'Almost with ravished listening': A most rare speaker in King Henry VIII (All is True)
Martin, F. (2010). ‘Almost with ravished listening’: A most rare speaker in King Henry VIII (All is True). In D. Chalk & L. Johnson (Eds.), ‘Rapt in Secret Studies’: Emerging Shakespeares (pp. 113–130). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
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Edward Stafford, the third duke of Buckingham, was condemned for high treason and executed on 17 May 1521, despite p rotestations of his innocence throughout his trial and after his indictment. Transplanted from Holinshed's Chronicles into Shakespeare and Fletcher's All ls True², the fictional duke argues his innocence at greater length and with more ferocity than his historical counterpart. In departing from their source material, the playwrights have created a literary character distinct from the historical figure on whom he was based. The trial and death sentence mark his transition from a well-regarded noble-"bounteous Buckingham, I The mirror of all courtesy" (2.1.52-53)--to a disgraced man, the removal of his title and property signaling the erasure of his aristocratic identity. To the end, Buckingham insists upon his innocence. On the verge of being "[a]bsolved ... with an axe" (3.2.264) and thus transported to the next world, the truth or falsity of the duke's alleged treason cannot be established beyond doubt, yet he is detennined to leave his audience with a final impression of himself as a man grievously wronged. The playwrights achieve this ultimately through Buckingham's scaffold speech, an eloquent and increasingly passionate address to the crowd, which threatens to burst the confines of the conventional traitor's dying speech.
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