A play by Howard Brenton
Anne Boleyn makes religion sexy – and doctrinal disputes bloody good fun. –Time Out
Commissioned by Shakespeare’s Globe, and premiered there in 2010, Howard Brenton’s play portrays Anne Boleyn (mother of Elizabeth I) as a force in the political and religious in-fighting and influenced Henry VIII (who doted on her) thereby unleashing the protestant reformation.
Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn (1501-1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536. After the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth, Anne was venerated as a martyr and heroine of the English Reformation. Elizabeth had no heirs, ending the Tudor period, and was succeeded by the Scottish monarch, James VI (great-grandson of Henry VIII’s older sister), becoming James I of England and James VI of Scotland, the first monarch to style himself “King of Great Britain”.
The play switches between the viewpoint of James (with Anne’s ghost) and that of Henry while he was courting Anne.
In the play, James finds evidence that Anne was a religious conspirator, in love with Henry but also with the most dangerous ideas of the day. Their marriage started the reformation and the break between the Church of England and Rome – with the Church of England coming under the King’s control. How Anne may have shown Henry how to divorce his wife Catherine and break with the Pope is explored.
Anne was a Protestant, a reformer and an admirer of William Tyndale. She had a copy of Tyndale’s translation of the Bible and his explosive book, The Obedience of a Christian Man. Anne marked up passages for Henry to read, and he commented: “This book is for me and all kings to read.”
Anne’s downfall was officially high treason – now considered trumped up. The play shows the possibility that Sir Thomas Cromwell (a Protestant and ally with Anne) had diverted riches from the dissolution of the monasteries – and that Anne needed to be stopped before she told all to the King.
The portrayal of James by Howard Brenton may be surprising. However James was well known for having had a series of beautiful male favourites and showing no interest in women – other than marrying (but not living with) Anne of Denmark to produce heirs.
Saturday 13th July 3pm In the garden of Chingford United Reformed Church Buxton Road Chingford E4 7DT
Sunday 14th July 3pm Barnsbury Wood Nature Reserve Crescent Street (off Huntingdon Street) Islington N1 1BT
Tickets £8 and £6 (concs) 10 minutes walk from Chingford Station Buses: 97, 179, 212, 313, 379, 385, 397, 444
Nearest station: Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Buses: 17, 91, 153, 259, 274