Henry VIII

Analysis of Cardinal Wolsey's Soliloquy 12th Grade

Upon his dismissal from King Henry’s court in Henry VIII by William Shakespeare, Cardinal Wolsey deeply contemplates the circumstances for his sudden downfall. Having been left alone by other characters, he proceeds to give a soliloquy whereby he expresses his true thoughts. The figurative language throughout the soliloquy stimulates the numerous tone shifts that occur as he reflects on his ousting, suggesting of a complex progression of emotions that are indicated by tone.

The flower metaphor and the apostrophic references of Wolsey as he addresses his former greatness rouses a bitter tone, indicating his instantly resentful feelings towards dismissal. The cardinal directly wishes an apostrophic and ironic “farewell – to the little good [his power] bears [him]” (1), explicitly saying that “all [his] greatness” (2) is gone; the absolute of “all” contrasts the idea of his position doing him “little good,” signifying his anger and sarcastic attitude towards the situation. Moreover, he metaphorically compares himself to a plant, a symbol of potential, noting that his “tender leaves of hope” (4) with the capacity to “blossom” (4) were snuffed by the unexpected “killing frost” (6) of dismissal that permanently “nips his root” (8)...

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