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Shakespeare's Henry VIII: an elusive little play

Professor Grace Ioppolo

Professor Grace Ioppolo

'It's really an elusive little play because we don't know what it represents. It's wonderful, it's an oddity.' Professor Grace Ioppolo

Grace Ioppolo, Professor of Shakespearean and Early Modern Drama in the
Department of English and American Literature was asked to comment on why Shakespeare's Henry VIII is so rarely performed in the modern day - as a new version of the play is being resurrected at the Globe this week.

"Henry VIII is uneven - we don't know what genre it is. People walk into the theatre and ask if they are seeing a history play, a romance or a tragedy? There are no battle scenes, one-on-one duels, or confusion and noise - this is a history play about celebration;" explained Professor Ioppolo.

As well as the issue of genre, is the problem of the play's authorship. It is thought many scenes were written by the playwright John Fletcher.

"Shakespeare was well into retirement - we think he retired around 1611 - and this was written in 1613. It's most likely his last play, but we don't know," says Professor Ioppolo.

"The scenes that are written by Fletcher are creaky. You can see in some scenes it doesn't have that Shakespearean touch that we are used to.

"It's really an elusive little play because we don't know what it represents. It's wonderful, it's an oddity."

Let us hope that the modern sprinkler system prevents the mishap of nearly 400 years ago when a cannon fired as a special effect during a performance set the Globe's roof alight and razed it to the ground.

Henry VIII opens at Shakespeare's Globe in London on 15 May and runs until 21 August.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8679613.stm

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