephanie, however, does not agree, and is a fan of the play.     

Henry VIII was Shakespeare’s last play. It was written in 1613, the year before he retired and just three years before his death in 1616 at the age of 52. Many scholars think Henry VIII was a collaboration between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher (1579–1625) but, once again, Stephanie has her doubts. Some of the evidence supporting the two author theory are the stage directions, contractions used and variations in rhyming and rhythm.   

Stage directions were not common in Shakespeare’s plays but are used often in Henry VIII. One such direction reads, “exit pursued by a bear”. Some argue that certain parts of Henry VIII contain more contractions than Shakespeare normally used.  Stephanie said this can be explained by the employment of more than one compiler. Compilers were the ones who set each letter in order to print the plays; so if one compiler was running out of space or was trying to save space, he might add more contractions. As far as the rhyme scheme goes, Shakespeare usually used iambic pentameter. Stephanie described iambic pentameter as our human rhythm, because it seems to echo our own heart beats.  One part of the play has several characters talking in succession, which if read quickly, still keeps the iambic pentameter rhythm.   

Perhaps we’ll never know with certainty if Henry VIII was authored solely by William Shakespeare or by Shakespeare and Fletcher, but speculating along with Stephanie Shine was incredibly fun and entertaining. Stephanie has dedicated her life to performing Shakespeare’s plays and educating others about Shakespeare and his writings. She beautifully performed parts of several plays in order to demonstrate the tempo of speech and how it was duplicated or altered between plays. Stephanie Shine did an amazing job teaching Munch and Learn guests how to better appreciate Shakespeare’s Henry VII.  The Tennessee Shakespeare Company is a group of dedicated, talented performers who are passionate about bringing Shakespeare’s plays to life, and reminding us that even after almost 400 years since his death, his plays still speak to us. The Dixon’s partnership with Tennessee Shakespeare Company has been a long and fruitful one, and we encourage you to attend their plays here at the Dixon and anywhere else they may be performing. 

Posted by Chantal Drake at 4:03 PM
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