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King John


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A: William Shakespeare Pf:c.1596–7, London Pb: 1623 G: Hist. drama in 5 acts; blank verse S: England and France, c.1200–16. C: 18m, 4f, extrasKing John's claim to the throne is challenged by his young nephew, Arthur, a claim that is backed by the French King Philip. Supported by the ebullient bastard Philip Faulconbridge, John invades France, and succeeds in capturing Prince Arthur. John's new ally Hubert cannot bring himself to obey John's orders to murder Arthur, but when Arthur tries to escape, the boy falls to his death from the ramparts. At first excommunicated by the Pope, then reconciled with him once more, John has to repel an invasion of England by the Dauphin, who now lays claim to the English crown. Deserted by his nobles, and falling ill, John withdraws to an abbey, where he is poisoned by the monks and dies. With peace restored between the French and English by papal intervention, John's son becomes King Henry III.

A: William Shakespeare Pf:c.1596–7, London Pb: 1623 G: Hist. drama in 5 acts; blank verse S: England and France, c.1200–16. C: 18m, 4f, extras

This is generally regarded as the least successful of Shakespeare's history plays. The plot is convoluted, and characters appear and disappear as historical events dictate. The ruthless John does not acquire tragic stature, becoming instead a comic hero of an extraordinarily radical kind. Even though its conflicts are not satisfactorily resolved at the end, the play contains some powerful scenes and some memorable characters, notably the passion of Constance, Arthur's mother, and the cynical and admirable figure of the Bastard Faulconbridge, a model for the unpretentious bravery of Shakespeare's Henry V.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.


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Authors

William Shakespeare (1564—1616) playwright and poet


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