Henry VIII — This is thy life!

A pageant and play for an Elizabethan Feaste

(Bawdy Level: 2.5)

©1995, 2003 John Mucci. All rights reserved.
Amateurs, Professionals, and even the Society for Creative Anachronisms must apply to perform this work.

Henry VIII: This is Thy Life!


Steward 1
Steward 2
Steward 3

Henry VIII at about 35 years
The Buxom Flower Wench
The Friar
The Cook
Hans Holbein
The Younger
Madame Greensleeves The Elder
Fitz Fulke, The Hawker
Anne Boleyn

Elizabeth the Infanta
Voice of Mrs. Tudor

Members of the Wilton Singers
Members of Wilton HS Madrigal Singers

2 Fanfarists
3 Chamber Musicians

This play was first performed by the Wilton Singers at ther annual Elizabethan Spring Feaste on May 22, 1994


During the Pre-feaste Gathering, costumed members of the cast quietly emerge from the building and ask several of those assembled:

"Have you seen Henry?" —And then leave mysteriously.

The Introduction

There is a stage, upon which is a long head-table for HENRY VIII and his court. Above is a platform upon which are TWO MUSICIANS with brass instruments. A bassoonist, flautist, and hornist are arranged at the same level as the table. To the left is an alehouse, or a partitioned area. Below the stage is a daïs upon which the STEWARDS will present their speeches. They can be thought of as the Greek Chorus of the evening. Somewhat like Maîtres D, somewhat like the Three Stooges, they hurry things along to ensure that the pace never drags.

There is an unobtrusive P.A. System available, not of great wattage, but one which will give us disembodied voices from Henry's past. It is suggested that the whole proceedings be gently miked to assist the vocal projection.

After the crowd sits at their tables, THREE STEWARDS enter to the sounds of a fanfare.

Music Cue 1

STEWARD 1: We greet you all and hope that you won't be disappointed when we tell you that you won't be seeing much of Elizabeth at this Elizabethan feast this year. But we have her promise that she will appear.

STEWARD 2: In fact, we ask your indulgence this evening; firstly, because we're here to celebrate the five hundredth birthday—

STEWARD 3: —Think of all those candles to blow out—

STEWARD 1: ——of our most famous monarch—

STEWARD 3: Not Edward the Confessor—

STEWARD 2: Not Good King Hal—

STEWARD 3: Not Æthelred the unready—

SOMEONE IN THE BACK OF THE HOUSE (annoyed): All right, all right, who then?

ALL THREE STEWARDS (solemnly): Henry the Eighth.

STEWARD 1: You of course know all about Henry VIII.

STEWARD 2: They say they do.

STEWARD 3: I'll wager they don't.

STEWARD 2: [to the assembled crowd]: Well, we beg your pardon, but tell us: what do you know about Henry?

An improvisation is staged, during which the audience is queried as to their knowledge of the king. More than likely people will respond that:
  • he was fat
  • he had bad table manners
  • he had six (some people think eight) wives
  • he beheaded all of them

THE STEWARDS mill among the crowd with pads and quills, sharing information as they discover it—(actually the less, the merrier). And if anyone is scholarly enough to know anything like "he closed the monasteries" or he "imprisoned and beheaded Sir Thomas More" then the STEWARDS respond enthusiastically (but spontaneously—even rudely if called for) "Oh, excellent!"—"what an intelligent assembly!" and the like.]

STEWARD 1 [after enough has been collected]: Thank you all for your kind remembrances. Our sovereign smiles on those who admire him.

STEWARD 3: Few though they be.

STEWARD 2: [calling towards the musicians]: A sennet!

STEWARD 3: A flourish!

STEWARD 1: A tucket!


ALL 3 STEWARDS: A fanfare!

Music Cue 2

The fanfare begins again, and the COMPANY enter, singing the PROCESSIONAL. With much pomp and a great deal of puffery, a canopy is borne by four young people in a prominent place in the processional. Obviously HENRY should be under it, but what is there is a page, looking embarrassed, bearing a cushion upon which is a "tent card" reading "HENRY VIII." When the assembled COMPANY arrive at the head table, they arrange themselves at their seats. The Canopy and its bearers remain standing, rather ashamed, before the table, along with the STEWARDS. The music stops. Another fanfare begins, and then ends, rather sourly.

STEWARD 1: There seems to be something else we must apologise for.

STEWARD 2: Yes, there is one more slight inconvenience.

STEWARD 3: We can't seem to find the "Merry Monarch”.

STEWARD 2: He's here somewhere.

We hear the muffled shriek of a wench behind a curtain, or in the alehouse to the side of the table. It is followed by the sound of ribald laughter.

STEWARD 1: He's close by.

They approach the source of the squealing and giggling sounds, working as though they had a divining rod leading them toward it.

STEWARD 2: Nearer—

STEWARD 3: Nearer—

Suddenly the KING appears, scaring the STEWARDS, explosively clutching at a fearsomely BUXOM FLOWER WENCH. HE stops in mid-grope, and looks about him. The STEWARDS cough: ahem! and grate their feet on the stage, awkwardly whistling "I'm Henry The Eighth I Am" or something inappropriate. HENRY is not upset much by being surprised by so many hundreds of people. He gracefully makes the best of it, expansively throwing his arms out towards the audience, and (slyly looking towards the FLOWER WENCH) yells at the top of his lungs:



Music Cue 3

And everyone begins singing "Deo Gratias" or whatever song is decided upon to be the song of grace. When the song is over, HENRY turns to the BUXOM WENCH.

HENRY: Thank you, Grace. [turning to those assembled]: Thank you all. To think that you all convened here—to pay homage to —me! What delicacy of sentiment—what perception amongst my subjects! [HE reaches under the table for a lute] I'd like to begin this evening's revelries with "Greensleeves," a song of my own composition—

The STEWARDS rush in and kneel before HENRY

ALL 3 STEWARDS: But your Grace— your Grace!

HENRY: What do you mean: I just had Grace. I mean, we just had Grace.

STEWARD 2: Your people are hungry!

STEWARD 1: Your people thirst!

HENRY: Well, what are they waiting for? What did I hire you for?

STEWARD 2: Let wassail be served!

STEWARD 1: Let bread be broken!

STEWARD 3: Let songs be sung!

HENRY: Don't mind if I do!

The Wassail is doled out to everyone's glass, and HENRY leads everyone in the WASSAIL SONG's first verse.

Music Cue 4

STEWARD 1: We are gathered here to ruminate on the good deeds of our Good King Harry.

STEWARD 3: Yes: and then after the salad, we'll talk about other things. Drink hale!

COMPANY: Drink hale!

The second verse of the WASSAIL SONG is sung.

Music Cue 5

STEWARD 2: I bet you didn't write that, did you?

HENRY: What did that signify?

STEWARD 2: I merely asked if you wrote—

HENRY: Not that, not that... I meant about that "after the salad" speech... you don't think I did any good while I lived among you?

STEWARD 1: [placating tone]: There must be something.

HENRY: I'm sure!

COMPANY: Drink hale!

Music Cue 6

The third verse of the WASSAIL SONG is sung, led by STEWARD 2. HENRY looks glum. STEWARD 1 approaches HENRY and the two exchange hard glances.

HENRY: [privately] I don't think I'm going to like this evening.

Scene from the Original Production

STEWARD 1: [less than privately]: It has barely begun, Your Grace.

STEWARD 2: We will commemorate this occasion by having a picture taken. King Harry, witness that we've sent for—all the way from the Lowlands—Hans Holbein!

HENRY [interested]: Hans Holbein...The Younger?

STEWARD 3: Well—the youngest we could find.

STEWARD 1: The greatest portraitist of his age.

Music Cue 7

From the back of the hall, we notice HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGEST WE COULD FIND enters, and wordlessly, (but noisily) sets up his easel behind the KING and starts to get his artistic accoutrements in order. However, he is a fussy, fussy man, and a diligent worker, and it seems to take forever before he's ready to start painting. The first thing he does is dip his brush in the KING's goblet.

A healthy pause. HOLBEIN continues to sketch and takes the greatest liberties in the PAUSES to keep re-arranging the KING's posture, his hands, his dinnerware, his hat, his chin, his expression, his every mentionable detail. [Not to be overdone, but may be worked as a running gag throughout the evening].

HENRY: [exhausted already] Bring on the soup.

Applause from the audience. SOUP is served; SALAD is served. HENRY is at liberty to make remarks throughout, such as:

HENRY: This is of mine own recipe, you know. —I first thought of using rosemary with the dressing— That plate came from Hampton Court—

—rather like a child claiming everything for his own.

[An improvisation may be inserted here, wherein HENRY's official TASTER stops him from eating (which incenses HENRY all the more), and eats a hearty helping of soup. HENRY is most impatient. The TASTER insists that they wait to see if he will drop dead. THEY wait. Other members of the royal table are eating away merrily. The TASTER drops down under the table. Instead of being alarmed, HENRY takes advantage of his absence by lifting the TASTER's plate and eating the soup anyhow.] After salad, the STEWARDS hubbub amongst each other, then approach the daïs.

STEWARD 1: Bad news, my Lord: most distressing. We have taken a cursory look into the future, thanks to your illustrious guests.

STEWARD 2: And they've told us a most pathetic story.

STEWARD 3: This is what they recall of the reign of Henry VIII: [and HE reads through the list of things the audience came up with before]

HENRY: What? [taking the list, HE picks out one of the things that was said and gets very warm about it; for example]: What do they mean I eat like a pig? Who was this man Shakespeare anyway? What did he know about me? Preposterous! I don't look a thing like Charles Laughton, whoever he is! What do they mean I have a bad temper? I've been known to get very angry at those who say such things about me!

STEWARD 1: We are attempting to vindicate you, your Highness, we're here to prove you did some good for the world.

HENRY: Is that so hard to find examples of? This is getting tiresome! After all there was— and I—

HOLBEIN saves the day and an embarrassment by jerking the KING's chin to the side brusquely.

STEWARD 1: [won't let the king be embarrassed either] Peace, your majesty! We have— if I may say so— attempted to set the record straight.

HENRY: [relieved] You always were faithful stewards!

STEWARD 2: We have prepared a number of witnesses—

HENRY: Witnesses? What—is this a court?

STEWARD 1: Special guests, rather—

HENRY: Yes, now it's a hostel—?

STEWARD 3: We've scoured Purgatory, your Highness—!

HENRY glares at him.

HENRY: You always were a tedious steward.

STEWARD 1: [quickly] —and we're here to show you to the world— HENRY puffs up, proudly

STEWARD 1: [continuing]—as you really are! HENRY looks a little worried about this.

STEWARD 2: Yes, Henry Tudor— ALL THREE STEWARDS: This is Thy Life!

STEWARD 1: A sennet!

STEWARD 2: A flourish!

STEWARD 3: A tucket!

MUSICIANS [making the OK sign]: Gotcha.

Music Cue 8

FANFARE begins again, and a FRIAR emerges from the back of the room, carrying a huge book with the legend THIS IS THY LIFE emblazoned on it. HE approaches the dais. HENRY looks very uneasy.

THE FRIAR: Yes, yes, your Highness, This is Thy Life. We have assembled people here from all over your realm. From Wales, from Northumbria, from Calais; from as far away as —Colorado. [we assume there will be applause from the Coloradan contingent. THE FRIAR turns to them and makes a notation in his book with a quill. HE ad-libs appropriate remarks, e.g:] Oh, I take it you're from Wales? —Not from Northumbria? Colorado! [aside to HENRY] (—Ah, the Barbarian contingent, your majesty!) To begin! A voice from out your past! Do you recall this voice?

As though from the heavens, we hear the VOICE of an old man, rather like that of a schoolteacher:

FITZ FULKE: I remember Henry the Eighth, when he was eight! He asked me if on his next birthday I could call him Henry the Ninth! Ha! What a funny lad. He was a good boy—mostly. But I warned him not to play with Angela too much, as he might wear her out. And he did. He did!

HENRY: It's my old Falcon Master, Fitz Fulke!

FITZ FULKE enters, with a falcon strapped to his arm. FITZ wags a finger at HENRY, as though scolding him for some age-old infraction.

HENRY: I haven't seen you in thirty years!

FITZ: Can you still hunt, Henry?

HENRY: [jovially]: You doubt it??

FITZ: Ooof, you've gotten so— expansive! You were just a young chit in pumpkin pants when I showed you how to hunt with the birds—

HENRY: Ha-ha...dear Fitz. Yes; we hunted pigeons— [HENRY looks elated]

FITZ: Pheasants—

HENRY: Rabbits— [he is lost in pleasureful moments]

FITZ: Pheasants—! [to the audience] He was such a good falconer, he could pick out just which hare he wanted to bring in for supper. But he and Angela had a passion for pheasants. [he pats the falcon] This is Angela, by the way. I took him out into the royal woods, and—well, there was no stopping him. He threw up the falcon—back came a pheasant. He tossed Angela into the air, and she came back with a pheasant. He was so enthusiastic about tearing little animals to pieces, that by the end of the day there were—and I was made to count them—two titmice, a canvas-back duck, and 5,026 ring-neck pheasants.

HENRY: [pedantically, imitating FITZ's voice]: They weren't ring-neck pheasants!

FITZ: [imitating HENRY's voice]: They were when you got through with them! [He mimics wringing ANGELA's neck. The bird squawks.] Sorry, Angela.

There is a major commotion transpiring in the kitchen.

STEWARD 1: What's the row in the kitchen?

The door is flung open and A COOK emerges, disgruntled. He has several rubber chickens around his waist, and holds another.

COOK: Ask me! I remember all those bloody pheasants. I had to clean them all! We had feathers flying in the omelettes for a month! We ate pheasant soufflé, pheasant lasagna, pheasant hot pot, pheasant surprise, pheasant McNuggets®, pheasant croquettes, pheasant with duck sauce, pheasant with chocolate sauce and pheasant with sliced bananas— for breakfast! For years, there was only one bird I wanted to eat after that! Angela! [he starts to throttle one of the rubber chickens].

HENRY: [languidly taking control]: Yes— I recall throwing you the bird once or twice. I think it's time to serve the next course. Steward—what is on the menu?

STEWARD 3: [reading—dreading] Pheasant.

The COOK, in a minor fit, retires to the kitchen with his rubber chickens.

Suddenly HOLBEIN becomes extremely animated, flourishing his widest brush, sweeping it in huge strokes across the canvas noisily. The whole ROYAL PARTY looks around in alarm. HOLBEIN suddenly stops and sees he's caused a furious commotion.

HOLBEIN: Sorry. That was the background.

THE ROYAL PARTY [quietly]: Oh. [THEY turn back around to face front]

HENRY: I'm getting hungry. Not a good sign in your monarch—!

STEWARD 1: We have, your highness, a display of victuals, the entrance of which is accompanied by the sweet and sundry strains of music.

HENRY: Music? Will they play "Greensleeves?” On a lute? My favourite! [HE produces his lute again]

STEWARD 2: Not "Greensleeves.” And not a lute, your Grace.

HENRY: Then what instrument? [sarcastically]: Don't tell me: A sackbutt?

STEWARD 3: No, Highness. The bagpipes.

HENRY: [blandly]: Ah, the dudelsack. . . [puts down the lute]. Oh, what a bore.

STEWARD 1: A bore? Sire, you took the words right out of my mouth. Bring on the Boar!

Music Cue 9

A skirl of the pipes from the back of the room. The boar's head is brought forward, and when the piping is over, the BOAR'S HEAD song is sung, led by the STEWARDS.

HENRY: That was delightful. Now I know where the expression 'strains of music' comes from. Thank you. But to business: when do we eat it? —Where do we start? [HE motions as though to accept—or rather attack—the Boar's Head as his entrée].

THE FRIAR: Not yet, Highness.

HENRY: [standing, having a royal tantrum]: Not yet?? You invite me to a feast, set a dainty dish before a king and then tell him not to eat!!

THE FRIAR: [raising his finger] A voice from above—?

A VOICE FROM ABOVE: [shrilly, calling:] HEN——RY!!! Henry Tudor!!

HENRY: [sitting—his face blanching]: Good Lord! That's my third wife? [HE counts on his fingers] No, second wife. ...Anne, Catherine, Catherine, Anne, Anne, No: fifth wife. No, first! No, sixth... [HE looks up] Egad. That's my mother!

THE FRIAR: Yes, that's right! Your mom!

HENRY: [being very firm, shaking his head like a little naughty boy]: No. No. No. I don't want to see her. Let's eat.

THE FRIAR: Cancel the mother!

STEWARD 2: Cancel the mother!

STEWARD 1: Cancel the mother!

STEWARD 3: Nix on the mama!

VOICE OF HENRY'S MOTHER [disappointed. . .] Oh, Henry!

HENRY: [languidly]: Yes. . . [to the assembled crowd]: Bonum Appetitum. [MOTHER is still impatient and sounding disappointed, grumbling "Oh, Henry—!" on the loudspeakers. HENRY takes an "Oh! Henry!" candy bar out of his pocket and gives it to the STEWARDS.] Here. Give this to her. Say it's from me.

The main course is served, during which FITZ performs merry pranks on the guests, and HOLBEIN stops HENRY from diving in and eating, by measuring his hand carefully, finger by finger, with a pair of calipers.

STEWARD 1: Well, your majesty, we've come to that part of your history which seems to interest most everyone here.

HENRY: Ah: My success on "The Field of the Cloth of Gold?”

STEWARD 2: Hardly, Sire.

HENRY: Well— then: my struggles with The Reformation?

STEWARD 3: [shaking his head no]: More important. Your love life, Sire.

HENRY: [with eyes open wide]: O-h-h-h. . .

THE FRIAR: [pointing again, to the heavens—and with no apologies to Lerner & Loewe]: It was on a summer's day— at Hampton Court. You wore grey— her sleeves were short—

HENRY: Ah, yes: I remember it well.

MADAME GREENSLEEVES' VOICE: So do I, Hank! [a giggle] It was only a short walk from the rose garden to the pergola— but it took us all afternoon!

HENRY: [not who he expected]: Oh!—Oh! That's... [aside—horrified] Whoa! What's she doing here?

THE FRIAR: Too late: she's on her way down to see you.

Music Cue 10

And indeed, MADAME GREENSLEEVES is approaching, absolutely beaming with delight at being selected to be here this evening. Naïve, wholesome, flowers in her hair, easily flattered—(in fact, "easy” is quite a good word to describe her), she broadly sweeps down the aisle, talking loudly.

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: There he is! Oh, there he is! I haven't seen you since that lovely day! [Narrating, to the audience assembled]: We were young and in love—

HENRY: Well, we were young—

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: And Hank was so insistent that we sit down in the grass, he with his head in my lap, listening to the birds, smelling the roses; and eating sweetmeats, talking about —wrestling positions—

HENRY: [wiping his brow]: —yes—! Thank you, and our next guest is—?

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: Oh, such a card! A regular King of Hearts he is!


HENRY: [pleading to the audience, pointing to his "tent-card"] You don't understand, this is the woman who thought my last name was spelt "V. I. I. I!”

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: Haw-haw! Don't tell me different! I was the inspiration for the best song that we wrote. I called it Greensleeves.

HENRY: We wrote?? I wrote Greensleeves! —See here!

Music Cue 11

HENRY produces a few sheets of scribbled music from his doublet, and passes them to the MUSICIANS, who begin to play an arrangement of "Greensleeves."

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: Ah, yes: delightful. You wrote the music. I wrote the words. [Narrating again] You see, His Majesty walked along a little with me, leading me up the garden path, then bade me sit on the grass, and he was —rather ungentlemanly shall we say? (but that's his way, with the ladies, you see); then, we walked on a little farther, and he bade me sit further apace on the grass, and lie back and he was even more ungentlemanly in a manner of speaking, and then we walked—oh, maybe three, four more feet down the path, and he put his royal foot out, and I did a sort of half-gainer into the bushes, and when I picked myself up, there he was, in all his blazing royal charm, above the shrubs, being exceedingly ungentlemanly with me. And by the time I did get home, he'd written a lovely melody, and I had a whole set of grass stains to get out.

HENRY: [hoping this will end it all and she'll go away]: Tut tut! So that's how you came up with the phrase, "Greensleeves?" Your poor dear little tippets were soiled in the grass!

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: Well, I changed the title to "Greensleeves.” "Greenbutt" just didn't make it. It was a little difficult to explain all that laundry to be done when I got back to the ranch. You too, Hank, were so embarrassed. I wrote a second verse of the song for you—called Red-Face. It isn't as popular now. You always managed to come up smelling like a Tudor Rose. That's why they called you Defender of the Face.

HENRY: That's Faith. Defender of the Faith. Faith!

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: Yeth. H'm. Never noticed that lisp before. Well, thumday I'll thend you the washing bill, Hank! Thee you, Thweetheart!

The MUSICIANS are about to go into another verse of Greensleeves, when HENRY plucks all the music off their stands.

HENRY: All right, enough! enough! [HE draws his sword] Whom do you have to knight to get dessert around here?

STEWARD 2: [calling towards the musicians]: A sennet!

STEWARD 3: A flourish!

STEWARD 1: A tucket!

MADAME GREENSLEEVES: Bring on the Figgy Pudding!

Music Cue 12

A fanfare; then MADAME GREENSLEEVES begins to sing the "Flaming Pudding” song, as the desserts are set out. After which, she bows, and sits at the royal table, with a helping of dessert (or two). During dessert, HOLBEIN interferes with HENRY's eating by matching swatches of colors (like a Pantone wheel) next to his clothing. From the audience's vantage, we see that HOLBEIN then gets caught up with the equipage of artistry; a tri-square, a flexible curve, a protractor—all sorts of odd devices poke their way over the top of the canvas at once; it becomes almost impossible for one man to hold up so many artistic knickknacks; then they get a little silly; an umbrella, a whammy bar, a hockey stick.

HOLBEIN is blissfully getting ready to do something to this painting. Finally, he makes two quick dabs at the canvas, noisily, and the whole head TABLE looks round at him again.

HOLBEIN: Sorry. Those were the eyes. Very difficult to get them just right.

Then all the artistic accoutrements come crashing down at once. The dessert continues.

THE FRIAR: We thought we'd bring Your Majesty a bit more up to date on the music of the times.

HENRY: Oh, don't tell me you're going to play on the electric sackbutt I've heard tell of—

STEWARD 1: No, your Grace. It's a custom here, when celebrating a birthday—or, a natal day, as you'd know it—to sing to the health of the one being celebrated.

HENRY: Is there a part for me to sing?

STEWARD 3: Mercifully not, Highness.

Then HENRY's pudding is brought to him, not only flaming, but with a candle stuck in it. THOSE about the table begin to sing, and it can be as hokey as making it look like a child's birthday party.

Music Cue 13

COMPANY: Best wishes on your natal day
Best wishes on your natal day,
Happy Natal day to you!
Tho' for some it is a fatal day,
It's your rocking-in-the-cradle-day:
Happy natal day to you!
Happy Natal Day to you,
Happy Natal day to you!
Happy Natal Day, Dear Henry—
(Henry, Henry "V.I.I.I.")

(It is suggested that Mme Greensleeves sing this last line the loudest.)

(You're Defender of the Faith,
Henry the Eighth—the Eighth!)
Happy Natal Day to You!

HENRY: I'm speechless.

STEWARD 1: But did you like it?

HENRY: It has brevity in its favor. This has been a most stultifying evening. Thank you all, and I hope to do the same for you some d—

STEWARD 1: But a moment, Your Highness!

HENRY: What, again?

STEWARD 2: The best is yet to come!

HENRY: No doubt!

STEWARD 2: Time for the Concert, your Grace.

HENRY: Concert? [HE drags out the lute again] We're going to sing?

STEWARD 3: Well— we're going to sing. You can listen.

HENRY: And no bagpipes?

STEWARD 1: No bagpipes.

STEWARD 3: And no sackbutt.

HENRY: No sackbutt. [HE brandishes his fork] Shall I conduct?

STEWARD 2: No, sire, many thanks. Sir James will conduct us.

HENRY: Has he any experience?

STEWARD 3: Sir James has weathered all kinds of music.

HENRY: How abstruse. Well, sir James, one more thing. Please: don't sing "Greensleeves.”


HENRY: Now be quick.

ALL THREE STEWARDS: Quick? Quick? We'll be quick. You say quick?

And, rather 3-Stooges like, they arrange everyone on stage, tootling about "Quick" all the while, which elegantly arranges itself into the madrigal "Quick, Quick! Quick! Away, Dispatch!"

Music Cue 14

The concert continues and ends.

HENRY: Well, this has been a most gloriously——edifying evening. I daresay. Thank you all for coming here, and—

STEWARD 2: More to come, your Majesty.

HENRY: I am five hundred years old. I am tired.

THE FRIAR: One more blast from your past, my King.

WOMAN'S VOICE: [sadly] You never gave me flowers.

An awkward pause. HENRY is at a loss. HE Shrugs. The VOICE refuses to continue. A WOMAN emerges form the back of the hall, and approaches the dais quietly, silently—stealthily.

HENRY: That could be... it's... Has she got a name tag on? [HE squints and tries to read:] "Hello, my name is..." Can't see it. Oh, it's that wench who did the Volta with me at Kew! ...no, it's the Lady who took a lock of my beard with the gold pin of the sun shining in her bosom! —...no... it's Bessie Blount, is it? My skin tingles to think so —oh, no. I'm sure it's that Duchess who shared a wineskin of malmsey with me when we rode off to Kensington together.

The WOMAN approaches the daïs and stands there. As HENRY is still at a loss, she puts her hands on her hips and glares at him.

HENRY: Oh my goodness. It's— It's—

THE COMPANY: It's Anne Boleyn!

Music Cue 15

The MUSICIANS play a little soap opera "sting.”

HENRY: Oh, and we were just having fun. And getting ready to go home.

ANNE: You weren't very nice to me. (Patiently:) Psychological studies have shown that second wives do get treated poorly. Especially when the husband is one whose childhood is fraught with such stress-related activities as memorization of preposterously long legal codes and strenuous physical activity added to the trauma of living with a penurious and demanding father, upon whom there was no depending for either affection or demonstrable affinity. I understood your need to dominate and could excuse your pathological need for attention. But you were never really nice to me.

HENRY: Extraordinary. Is that Latin? What a whiz. Where did she acquire such... wisdom?

THE FRIAR: We're very proud of her. She's been taking Continuing Ed Courses in the Afterlife.

STEWARD 2: Yes, my sovereign, This is Thy Life—from now on! A chance to atone!

STEWARD 1: We've arranged to have her with you again. For ever! No more a-roving shall you go!

HENRY: I've grossly misjudged her. How will I ever cope with her?

STEWARD 2: I understand there are many organized support groups there in the Beyond, too, for just that purpose.

STEWARD 2: She will be your perfect complement!

STEWARD 1: Unending companionship!

STEWARD 3: Unending pseudo-psychoanalysis. Till crack of doom!

ANNE BOLEYN joins HENRY at the table, and continues to quietly analyze his life, whispering sweet nothings about Wittgenstein and Piaget in his ear. HENRY's eyes pop open: HE cannot believe it. It's as though he were caught in the last act of NO EXIT or something.

HENRY: So then tell me. Am I simply a five hundred year old fat man with bad table manners? Is that all there is?

ANNE: Table training in the formative years dictates that although superannuated maternal dialectics can become attenuated...

THE FRIAR: Our final voice from beyond.

From the loudspeakers we hear the sound of a baby crying softly, then cooing with some delight. ANNE BOLEYN stops phychoanalyzing HENRY, her ears perked up.

THE FRIAR: Yes, dear Henry, the reason why you have been united with your second wife is there was something you both did almost 500 years ago, which brought a tremendous amount of good to the world.

STEWARD 1 [quietly]: A little sennet!

STEWARD 2 [quietly]: A little flourish!

STEWARD 3 [quietly]: And a little tucket!

Music Cue 16

The MUSICIANS play, with mutes, a little fanfare, during which a BABY is brought forward (the suggestion is a Cabbage-Patch Doll with Blazing Red Hair) and given to HENRY. Their words sound a little odd now, but they are winding down by reciting lines from the last scene of Shakespeare's play, Henry VIII. One by one, the head table begins to file out, in position to recess.

HENRY: And her name?

THE FRIAR: Elizabeth.

HENRY: Elizabeth! With this kiss take my blessing; God protect thee! I thank you heartily: so shall this lady, when she has so much English.

As they continue, the MUSICIANS begin to play an arrangement of "Now, Oh, Now, I Needs Must Part."

Music Cue 17

STEWARD 1: This royal infant—heaven still move about her!—
Though in her cradle, yet now promises
Upon this land a thousand thousand blessings,
Which time shall bring to ripeness.

STEWARD 2: She shall be loved and fear'd. Her own shall bless her;
Her foes shake like a field of beaten corn,
And hang their heads with sorrow. Good grows with her.

STEWARD 3: In her days, every man shall eat in safety
Under his own vine that he plants; and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours.

THE FRIAR: God shall be truly known; and those about her
From her shall read the perfect ways of honour,
And by those claim their greatness, not by blood.

HENRY: Ye must all see the Queen! and all shall stay:
This little one shall make it holiday.

I thank you all. You've been so kind: I'd like to stay and hear more.

THE FRIAR: Alas, Henry, it is time to part. Your chance on Earth was brief: here it is briefer. We give you a few tokens of this world to take into the next. For your own good.

HENRY: Then I am sad, but my soul is enlivened from the cheer of your presence. Thank you, Holbein: I leave his good work behind for you—to remember me by.

The HOLBEIN portrait is turned around now, and takes center stage. It is the famous, (and huge) likeness of HENRY by Holbein, with with we are all familiar, and which hangs in the galleries of the world.

HENRY: But now, dear friends— now, I needs must part.

THE WHOLE COMPANY has approached the daïs by now, all of HENRY's ghosts about to take him back to the nether world. THE FRIAR hands HENRY the This is thy Life book; HENRY passes BABY ELIZABETH over to ANNE. The ROYAL PARTY begins to descend the stage and to file out, recessing with all its panoply and treasures, including the cushion and the tent card with HENRY's name on it. ANNE is gently whispering passages from a paperback version of Freud's Civilization and its Discontents in HENRY's ears. The WHOLE COMPANY begins to sing "Now Oh, Now I Needs Must Part."

Music Cue 18

They recess to the back of the room, and the lights extinguish.


©1995, 2003 John Mucci. ALl rights reserved. If you are interested in performing this play, please contact the author for the complete script and music.

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