The Life and Death of King John
One of Shakespeare's most unpopular history plays, King John deals with the life and death of King John, who reigned from 1199 to 1216. This is as early as Shakespeare goes in his treatment of English history, concentrating more successfully on the later 14th and 15th centuries in the plays which stretch from Richard II to Henry VI. As a result King John suffers from being so historically distant in time, as well as offering a rather weak and vacillating king, who lacks the charisma and authority of Richard III or Henry V. The play begins with King John struggling to retain his throne, under attack from rebellious courtiers and Philip, the king of France. As the quarrel escalates into war with France, the play begins to take on a contemporary Elizabethan flavour--the feared invasion from a foreign (Catholic) nation, and the extent to which such an invasion is based on the questionable paternity of King John (like Queen Elizabeth, John is accused of being a bastard and is excommunicated). The play is saved from its rather colourless political machinations by Philip the Bastard, John's favourite, a dramatic forerunner of dubious but charismatic malcontents like Edmund in King Lear. It is also Philip who is given the most powerful and patriotic lines, when he claims that "This England never did, nor never shall, /Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror". King John's mysterious and anticlimactic death through illness at the end of the play deflates expectations - something that could be said of the play as a whole.
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Date and Sources
Early Records On 8 November 1623 Edward Blount and Isaac Jaggard leading members of the syndicate that would soon publish the Folio paid to e...
Copy for King John in the Folio A manuscript play might take several formsfoul papers fair copy promptbook private transcript and so on in theory ...
Act and Scene Division It is generally agreed that act or in many cases act and scenei divisions were retrospectively imposed upon many plays printe...
Revision A hypothetical revision or interpolation might have caused the confusion we have just examined stonger evidence of revision or interpolati...
A Critical Introduction
Now say Chatillon what would France with us ?2 This directness continues through the next twentynine lines of question iWhat
against approximately 2570 lines in the Folio Garricks version has 1905 Kembles 1690 Macreadys 183O2
Theatrical Reputation and Stage History2 Popular even controversial from the early eighteenth century to the early twentieth King John has since bee...
Abbreviations and References
The Life and Death of King John
SPEECHPREFIXES IN ACT 2
AN ANGEL SPAKE 52641
primogeniture the eldest sons right to inherit his fathers real property makes Philip the heir Robert the younger son adopts the legal formula son and ...
the second tetralogy is as plainly organized in terms of fathers and sons as it is in terms of usurpation rebellion and legitimate succession2 King John ...
like Richard King John declines like Bolingbroke the Bastard rises4 John loses political sensitivity and his earlier decisiveness and he decays first into ...
Early Stage History Besides Francis Meress mention in 1598 allusions to King John some more some less convincing appear to confirm that it was pe...
Other editions - View all
action Actus Angers appears arms Arthur Bastard Blanche blood Cambridge CAPELL character citation citing claim common Compositor Constance copy Dauphin death Dent direction earlier earliest edition editors Edward Eleanor Elizabethan emendation England English Enter evidence example Faulconbridge fear Folio France French give hand hath head heaven Henry History hold Holinshed Honigmann Hubert James Gurney John's King John KING PHILIP Lady land language later less lords Louis marked meaning mother never nobles Oxford Pandulph peace Pembroke perhaps phrase play play's political POPE possession Prince printed probably production Queen question quoted refers represented Richard Robert royal Salisbury scene seems sense Shakespeare sound speak speech stage suggests thee THEOBALD thou Tilley Troublesome Reign true vols