King Henry VIII has one of the fullest theatrical histories of any play in the Shakespeare canon, yet has been consistently misrepresented, both in performance and in criticism. This edition offers a new perspective on this ironic, multi-layered, collaborative play, revealing it as a complex meditation on the progress of Reformation which sees English life since Henry VIII's day as a series of bewildering changes in national and personal allegiance and represents "history" as the product of varied and contradictory testimony. McMullan makes a powerful claim for the rehabilitation of Henry VIII, providing the fullest performance history of any edition to date and reading the work not as a marginal "late" Shakespeare play but as a play which is paradigmatic of the achievement of Renaissance drama as a whole. His introduction emphasizes truth and conscience and the dramatic devices used to portray these themes. This edition's appendices elucidate the chronology for the events portrayed in King Henry VIII and other source works. A scene from Beaumont and Fletcher's A Maid's Tragedy, comments on music, a doubling chart, and other reference information are also included.
The Arden Shakespeare has developed a reputation as the pre-eminent critical edition of Shakespeare for its exceptional scholarship, reflected in the thoroughness of each volume. An introduction comprehensively contextualizes the play, chronicling the history and culture that surrounded and influenced Shakespeare at the time of its writing and performance, and closely surveying critical approaches to the work. Detailed appendices address problems like dating and casting, and analyze the differing Quarto and Folio sources. A full commentary by one or more of the play’s foremost contemporary scholars illuminates the text, glossing unfamiliar terms and drawing from an abundance of research and expertise to explain allusions and significant background information. Highly informative and accessible, Arden offers the fullest experience of Shakespeare available to a reader.