Tales of Patient Griselda and Henry VIII

  • Ursula Potter University of Sydney


In 1558 Sir William Forrest, chaplain to Queen Mary, presented Mary with a long verse narrative entitled The History of Grisild the Second in which he figures Mary's mother, Katherine of Aragon, as the long-suffering heroine and Henry VIII as the tyrant husband. Forrest's prime purpose appears to be a move for the beatification of Katherine by creating a quasi-Marian picture of Katherine's suffering as a mother and the narrative is of interest for its extended descriptions of Katherine's maternal anguish at the forced separation from her daughter. Anne Boleyn is figured as the femme fatale of mean birth instrumental in Katherine's downfall. By the end of 1558 Mary was dead and Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth, was on the throne. Thus, when not long after a new Patient Griselda play is performed, possibly before Elizabeth herself, what might be the political implications? This article puts the case for considering John Phillip's The Commodye of pacient and meeke Grissill as an allegorical tool in the vindication of Anne Boleyn again through the agency of suffering motherhood.