Shakespeare’s and John Fletcher’s Henry VIII was originally a script called “All is True”, which was a historical thriller. The play was based on the divorce of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Sir Thomas Lovell is a minor in the play. He’s present at the Duke of Buckingham’s trial and execution, and also at the festivities at Wolsey’s residence. Later on in the play, Lovell is accosted by Bishop Gardner while he’s on his way to inform the King that queen Anne is in labour, but may not survive the birthing process. Gardner, in return, claims that he wishes the child well, but hopes Anne Boleyn perishes.
He also condemns two of the King’s primary advisors, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. In reality, Lovell, as you know, died in 1524, that’s nine years before Anne Boleyn gives birth to princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I. And most certainly before either Cromwell or Cranmer come to anything, close to a place of power. Why Shakespeare chooses to use a dead man for this situation? I don’t know.
There was a performance of Henry VIII on 29th June 1613. At the end of Act I to mark the entrance of King Henry for a mask scene at Cardinal Woolsey’s residence. Barely anyone in the crowd notices a piece of flaming material that is from one of the cannons. It landed in the Globe theatre’s thatched roof and within minutes, the fire had run around the inside of the roof and it sets people on fire. There’s a story of how a man had his clothes set on fire and had to throw a bottle of ale all over himself. And for the most famous theatre in England, that was it, the end. The beginning of the Globe doesn’t start in Southwark. It starts in Shoreditch.
Learn more about the start of the country’s first permanent theatre in Shoreditch in our London History Podcast Episode 50: History of Shoreditch. Duration: 19 mins.
Hazel Baker is an award-winning London Tour Guide and qualified CIGA guide who delivers guided walks and private tours in London. View all of Hazel’s walking tours.