Henry VIII

Act I, scene 4 of The Life of King Henry the Eighth uses dance to facilitate and highlight the critical moment when King Henry falls in love with Anne Boleyn, his future second wife. The dancing takes place at an entertainment at York Place hosted by Cardinal Wolsey. The King and several of his friends “crash” the party disguised as shepherds and dance with the women present. The gatecrashers wear masks so that none of the ladies know with whom they are dancing. The King chooses Anne to dance with, commenting on her beauty. After the dance, Cardinal Wolsey correctly guesses the King’s identity, which Henry confirms by unmasking himself. He also kisses Anne after the dance, saying, “I were unmannerly, to take you out,/ And not to kiss you.” When the Cardinal suggests that the King’s enthusiasm for his partner might not be appropriate, “Your grace,/ I fear, with dancing is a little heated,” the King acknowledges this possibility, “I fear, too much,” but Anne’s response is not alluded to through lines or stage directions. Moreover, the King’s last speech implies that he intends to continue having Anne as his companion for the evening, “sweet partner,/ I must not yet forsake you.” He then calls for toasts and more dancing and music in another chamber and all exit accompanied by trumpets.

Hautboys. Enter KING HENRY VIII and others, as masquers, habited like shepherds, ushered by the Chamberlain. They pass directly before CARDINAL WOLSEY, and gracefully salute him

A noble company! what are their pleasures?

Because they speak no English, thus they pray’d
To tell your grace, that, having heard by fame
Of this so noble and so fair assembly
This night to meet here, they could do no less
Out of the great respect they bear to beauty,
But leave their flocks; and, under your fair conduct,
Crave leave to view these ladies and entreat
An hour of revels with ’em.

Say, lord chamberlain,
They have done my poor house grace; for which I pay ’em
A thousand thanks, and pray ’em take their pleasures.

They choose Ladies for the dance. KING HENRY VIII chooses ANNE

The fairest hand I ever touch’d! O beauty,
Till now I never knew thee!

Music. Dance

Your grace,
I fear, with dancing is a little heated.

I fear, too much.

There’s fresher air, my lord,
In the next chamber.

Lead in your ladies, every one: sweet partner,
I must not yet forsake you: let’s be merry:
Good my lord cardinal, I have half a dozen healths
To drink to these fair ladies, and a measure
To lead ’em once again; and then let’s dream
Who’s best in favour. Let the music knock it.

Exeunt with trumpets

–Excerpted from the MIT Shakespeare transcription project.

Trailer for Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Henry VIII

The whole trailer, as well as interviews, costume sketches, the cast list, and other details, is available at: http://www.chicagoshakes.com/plays_and_events/henryviii.


The trailer for Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2013 production of Henry VIII shows a glimpse of dancing, presumably from Act I, scene 4. The production is costumed in period attire, and the dancing is historically informed, although not a precise reconstruction of a specific Renaissance choreography.

The video clip shows several couples dancing, as well as closeups of the King and Anne dancing together, palms together. This particular moment is reminiscent of a circling, hand-to-hand figure in the volta in Shekhar Kapur’s film Elizabeth (1998) choreographed by Sue Lefton. However, circling palm to palm or clapping hands is not present in Thoinot Arbeau’s sixteenth-century choreography for the volta. Moreover, while there are choreographies for multiple couples from this period, they are all group dances in which the dancers are arranged in circles, lines, or other geometric figures, rather than having several couples scattered across the floor, as in the trailer. Nevertheless, even the brief glimpses shown here convey the effectiveness of the choreography in depicting King Henry falling passionately in love with Anne during the dance.

-Emily Winerock, 2014

Video Clip Details

Title of Clip: Henry VIII at Chicago Shakespeare Theater HD
Title of Work: Henry VIII
Act and Scene: Act 1, Scene 4
Date of Performance: 2013
Location of Performance: Courtyard Theater, Chicago, IL
Producer: Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Director: Barbara Gaines
Performers: Chicago Shakespeare Theater Company
Choreographer: Not available
Date published or posted online: May 7, 2013
Publisher: chicagoshakes2009
Source URL: http://youtu.be/fkV3mTp1GR0
More Info: http://www.chicagoshakes.com/plays_and_events/henryviii

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