The traditional Elizabethan cyclical image of the "wheel of fortune" is at work here: that which rises must inevitably fall.Unlike Shakespeare's early history plays titled with a king's name, these ups and downs of fate do not concern the monarch and his rivals but instead concern the successive demise of the lesser court figures of Buckingham, Katharine, Cardinal Wolsey, and, nearly, Cranmer.The lords cannot hear him speak, but they observe that Wolsey seems ill at ease.
When Wolsey is accused of his various wrongdoings, even the lords reading the charges against him forgive him, and Wolsey finally reaches higher understanding of himself and the world as he understands his faults.
The king seems sorry about Katharine's fall from grace, but he accepts it as inevitable; while she is slower to forgive Wolsey's role in the matter, eventually she does.
He opens the second paper, which is his letter to the Pope.
Wolsey knows there is nothing he can do; he has reached the highest point in his career and now must fall.
He asks the lords if they have seen Wolsey, and they reply that he is nearby but strangely upset.
The king says it may be because of misdelivered papers the king just encountered, including a surprisingly large inventory of Wolsey's holdings. Henry comments to Wolsey that he must be too busy contemplating spiritual matters to consider the earthly world, but Wolsey says he has time for both.
In fact, the king has already married Anne, reveals Lord Chamberlain.
Suffolk compliments Anne, who he thinks will bring blessings to the land.
Wolsey says he was innocent of holding any private malice toward Buckingham, and he reminds Surrey that a jury sent Buckingham to his death.
Surrey, angered at Wolsey's arrogant speech, reminds Wolsey of his efforts to take the lands and holdings of other nobles and the scheme he had been cooking up with the Pope against the king.