Like most of Shakespeare’s history plays, King John presents a struggle for the English crown. The struggle this time, however, is strikingly cold-blooded and brutal.
John, the younger brother of the late Richard I, is the king, and a savage one. His opponent is a boy, his nephew Arthur, supported by the King of France and the Duke of Austria. After Arthur falls into John’s hands, John plots to torture him. Arthur’s capture gives Louis, the Dauphin of France, the opportunity to lay claim to John’s crown. John’s nobles support Louis, but he schemes to betray them.
The play finds its hero in another figure: the Bastard, Sir Richard Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Richard I. Although he has an appetite for war, he also has a strong conscience and speaks with trenchant irony.
The authoritative edition of King John from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:
-The exact text of the printed book for easy cross-reference
-Hundreds of hypertext links for instant navigation
-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books
-An annotated guide to further reading
Essay by Deborah T. Curren-Aquino
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The Publication of Shakespeares Plays
An Introduction to This Text
Text of the Play with Commentary
ACT 4 Scene 2
ACT 4 Scene 3
ACT 5 Scene 1
ACT 5 Scene 2
ACT 5 Scene 3
ACT 5 Scene 5
ACT 5 Scene 6
ACT 5 Scene 7
ACT 1 Scene 1
ACT 2 Scene 1
ACT 3 Scene 1
ACT 3 Scene 2
ACT 3 Scene 3
ACT 3 Scene 4
ACT 4 Scene 1
A Modern Perspective
Key to Famous Lines and Phrases
Other editions - View all
actors Angiers arms Arthur Bastard blood breath Chatillion Church Coeur de Lion Constance crown curse Dauphin Dauphin of France dead death dost doth Duke of Austria Duke of Brittany edition English Enter exit eyes father Faulconbridge fear Folger Folger Shakespeare Library Folio Fortune French hand hast hath heaven honor Hubert John's King John king of England KING PHILIP king's LADY FAULCONBRIDGE land London longer note lord Louis Louis the Dauphin majesty meaning Melun MESSENGER mother night nobles oath Pandulph peace PEMBROKE PHILIP FAULCONBRIDGE Philip of France Plantagenet play's Pope Prince Henry Proverbial quartos QUEEN ELEANOR Richard Richard Plantagenet rite of passage Robert Faulconbridge royal SALISBURY scene Shake Shakespeare's Language Shakespeare's plays shame Sir Robert soul speak speare's stage direction Taside theater thee thine tongue University Press usurping voice William Shakespeare wordplay words