James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

October 18

Fall of Wolsey

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

  • From Henry VIII, Act III, Scene 2.
  • Prime Minister to Henry VIII. He gained the ill-will of the king by his conduct regarding his divorce from Queen Katherine, was deprived of his offices, and afterwards arrested, Oct. 18, 1530, for high treason.

  • Wolsey.Cromwell, I did not think to shed a tear

    In all my miseries; but thou hast forced me,

    Out of thy honest truth, to play the woman.

    Let’s dry our eyes: and thus far hear me, Cromwell;

    And, when I am forgotten, as I shall be,

    And sleep in dull cold marble, where no mention

    Of me more must be heard of, say, I taught thee,

    Say, Wolsey, that once trod the ways of glory,

    And sounded all the depths and shoals of honour,

    Found thee a way, out of his wreck, to rise in;

    A sure and safe one, though thy master miss’d it.

    Mark but my fall, and that that ruin’d me.

    Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition:

    By that sin fell the angels; how can man, then,

    The image of his Maker, hope to win by it?

    Love thyself last: cherish those hearts that hate thee;

    Corruption wins not more than honesty.

    Still in thy right hand carry gentle peace.

    To silence envious tongues. Be just, and fear not:

    Let all the ends thou aim’st at be thy country’s,

    Thy God’s, and truth’s; then if thou fall’st, O Cromwell,

    Thou fall’st a blessed martyr! Serve the king;

    And,—prithee, lead me in:

    There take an inventory of all I have,

    To the last penny; ’tis the king’s: my robe,

    And my integrity to heaven, is all

    I dare now call mine own. O Cromwell, Cromwell!

    Had I but served my God with half the zeal

    I served my king, he would not in mine age

    Have left me naked to mine enemies.