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Published: 08-09-2019

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Examination of Cardinal Wolsey’s Speech

Upon his dismissal from King Henry’s court in Henry VIII by William Shakespeare, Cardinal Wolsey deeply contemplates the circumstances for his sudden downfall. Possessing been left alone by other characters, he proceeds to give a soliloquy whereby he expresses his true thoughts. The figurative language all through the soliloquy stimulates the numerous tone shifts that happen as he reflects on his ousting, suggesting of a complicated progression of feelings that are indicated by tone.

The flower metaphor and the apostrophic references of Wolsey as he addresses his former greatness rouses a bitter tone, indicating his immediately resentful feelings towards dismissal. The cardinal straight wishes an apostrophic and ironic “farewell – to the little great [his power] bears [him]” (1), explicitly saying that “all [his] greatness” (two) is gone the absolute of “all” contrasts the idea of his position undertaking him “little good,” signifying his anger and sarcastic attitude towards the predicament. Additionally, he metaphorically compares himself to a plant, a symbol of prospective, noting that his “tender leaves of hope” (four) with the capacity to “blossom” (4) were snuffed by the unexpected “killing frost” (6) of dismissal that permanently “nips his root” (8) regardless of his ripening greatness, illustrating the aggrieved attitude that he holds which contributes to his bitterness. The initial bitter tone establishes the foundation for the other tone transitions all through the soliloquy, thereby highlighting the emotional significance of this occasion on Wolsey.

The connotations of Wolsey’s simile indirectly characterizes him as hubristic and incompetent for his former function as an advisor, creating him realize that he himself is to blame for his downfall, thereby illustrating a tone shift from bitterness to embarrassment and shame. He compares himself to “little wanton boys” (10), the word “boys” connoting na?vet? that he was incognizant to due to the fact of his “full-blown pride” (12). Furthermore, as a outcome of him being metaphorically “far beyond [his] depth” (12) in “a sea of glory” (11), he was blinded by hubris that causes his sudden downfall. However, upon realizing the implications concerning him getting ousted, he feels that he should “[forever] hide” (15), the hyperbole of “forever” and the feeble connotation of “hiding” emphasizing the eternal shame that he feels for being excessively prideful over a position he was incompetent for. As a result, his realization of why he got ousted illustrates him becoming at fault, thereby establishing the tone of his emotional reactions in the latter portion of the poem.

Wolsey’s figurative language as he laments his downfall illustrates the emotional gravity of the predicament on him following his realization that he is at fault, stimulating a distraught tone that conveys his vacillation in between sadness and anger. He calls out to “vain pomp and glory of this world” (16) stating that “[he hates] ye!” (16), the apostrophe and powerful diction of “hate” which is emphasized by an exclamation point stressing the sheer loathing that he feels for the superficial planet. However, upon indignantly screaming out, he idiomatic describes his “heart new open’d” (17) due to his emotional torment, the sorrowful tone contrasting the livid tone of the apostrophic statement as his feelings modify from sadness to anger. Wolsey’s mixed feelings are represented by contrasting tones, establishing that while particular feelings are much more prominent than other folks, the complexity of human emotion can't be delineated.

The allusion and the clear break from the established meter reflect the hopelessness that Wolsey feels, highlighting the transition from anger and sadness to a despairing tone. He alludes to himself “[falling] like Lucifer” (22) the connotation reflecting the eternal suffering associated with a fall from grace to which there is no recovery, thereby hyperbolically relating it to his fall from nobility with a simile to emphasize the despair he feels in by no means acquiring his energy back. In addition, the break from the pentameter in the final line with “never to hope again” (23) each parallels the abruptness of his ousting and underscores the finality of his despair, the absolute of “never” reiterating the eternal aspect of his dismissal from advisor. By implying that Wolsey would not get his position back, the despairing tone is highlighted and thereby garners sympathy for him simply because of his hopeless outlook.

The tone of Wolsey throughout his soliloquy is indicative of the progression of his emotions as hinted at by figurative language. He is taken aback by his dismissal, only to recognize that he himself brought on it. Thus, Wolsey serves as a metaphor for the complex emotional struggles of man his progressive reaction to the surprise illustrates the diverse tones that indicate ever-altering emotion.
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