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Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament

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From Description: Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament transforms students into lords and commoners and members of the English parliament during the tumultuous years of 1529-1536. Cardinal Wolsey has just been dismissed as lord chancellor for failing to obtain from the pope the divorce king Henry is seeking from Catherine of Aragon, his wife of twenty years. Thomas More is named as Wolsey’s replacement. More presides over a newly summoned parliament, which the king hopes will somehow find the legal means to annul his marriage to Catherine, thus allowing him to proceed with his plans to marry Anne Boleyn and have by her a male heir. But will parliament find the means, and will it be satisfied with solving the king’s marital and dynastic problems? There are some in parliament who wish to use the royal divorce, as well as the rising anti-clericalism in the land, to effect a split from Rome and a conversion of England from Catholicism to Protestantism. Other members oppose the divorce, oppose making the king head of the English church, and, most of all, oppose this new, heretical creed filtering in from the continent. More is their leader, for as long as he can survive. Thomas Cromwell leads the king’s party. One problem is that the king is ambivalent about the reform effort unleashed by his so called “great matter,” and so the conservatives are free to prosecute reformers as heretics, while the reformers are free to prosecute conservatives as traitors. Conservatives are liable to this charge because their frustration at home tempts them to consider petitioning the king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor to invade England on behalf of Catholic Europe. The game reaches its dramatic climax around the trial of Anne Boleyn, staged as a grand contest between opposing parties, which parties actually are multiple and fluid. All roles are individualized and most are historically based. At issue is the clash of four contending ideas: medieval Catholicism, Lutheranism, Renaissance humanism, and Machiavellian statecraft. Students read works representative of all traditions.

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