King John by William Shakespeare | Goodreads
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King John, a history play by William Shakespeare, dramatises the reign of John, King of England (ruled 1199–1216), son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and father of Henry III of England. It is believed to have been written in the mid-1590s but was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

6,354 books38k followers
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. Scholars believe that he died on his fifty-second birthday, coinciding with St George’s Day.

At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592 he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of the playing company the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1590 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the sixteenth century. Next he wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest examples in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime, and in 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's.

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the nineteenth century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians hero-worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the twentieth century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are consistently performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

According to historians, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets throughout the span of his life. Shakespeare's writing average was 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589. There have been plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare that were not authentically written by the great master of language and literature.

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Displaying 1 - 10 of 493 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.

Author 1 book76.8k followers
Edited October 19, 2019

This is perhaps Shakespeare's worst play, and certainly the worst of the history plays. It has an interesting theme underlying all the conflicts--what are the legitimate sources of power and authority--but throughout the various struggles (between first-born illegitimate and second-born legitimate sons, between an established king and his deceased older brother's minor heir, between the monarchy and the universal church) the connections are not artfully made nor are the distinctions carefully drawn. As a consequence, the play often seems little more than a series of episodes. Furthermore, King John contains scenes that are poorly written. Countess Constance makes herself tedious by complaining in one long rhetorical indulgence after another, and her son Prince Arthur pleads with his jailer Hubert not to put out his eyes with such inappropriately clever conceits that the entire scene--obviously meant to be touching and terrifying--is unintentionally funny instead:

ARTHUR:
Will you put out mine eyes?
These eyes that never did nor never shall
So much as frown on you.

HUBERT:
I have sworn to do it;
And with hot irons must I burn them out.

ARTHUR:
Ah, none but in this iron age would do it!
The iron of itself, though heat red-hot,
Approaching near these eyes, would drink my tears
And quench his fiery indignation
Even in the matter of mine innocence;
Nay, after that, consume away in rust
But for containing fire to harm mine eye.
Are you more stubborn-hard than hammer'd iron?
An if an angel should have come to me
And told me Hubert should put out mine eyes,
I would not have believed him . . .



The only fine thing about this drama is "The Bastard" Richard Faulconbridge--illegitimate son of Coer-De-Lion--a dynamic, totally individualized character who speaks in his own unique voice and who seems to have wandered into "King John" from a later, better play.
16th-17th-c-brittudor-drama
Profile Image for Bradley.

Author 5 books3,144 followers
Edited February 9, 2017
I decided to work through the least memorable or least beloved plays while I'm working through the more beloved histories, and frankly, I don't think this one was bad at all.

Sure, there's no Magna Carta, even though it would have been signed one year before the King's death, but as it has been said many times before, no one in Shakespeare's time really gave a hoot about the document.

So why did this flop of a play even get written? For it was a flop at its inception and no one really wants to see it on stage, now. Are there any redeeming virtues?

Hell yeah. Philip the Bastard. Many soliloquies, the last line in the play, and my god what a mouth he has. :) He has the righteous Plantagenet fire, the hot breast, the military and manly and steadfast nobility that everyone loves and honors... and yet, despite that, he's a Bastard.

Let me back up. Most bastards in any of the Shakespearian plays are real bastards. This is the only one that is truly noble, through and through. Wow! What a departure! Plus, he was pretty show-stealing every time he popped his head up on the page, with great quips, true heart, and utter loyalty to the king.

Plus we get to see a pretty spry old woman Eleanor of Aquitaine. But that's just for us history buffs. She really doesn't do much except support son the King's decisions and help raise the fortune of Philip the Bastard. :) Which is delightful enough.

The rest of the play, though, does appear to have the right kind of propagandist flavor, turning King John into a Protestant by default because he chooses to snub the Cardinal who then proceeds to excommunicate him, but in my eye, that's just the overt window dressing.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the story in the play, either. There's wars, reconciliations, humorous dealings at Anjou, bitter sorrow over Arthur, and more war, ending with the declaration that there will never be another successful invasion of England.

Pretty rousing. I was entertained. So why the hate?

*shrug* maybe people are just idiots. :) Great characters, good story. I guess this is just one of those cases that because Shakespeare wrote it, it must be brilliant instead of just fine, and therefore we must, obviously, rate it low. :)
2016-shelfhistorytraditional-fiction
Profile Image for leynes.

948 reviews2,286 followers
Edited December 11, 2020
King John is probably the history play I delved in the deepest (which means I read the whole introduction, most of the commentary and the appendix … can someone give me an award for turning into a scholar?) and so I'm able say it with my whole chest: John is a pathetic little ass.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I wasn’t excited to delve into this play. It’s supposed to be one of the more boring histories (absolutely correct!) and on top of that, I heard that it wasn’t particularly well written because Shakespeare wrote it fairly early in his career (sometime in the mid-1590s) (also correct!), and so I knew this would be a pain in the ass to read. However, due to the fact that I read the introduction before the actual play, I was actually excited to see how Shakespeare would play out this historic mess of succession to the British throne … because, boy, let me tell you, if you thought the Wars of the Roses was messy, it’ll take you a hot minute to understand why A) John sits on the throne, B) how he defended his claim, C) who is challenging the claim and D) why they’re doing that.

So, let me break it down to you. Let me take you back to England in 1199, the year that Richard I (better known as Coeur-de-lion or Lionheart) died and the throne was up for grabs again. The problem with Richard was that he left no heir because he only had one illegitimate child (conveniently referenced as “bastard” throughout the entire play… oh Willie!). And since the next eldest son of Henry II (the former King) was also illegitimate (we talking about Geoffrey here), things got a little messy because as the next child in line, John saw his claim to the throne as certain (John is the youngest son of Henry II and therefore also the youngest brother of Richard). I know I probably should’ve just provided a family tree but whatever. Now you know where John’s claim is coming from.

The problem is that his claim was challenged by Arthur (spurred on by his mother Constance). Arthur is the son of Geoffrey. In real life, he only lay claim to certain English territories in France (like Anjou) but Shakespeare kinda blew that out of proportion for the play and made Arthur deny John’s legitimate King-ship. Shakespeare also conveniently doesn’t mention that Geoffrey was an illegitimate child, so Arthur’s claim would be even stronger. The law of primogeniture, firmly established in Shakespeare’s time, but not entirely so in John’s (!), would make Arthur’s claim to the English crown better than his uncle’s.
KING PHILIP [to John]
But thou from loving England art so far
That thou hast under wrought his lawful king,
Cut off the sequence of posterity,
Outfaced infant state, and done a rape
Upon the maiden virtue of the crown.
Historically, Richard I’s will was undisputed in England, where John inherited his brother’s power virtually unchallenged, since Richard wanted John to succeed him.

However, in the play, John has the problem that he is not seen as the rightful King by all of his subjects. On top of that, Arthur’s claim is backed up by France because, for some damn reason, Arthur is chillin’ with the French King (…that is never really elaborated upon and I’m still confused what this little British boy was doing at the French court but oh well), and so war with France is also looming if John doesn’t yield the throne. And as if this wasn’t enough, John also got in major trouble with Rome (aka the fucking Pope) because he was a fervent Protestant and wanted England to be independent from papal power and catholicism in general… and let’s just say, things got ugly pretty quickly.

This last point may also be the reason why Shakespeare wrote this play in the first place because it oddly stands out rather alone and isolated when you look at the other history plays that Shakespeare has written. King John is set well before all of them and John’s struggle against catholicism may be the reason for it. The play has a lot of patriotic moments in which characters proclaim that England shall always be independent and free from foreign influence (wether that be Rome, France or Spain). It even ends with a patriotic outcry provided by the bastard after John’s death:
O, let us pay the time but needful woe,
Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs.
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.
But let’s get back to our King. He’s pathetic, fallible, uncertain and truly an imperfect monarch. He is successful at first (mainly in Act 1 and 2) withstanding the French and the Pope but as the play moves along, he becomes subject to corruption, ill-judgement and, ultimately, collapsing fully and giving his power away. It’s a pathetic sight to behold.

The play was incredibly frustrating to read due to how Shakespeare set up all the events. In one scene he shows a conflict or problem and then in the next scene it is resolved in the silliest fashion, e.g. the dispute between England and France is resolved by John simply surrendering to all the French demands (which is historically inaccurate) and you as a reader are left wondering why it was such a dispute in the first place, if John then a couple of minutes later seemingly has no issues surrendering Anjou and Maine to Arthur. It makes no damn sense. All of John’s reasonings and actions are stupid as fuck and he just pissed me off.

Arthur is just as bad. Throughout, Shakespeare purposefully portrays him as a little boy incapable of making good decisions. The first time we see him he is actually embracing his uncle’s killer and being so co-dependent on his mother, we have no other choice but to feel like he is unfit for ruling. Let’s not talk about his stupid ass prison break plan … that fails and ultimately gets him killed (…well, who would’ve thought that jumping out of the window of the tower you’re imprisoned in will get you killed…).
He leaps down
O me! My uncle’s spirit is in these stones!
Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones!
He dies
Good riddance, that’s all I have to say on that.

The only sensible soul in this play is the “Bastard”, and that’s especially interesting since Shakespeare kinda invented him. He is the only character of significance in any of the Bard’s history plays that isn’t based on a real person. And yet, the “Bastard” is the only one who really shines in this play. He’s the only one with honest true emotions and somewhat good moral values, unlike John who orders the blinding of a mere boy (=> Arthur’s eyes are to be cut out). He is also the only one able to call John out for his bullshit and his weak ass decisions (“Let not the world see fear and sad distrust / Govern the motion of a kingly eye.”)

Let’s also note that Shakespeare’s misogyny really shines in this play because he never misses an opportunity to weigh in on the weaknesses of women (“she’s a woman, naturally born to fears”). Moreover, there are only three women in this play and they are all equally pathetic and rather unimportant: Blanche is to be married off to Lewis in order for John to able to appease France and come up with a peace treaty (so she’s literally treated as an object) and then she is abused by her husband who doesn’t really care about her, both Eleanor and Constance (mothers to John and Arthur respectively) are only obsessed and concerned with their son’s life and claim to power … both of them die off stage and their childish bickerings don’t provide anything useful to the story.

So, at the end of the day, I really have to say that I left this play rooting for absolutely no one at all, even though the “Bastard” is the most sensible one, he never really grew on me due to the rather bad writing of Willie overall, and the back and forth of the plot was just annoying and frustrating to read. At the end, I was very happy that both Arthur (by jumping out a fucking window) and John (either by poison or through a fever) died and we could move the fuck on. Deuces!
Profile Image for Darwin8u.

1,552 reviews8,502 followers
Edited May 8, 2017
“Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”

― William Shakespeare, King John, Act III.4

description

All I want is the bastard. I want Stoppard to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead King John. The Universe revolves, uncorked around the Bastard not the King. I'm not sure who I want to play the Bastard, but he needs to be Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, and Edmund Kean all unwrapped, warped, and twisted into one. He needs to be unhinged, demonic, and perfect: a ballet dancer -- spitting bullets and drenched in virtue's fire. The Bastard Philip demands it. Every play Shakespeare writes gives me a character I want to carry in my pocket. The Bastard proves I own no pockets large enough for Shakespeare's coin. Enough. I need to cool down. Think rationally. Gather my wits. The play itself was soft. 3-stars, small planets, at most, but I round my review up, as I round my day, week, and May up because I discovered the Bastard Philip today (and Lady Constance wasn't too shabby either).

How can you not love THIS,
a soliloquy on self-interest?


Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!
John, to stop Arthur's title in the whole,
Hath willingly departed with a part,
And France, whose armour conscience buckled on,
Whom zeal and charity brought to the field
As God's own soldier, rounded in the ear
With that same purpose-changer, that sly devil,
That broker, that still breaks the pate of faith,
That daily break-vow, he that wins of all,
Of kings, of beggars, old men, young men, maids,
Who, having no external thing to lose
But the word 'maid,' cheats the poor maid of that,
That smooth-faced gentleman, tickling Commodity,
Commodity, the bias of the world,
The world, who of itself is peised well,
Made to run even upon even ground,
Till this advantage, this vile-drawing bias,
This sway of motion, this Commodity,
Makes it take head from all indifferency,
From all direction, purpose, course, intent:
And this same bias, this Commodity,
This bawd, this broker, this all-changing word,
Clapp'd on the outward eye of fickle France,
Hath drawn him from his own determined aid,
From a resolved and honourable war,
To a most base and vile-concluded peace.
And why rail I on this Commodity?
But for because he hath not woo'd me yet:
Not that I have the power to clutch my hand,
When his fair angels would salute my palm;
But for my hand, as unattempted yet,
Like a poor beggar, raileth on the rich.
Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail
And say there is no sin but to be rich;
And being rich, my virtue then shall be
To say there is no vice but beggary.
Since kings break faith upon commodity,
Gain, be my lord, for I will worship thee.
2017dramashakespeare
Profile Image for Aishu Rehman.

724 reviews610 followers
Edited April 11, 2019
The play is a wonderful mix of history and ironic commentary, one of two plays of Shakespeare's that is entirely in verse (the other one is RICHARD II, which he wrote just before KING JOHN), and it's tragically poetic and satiric in equal measure. Shakespeare never wrote anything else quite like it. If he wrote better plays, they were also different kinds of plays: this one is unique.

KING JOHN has one of Shakespeare's best death scenes and a character, Faulconbridge the bastard son of Richard the Lion Hearted.Faulconbridge is there to make cynical comments, and yet remain loyal to King John, who almost, but not quite, becomes a child murderer in the course of the action. Earlier, the complexities of wartime politics are revealed when a town refuses to admit either the King of England or the King of France as its rightful ruler until the two kings have fought out the question first -- whereupon the two kings decide to agree on a truce, just long enough to wipe the town out together, then go back to fighting one another.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.

Author 6 books941 followers
April 7, 2018
No big twists or earth-shattering surprises, but there was a fairly moving scene and some good political maneuvering described. Easy to follow for the most part and that always improves my chances of enjoying one of Shakespeare's plays...or whatever the heck I'm reading, I suppose.
fictionhistorical-fictionplaywar
Profile Image for David Sarkies.

1,664 reviews282 followers
Edited July 29, 2015
What! No Magna Carta!
29 July 2015

Okay, I said this many times before but this time one of the commentators at the end of the book pointed out that reading some plays doesn't bring the play out the same way that watching it performed does, but the reason Sylvia Barnett made this comment is because this is one of those plays that is very rarely performed – namely because people simply are not that interested in it. In fact when she was looking at the various productions of this play she noted that when it was produced in the 60s by the Royal Shakespeare company it was an absolute failure. It's not that you can't put on a good production of this play, it's just that when you do people, especially people who know about Shakespeare, look at it and say 'yeah, King John, I think I have to feed my cat that night'.

Look, it's not a bad play, it's just that people really don't like it, which is a shame because Shakespeare really does know how to write a good political intrigue. The problem is that there are actually two plays on the same subject, this play and another one written by an anonymous author called < a href="https://archive.org/stream/thetrouble... Troublesome Reign of King John (I knew I could find the text on the internet). It is interesting that there is some debate about which came first, and also who copied who, or whether they drew their inspiration from a third, lost, source (though I would probably fall into the category of rejecting the existence of this ur-text).

King John is a play about the question of succession. Despite the fact that John was nominated heir by his father Richard the Lion Heart, as the play unfolds it becomes clear that there are some other claimants to the throne, one prince Arthur, and some guy named Phillip the Bastard. The play is basically about the struggle between John and Arthur over who should have the throne, even though John spends a lot of time running around France beating up the French and also seeking to behead the King of Austria who was responsible for the death of his father.

King John

This is actually one of those plays that happens to have one really cool character – Phillip the Bastard (or simply 'The Bastard'). The thing about Phillip is that he is quite a noble character and sticks by King John right until the end. At the beginning he is having a tussle with his brother as to who should inherit their deceased father's estate, that is until it is revealed that his mother had a liaison with the king (as you do) and that he isn't actually a legitimate heir. As such he has a choice – maintain the claim to his father's estate or accept that he is a bastard. He takes the second option and is made a knight of the realm.

The thing with Bastards in Shakespeare is that they are generally not painted in a particularly pleasant light – take Edmund from King Lear for example: he is one really nasty piece of work. However Phillip is one of the most noblest characters in the play, and not only that he sticks to John's side despite all of the other nobles deserting him. In fact he has the very last line in the play, a position which in Elizabethan drama is normally reserved for the highest ranking character left alive. Mind you, the real Phillip (Phillip of Cognac – I wonder if he drank a bit of the stuff) is one of those really obscure historical figures that would have disappeared into the mists of antiquity if Shakespeare hadn't immortalised him. Still, considering the fact that he is in King John may still end up consigning him to obscurity.

The one thing that really stands out in this play is that the one reason that King John is still remembered today, the signing of the Magna Carta, is completely absent. In fact it is due to the dispute with prince Arthur that all of the lords desert John, not because he is a tyrannical prick that was blowing England's wealth on his wars in France. However I do want to speculate a bit as to why Shakespeare ended up neglecting this rather historical event (and if he were to have included it it would have been somewhere near the end because King John died the year after it was signed).

Okay, maybe it had to do with the whole Magna Carta thing disrupting the flow of the play and not having anything to do with the themes that Shakespeare was trying to explore, which is probably more likely than not (and the more I think about it the more I suspect that that is the case). However I have another theory, and that is that the people of Elizabethan England never considered the Magna Carta that big a deal. Remember King John pretty much tore the agreement up as soon as he had the chance and it never really had a huge affect until much later. Anyway, it wasn't the beginning of the Parliamentary system – William the Conqueror had a group of advisors when he first invaded England.

Signing of the Magna Carta

The thing with Parliament is that it didn't actually appear in its present form until the Tudors were on the throne, and even then most of them tended to be lackies of the king. However the reason Parliament existed is because the king didn't raise taxes directly from the people, he would raise them from the feudal lords, who would in turn suck the peasantry dry. In fact the Magna Carta did didly squat for the average punter, and it was not until the era of the Stuarts that it started fighting with the king for political power. It is only these days that we look back at the Magna Carta and go 'gee, what a wonderful document'. Back in Shakespeare's day I suspect that the average theatre goer would have said 'Magna Carta? As if that has anything to do with me – it's simply a nobles' thing'.
historical
Profile Image for Jim.

1,799 reviews596 followers
Edited June 28, 2015
This is not the same King John you know from history. For one thing, there is no Runnymede and no Magna Carta in this play. Secondly, Richard the Lion-Hearted has already died, so there is no Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham, or Guy of Gisbourne. No, The Life and Death of King John is about retaining one's power as king when confronted with the demands of the papacy and of other surrounding monarchs.

In the process of trying to hold on to his power, John tries to have his nephew Arthur killed; but the noble delegated to do the job doesn't have the heart for it. Shortly thereafter, Arthur accidentally falls to his death from the castle walls. In the end, the lingering suspicion is that John had him killed.

And shortly after that, John dies off stage having been poisoned by a monk -- and act for which we have not been prepared by William Shakespeare.

In the end, John is a powerful man who must struggle with his conscience, and who doesn't quite succeed.
playsrereadshakespeare

102 reviews274 followers
Edited December 29, 2009
It's been a while (high school!) since I've read Shakespeare, and the pleasures of his language and verse-flow were almost completely lost on me at that time. Like many youths who are required to read the Bard at an obscenely young age (Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet were assigned in middle school for goodness’ sake), I viewed his verse and language as impediments to the story, which was sometimes pretty interesting to a distracted, pimply youth. But fast-forward a few years and here I am nearly worshiping at the aesthetics alter with Harold Bloom. So in short, yes, I enjoyed reading this even if the story and themes weren't as compelling or valuable as those in some of Shakespeare's more famous plays. The flow, the language, the language, the flow: delicious.

It seems that this play is one of the least-read in the Bard’s oeuvre, so here’s a brief overview of the story:

King John claims the throne of England after the death of his brother Richard (The Lionheart of Crusade fame), whose will stated that John should be the next king. The only problem is that the laws of succession dictate that John’s older brother Geoffrey is next in line and since he’s already dead, his son Arthur is the rightful king. King Philip of France, looking to stir up trouble and increase his power in the region, is backing Arthur’s bid (side note: Arthur doesn’t really give a shit, but his mom’s got a hankering for that queen-mother spot). Some battle ensues. The Bastard (see below) is pumped for continuing the war with France, but someone else suggests that John’s niece marry Philip’s son to secure John’s claim to the throne while France gets some extra land. (Still following?) The pope’s emissary then stirs up more trouble by briefly excommunicating John and forcing France to abandon the newly improved English-French relationship. John fixes things with the Vatican but not before the relationship with France has degenerated and he’s become embroiled in a small controversy at home involving the killing of Arthur (who, as you’ll remember, has a claim on the English throne as well). I won’t spoil the ending, but…nothing terribly exciting happens anyway. I’m not sure how historically accurate this whole story is, but I was surprised that in a play about King John the Magna Carta never managed to come up. That was kind of a big deal, wasn’t it?

So but none of the characters are terribly interesting except one: The Bastard. He finds out at the beginning of the play that he is Richard the Lionheart’s illegitimate son, which birth status he loves. So he gives up all of his entitled land to accept this royal (if illegitimate) standing. He’s basically a big, brash guy who loves battle, hates cowardice, and constantly berates and belittles people of legit birth and higher rank. In other words, in an otherwise-dry history play, the Bastard really steals the show. His comic timing is excellent; his frequent interruptions, particularly of the Duke of Austria, are relentless, abusive, and hilarious. Acts II and III offer up some laugh-out-loud moments, and there are many clever double-entendres scattered throughout. In the end, it’s all about the plot-pushing Bastard; he singlehandedly justifies giving this one a shot.
2009the-bard
Profile Image for Cindy Rollins.

Author 13 books1,062 followers
Edited January 14, 2021
2021 Update: I read and watched the play this time. The only available video was on by the Stratford Festival, a Canadian Shakespeare group. I give this stage production 5 stars. It brings to the forefront the glory of a well done play. The characters which seem rather lifeless in print spring to life with zest and humor in the production. I highly recommend this if you are reading this play or even if you are not. Dorothy Sayers in The Mind of the Maker speaks of how an actor can enliven words almost like the third person of the Trinity making the authors words fill with meaning. This production does just that. While King John is played fine, the real star of the production, bringing to life so many lines is the role of the the Bastard, Falconbridge, played here by Graham Abbey. If you are watching with children beware that there is a grotesque scene that does not end in a child's death or threatened torture, but the child does ultimately die. I paid $5.00 on Prime to rent this and I can truly say it was one of the most delightful productions I have seen.


Once again my claim to have read the entire Shakespearean canon comes up short. I do not remember having read this before but then again I am getting old.

I am not sure what I would do without out my DK Kings and Queens of England and Scotland. This play is quite confusing with all kinds of hangers-on and bastards, none of whom seem to be threatening and yet King John is threatened on every side especially by the French(as usual for the Plantagenets.) As A.A. Milne says, "King John was not a good man." He doesn't seem to be particularly bad (by Plantagenet standards which are pretty low) except when he is ordering poor Arthur's eyes burned out.


2017 Update on Arkangel recording: It was excellent, but it does help to have a print copy to keep everyone straight.
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