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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING JOHN
King John is the only undoubtedly Shakespearean play not entered in the Stationers' Register, nor is there any trace of its having been printed before there appeared in the First Folio the text on which the present edition is based. A mention in Meres's list in 1598 gives a later limit for the date of production; and an earlier limit is approximately fixed by the date of its source, which was published in 1591, and cannot have been written earlier than about 1587. Within this range of ten years we have no good external evidence. Attempts to find allusions to current politics are negatived by the existence of the supposed allusions in the source also. Modern critics vary in their judgments between 1593 and 1596, and considerations of metre and style point rather to the earlier of these dates, and make it probable that the play was written between Richard III and Richard II.
About the middle of the sixteenth century Bishop Bale had made the reign of John the subject of an historical morality with a virulently Protestant purpose ; but it does not appear that this piece was used in any of the later dramatic treatments of the theme. In 1591 was published The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England, an anonymous historical play in two parts, written in blank verse of considerable power. On this Shakespeare founded the present drama, without seeking either to corroborate or to correct, by reference to the chronicles, the very legendary history of his source. The earlier author not only disregarded chronology, but invented, altered, or ignored the facts with the greatest freedom. Like Bale, though to a less degree, he gave his work an anti-Papal bias. He invented the part played by the Bastard Faulconbridge; he combined in one person the Archduke of Austria, who had imprisoned Richard I and was dead at the time of the play, with the Viscount of Limoges, before whose castle C@ur-de-lion had received his mortal wound; he made Arthur younger than he was, and kept Constance a widow, for purposes of dramatic effectiveness ; and he omitted all mention of Magna Charta, and with it of the constitutional element in the quarrel between John and his barons. Such are only a few of the violations of historical accuracy which mark almost every scene.
Shakespeare's method of treating the work of his predecessor was peculiar. He re-wrote practically every line, and he condensed the two parts into five acts of moderate length. He selected some scenes and rejected others, but to the action he added almost nothing. On several occasions he economized by representing an action as just completed (e. g., the second coronation), instead of showing it on the stage. He cut out the long comic scene in which Faulconbridge exposes the immorality of the monasteries; and in general he gave up the attempt to picture John as a Protestant hero.
With much gain in compactness and rapidity of action, these changes involved also some loss. The play was left without a leading motive or a truly central character, and some details are not wholly intelligible. Thus the reasons of the Bastard's hatred of Austria, and of his ill. natured speech on the betrothal of Lewis and Blanch (11. i. 504 ff.), are not clear without the prominence given in The Troublesome Raigne to the legendary view of Cæur-de-lion's death at Austria's hands in the one case, and in the other to Eleanor's scheme for marrying Faulconbridge himself to Blanch. More serious is the loss of motive in the poisoning of the King by the monk, - a deed easily intelligible in the older play on account of the prominence given throughout to the hostility between John and the Church.
Shakespeare's additions consist chiefly in the elaboration of character. Most notable are the cases of Constance and the Bastard. The speeches of both are greatly increased in number and length; and the passion of Constance is developed from a slight indication in The Troublesome Raigne, to a representation, which, thougb verging on the sentimental and hysterical, has been taken as the supreme utterance of motherly love in literature. Faulconbridge is made more consistent and more important, being given the rôle embodying the sturdy sense and patriotism of the loyal Englishman, and voicing, especially in his last speech, what comes as near being a central theme as the play possesses.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING JOHN
PHILIP, king of France. PRINCE HENRY, son to the king.
Lewis, the Dauphin. ARTHUR, duke of Bretagne, nephew to the king. LYMOGES, duke of Austria. The Earl of PEMBROKE.
CARDINAL PANDULPH, the Pope's legate. The Earl of Essex.
MELUN, a French Lord. The Earl of SALISBURY.
CHATILLON, ambassador from France to King John. The Lord Bigot. HUBERT DE BURGR.
QUEEN ELEANOR, mother to King John. ROBERT FAULCOWBRIDGE.
CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur. PHILIP the BASTARD, his half-brother.
BLANCH of Spain, niece to King John. JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faulconbridge. LADY FAULCONBRIDGE, widow to Sir Robert Faulcon. PETER of Pomfret, a prophet.
bridge. Lords, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE : Partly in England, and partly in France.]
SCENE I. (King John's palace : aroom of state.]
BROKE, Essex, SALISBURY (and others), with
France with us ?
of France In my behaviour to the majesty, The borrowed majesty, of England here. El. A strange beginning : borrowed majK. John. Silence, good mother; hear the
embassy. Chat. Philip of France, in right and true
behalf Of thy deceased brother Geoffrey's son, Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim To this fair island and the territories, To Ireland, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Desiring thee to lay aside the sword Which sways usurpingly these several titles, And put the same into young Arthur's hand, Thy nephew and right royal sovereign. K. John. What follows if we disallow of
this ? Chat. The proud control of fierce and bloody
war, To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld. K. John. Here have we war for war and
blood for blood, Controlment for controlment :
France. Chat. Then take my king's defiance from my
mouth, The farthest limit of my embassy. K. John. Bear mine to him, and so depart
Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
(Exeunt Chatillon and Pembroke. El. What now, my son! have I not ever
said How that ambitious Constance would not cease Till she had kindled France and all the world Upon the right and party of her son ? This might have been prevented and made
whole With very easy arguments of love, Which now the manage of two kingdoms must With fearful bloody issue arbitrate.
K. John. Our strong possession and our right El. Your strong possession much more than
your right, Or else it inust go wrong with you and me. So much my conscience whispers in your ear, Which none but heaven and you and I shall
hear. Enter a Sheriff (and whispers to Essex]. Essex. My liege, here is the strangest con
troversy Come from the country to be judg'd by you That e'er I heard. Shall I produce the men ? K. John. Let them approach.
Our abbeys and our priories shall pay This expedition's charge. Enter ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE and PHILIP,
What men are you? Bast. Your faithful subject I, a gentleman Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son, As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
how if my me,
ur and my
A soldier by the honour-giving hand
The advantage of his absence took the King Of Cæur-de-lion knighted in the field.
And in the meantime sojourn'd at my father's; K. John. What art thou ?
Where how he did prevail I shame to speak. Rob. The son and heir to that same Faulcon- But truth is truth. "Large lengths of seas and bridge.
shores K. John. Is that the elder, and art thou the Between my father and my mother lay, heir ?
As I have heard my father speak himself, You came not of one mother then, it seems. When this same lusty gentleman was got. Bast. Most certain of one mother, mighty | Upon his death-bed he by will bequeath'd king;
His lands to me, and took it on his death That is well known; and, as I think, one That this my mother's son was none of his; father;
And if he were, he came into the world But for the certain knowledge of that truth Full fourteen weeks before the course of time. I put you o'er to heaven and to my mother, Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine, Of that I doubt, as all men's children may. My father's land, as was my father's will. us El. Out on thee, rude man ! thou dost shame K. John. Sirrah, your brother is legitimate. thy mother
Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him, And wound her honour with this diffidence, 65 And if she did play false, the fault was hers; Bast. I, madam? No, I have no reason for Which fault lies on the hazards of all husit.
bands That is my brother's plea and none of mine ; That marry wives. Tell
brother, The which if he can prove, 'a pops me out Who, as you say, took pains to get this son, 1:1 At least from fair five hundred pounds a year. Had of your father claim'd this son for his ? Heaven guard my mother's ho
In sooth, good friend, your father might have land!
kept K. John. A good blunt fellow. Why, being This calf bred from his cow from all the world; younger born,
In sooth he might; then, if he were my Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance ?
brother's, Bast. I know not why, except to get the My brother might not claim him, nor your land;
father, But once he slander'd me with bastardy.
Being none of his, refuse him. This concludes: But whe'er I be as true begot or no,
My mother's son did get your father's heir ; That still I lay upon my mother's head; Your father's heir must have your father's But that I am as well begot, my liege,
land. Fair fall the bones that took the pains for Rob. Shall then my father's will be of no
force Compare our faces and be judge yourself. To dispossess that child which is not his ? If old Sir Robert did beget us both
Bast. Of no more force to dispossess me, sir, And were our father, and this son like him, Than was his will to get me, as I think. old Sir Robert, father, on my knee
El. Whether hadst thou rather be a FaulI give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!
conbridge K. John. Why, what a madcap hath heaven And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land, lent us here !
Or the reputed son of Cæur-de-lion, El. He hath a trick of Cæur-de-lion's face ; 65 Lord of thy presence and no land beside ? The accent of his tongue affecteth him.
Bast. Madam, an if my brother bad my Do you not read some tokens of my son
shape, In the large composition of this man ?
And I had his, Sir Robert's his, like him; K. John. Mine eye hath well examined his And if my legs were two such riding-rods, parts
My arms such eel-skins stuff'd, my face so thin And finds them perfect Richard. Sirrah, That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose speak,
Lest men should say, Look, where three-farWhat doth move you to claim your brother's things goes! land ?
And, to his shape, were heir to all this land, Bast. Because he hath a half-face, like my Would I might never stir from off this place! father.
I would give it every foot to have this face ; 146 With half that face would he have all my I would not be Sir Nob in any case. land,
El. I like thee well. Wilt thou forsake thy A half-fac'd groat five hundred pound a year!
fortune, Rob. My gracious liege, when that my father Bequeath thy land to him and follow me? liv’d,
I am a soldier, and now bound to France. Your brother did employ my father much, Bast. Brother, take you my land, I'll take Bast. Well, sir, by this you cannot get my
my chance. land.
Your face hath got five hundred pound a year, Your tale must be how he employ'd my mother. Yet sell your face for five pence and 't is dear,
Rob. And once dispatch'd him in an embassy Madam, I'll follow you unto the death. To Germany, there with the Emperor
El. Nay, I would have you go before me To treat of high affairs touching that time.