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Hubert's resolution and he risks disobeying the king's instructions. The French under the Dauphin invade England. Arthur attempts to escape from his prison by leaping from the castle walls, but he is hurt to the death by the stones on which he falls. His body is found by
. three nobles who, already discontented with John and believing the prince murdered by his order, desert him and join the Dauphin.
John, thinking to arrest the invasion of the French, yields to the papal demands. But Lewis refuses to turn back, claiming the crown by right of his marriage since Arthur is dead. A strongly contested battle ensues, but the result is indecisive. The English lords who had joined the French return to their allegiance in time to be pardoned by John before his death from a poison given him by a monk. The French willingly conclude a peace with the English and John's son ascends the throne as Henry III.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF
King John's Palace. Enter King John, Queen Elinor, Pembroke, Es
sex, Salisbury, and others, with Chatillon. K. John. Now, say, Chatillon, what would France
with us? Chat. Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of
The borrowed majesty, of England here.
Of thy deceased brother Geffrey's son,
And put the same into young Arthur's hand,
Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.
To enforce these rights so forcibly witheld.
20 Chat. Then take my king's defiance from my
Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
The thunder of my canon shall be heard: 15. “Thy nephew and right royal sovereign”; as Richard I died without lawful issue, the crown in the strict order of succession would have fallen to his nephew Arthur, Duke of Brittany, then in his twelfth year. But the crown was then partly elective, the nation choosing from the members of the royal family the one they thought fittest for the office. Arthur held the duchy of Brittany in right of his father, Geffrey Plantagenet, an elder brother of John. Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, the ancient patrimony of the house of Anjou, were his by hereditary right. As Duke of Brittany Arthur was a vassal of Philip Augustus, King of France; and Constance engaged to Philip that her son should do him homage also for Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, and Poictou, on condition that Philip should support his claim to the English crown. England having declared for John, the play opens with Philip's interference in behalf of Arthur.-H. N. H.
20. According to the Cambridge editors the line must probably be scanned as an Alexandrine, reading the first "controlment" in the time of a trisyllable and the second as a quadrisyllable. This seems very doubtful; the irregularity of the line is not remarkable; there is merely an extra syllable before the pause:
Contról ment for controlment || 80 ánswer Fránce.|--I. G. 26. "The thunder of my cannon"; the Poet here anticipates the use
So hence! Be thou the trumpet of our wrath
[Exeunt Chatillon and Pembroke. Eli. What now, my son! have I not ever said
How that ambitious Constance would not cease
With fearful bloody issue arbitrate. K. John. Our strong possession and our right for Eli. Your strong possession much more than your right,
us. of gunpowder by about a hundred years. Thus, again, in Act ii. he speaks of "bullets wrapp'd in fire." A similar anachronism occurs in Macbeth, Act i. sc. 2: “They were as cannons overcharg'd with double cracks.” John's reign began in 1199, and cannon are said to have been first used at the battle of Cressy, in 1346. In all these cases Shakespeare simply aimed to speak the language that was most intelligible to his audience, rendering the ancient engines of war by their modern equivalents. Of course he is found fault with by those who in a drama prefer chronological accuracy to dramatic effect.H. N. H.
28. “sullen presage of your own decay"; there is perhaps an allusion here to the dismal passing-bell, as Steevens suggested; according to Delius, the trumpet of doom is alluded to. There is, however, no difficulty in the thought as it stands, without these references to a secondary idea.-I. G.
34. "Her son"; Elinor's hostility to Constance is thus accounted for by Holinshed: “Surely Queen Elinor, the king's mother, was sore against her nephew Arthur, rather moved thereto by envy conceived against his mother, than upon any just occasion given in the behalf of the child; for that she saw if he were king how his mother Constance would look to bear most rule within the realm of England, till her son should come to lawful age to govern of himself.”H. N. H.
40 Or else it must 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 Essex. My liege, here is the strangest controversy
Come from the country to be judged by you,
That e'er I heard: shall I produce the men?
Our abbeys and our priories shall pay
What men are you?
Of Coeur-de-lion knighted in the field. 49. "expedition's"; first Folio expeditious; an obvious misprint.I. G.
"Bastard brother”; Richard I died without lawful issue. Holinshed, speaking of the first year of John's reign, says,—“The same year also, Philip, bastard son to King Richard, to whom his father had given the castle and honour of Coynack, killed the Viscount of Lymoges, in revenge of his father's death, who was slain in besieging the castle of Chalus Cheverell.” The old play furnished Shakespeare a slight hint towards the character:
“Next them a bastard of the king's deceas'd,
A hardie wild-head, rough and venturous.”—H. N. H. 54. "Coeur-de-lion”; “Cordelion”; in the Folios and old play; perhaps the spelling should be kept as the popular form of the name.