Positions of great power are often considered to be positions of great risk. One can never be certain of how long they will remain in power, and a sudden downfall from power could cost them their sanity. Cardinal Wolsey was one such man of power, an advisor to the king in Henry VII, who suffered from a tragic downfall from power. In Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, a shift from a tone of acceptance to a tone of betrayal, condemning diction, and Biblical allusion are used to convey Wolsey’s complex response to his dismissal from the court.
As Wolsey contemplates this time of serving the king, he nvisions the beginning and end of his career and alludes to seasons to portray how natural it is for all things to end. Wolsey utters phrases like “the tender leaves of hope” and “a-ripening,” which symbolize his early days as the king’s advisor. Since Wolsey is referring to a time when he was younger, he would have been filled with hope as a new advisor. That hope would stem from his talents and strengths, that would grow stronger with each passing day. He would rely on these strengths to prove himself to the king, and in turn, would become more important in the eyes of the court.
As Wolsey continued to prosper in the king’s court, he notices how his skills emerge into new “blossoms. ” A blossom usually refers to something beginning to reach the peak of their skills while they continue to hone them with practice. In this sense, Wolsey has already reached his full capabilities. It does not mean that he will lose any significance in the court, but he has reached his full potential and does not have much more room to improve. Despite the fact that he was past his prime, his dismissal came as quickly as “a frost, a killing frost” does in the spring.
He elieves that his career was cut too soon and had little to no warning, like a spring frost. He begins to recognize that his time at the court was drawing to a close, yet he still protests, for he believes he could have accomplished much more for his king. Wolsey continues to mull over his dismissal, and although he acknowledges that all thing must end, he is confused by why his work had to end so early. Wolsey feels betrayed by the king as confusion increases when he realizes he has no income, and the confusion fades to rage as he faces an uncertain future.
He begins to lament for his errible fortune when it dawns upon him that he is “weary and old with service” to his king. Wolsey has been a trusted advisor to the king for many years, and during his service, his youth has faded. He is no longer the young man who can learn a new trade quickly. His old bones do not give him the leeway he had in his youth, causing him to become frantic and angry that he has no income to sustain him. With his anger overflowing, the former advisor unleashes it on the man who is the cause of his suffering, the king, by shouting, “I hate ye! ” To speak any ill will against a monarch is considered to be treason.
Wolsey, blinded by rage and desperate to save his life, takes his anger out upon his former employer in a dangerous manner. Yet, he is passed caring for the petty court courtesies since he had slaved away for the king and court and was cast out for his service. Once his anger towards the king has been somewhat appeased, Wolsey recognizes the precarious situation he is left in, and with no source of income, Wolsey has been left as a “poor man. ” An advisor to a king is one of the most prestigious jobs in the land, which would have left Wolsey with anything he desired.
He had en at his command, money to spend, power at his disposal, and the admiration of many women of the court. Now that his title has been stripped from him, he has nothing, for he is only a shadow of his former life. The man who had trusted him the most- and Wolsey trusted him as well- has taken everything he had and knew away from him. As Wolsey’s confusion melts into a justified rage, another emotion begins to overtake him as he truly recognizes his destitution. During his rage, Wolsey begins to understand how poor he is, and he begins to compare himself to the devil to signify a inship between the two and how he has nothing left to lose.
Wolsey’s self-deprecation increases as he realizes how is entire life is in “ruin. ” Not only has everything Wolsey ever wanted and dreamed for been taken from him, he has been humiliated by his downfall. He was once the second most powerful man in England, the hand of the king, and he is now nothing. It is unlikely that he will receive help from the other courtesans, for he knows that they care for their own gain and not for the well- being of anyone else. Knowing that his once allies have turned their backs on him, Wolsey feels even more humiliation.
To urther his disgrace, the Cardinal believes that he has “fall[en] like Lucifer” from glory once his title and property has been stripped from him. Although Lucifer and the Cardinal’s stories are vastly different, they share a similar fall from paradise. Since Lucifer had attempted to overthrow God, he must have felt humiliated as he was cast out of Heaven. Not only does Wolsey understand this pain, he feels horrible about himself and despises himself even more if he has even thought to compare himself to the most malevolent creature in the universe. He has reached the point of no return.
His utter loathing for himself egins to fade into a depression once he has given up and vows to “never hope again. ” Even though he is Cardinal Wolsey, former advisor to the king of England, he believes there is nothing he can do and nowhere he can go that will sustain him the way the British court did. He had everything that his heart desired and was extremely happy, honored, and proud to stand beside the king as his advisor. Where can he go to find work similar to the one he had known for years? There was no place for him left in the world, and just the very thought of being away from the British nobility caused him to despair greatly.
Wolsey’s anger and betrayal fade into a pit of despair, and there is no way for him to overcome his hopelessness and sorrow. Through the use of tones of acceptance and betrayal, condemning diction, and Biblical allusion, Wolsey conveys complex and extremely emotional response to his dismissal from court. Tragic stories akin to Wolsey’s are a constant reminder that power is not everlasting, and the fall from a place of power is often accompanied by anger and disgrace. No matter how tightly one holds onto their influence and wealth, everything must come to an end, like Wolsey symbolized in his soliloquy.