The Life and Death of 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.
King John receives an ambassador from France who demands with a threat of war that he renounce his throne in favour of his nephew, Arthur, whom the French King Philip believes to be the rightful heir to the throne.
John adjudicates an inheritance dispute between Robert Faulconbridge and his older brother Philip the Bastard, during which it becomes apparent that Philip is the illegitimate son of King Richard I. Queen Eleanor, mother to both Richard and John, recognises the family resemblance and suggests that he renounce his claim to the Falconbridge land in exchange for a knighthood. John knights Philip the Bastard under the name Richard.
In France, King Philip and his forces besiege the English-ruled town of Angiers, threatening attack unless its citizens support Arthur. Philip is supported by Austria, who is believed to have killed King Richard. The English contingent arrives; and then Eleanor trades insults with Constance, Arthur's mother. Kings Philip and John stake their claims in front of Angiers' citizens, but to no avail: their representative says that they will support the rightful king, whoever that turns out to be.
The French and English armies clash, but no clear victor emerges. Each army dispatches a herald claiming victory, but Angiers' citizens continue to refuse to recognize either claimant because neither army has proven victorious.
The Bastard proposes that England and France unite to punish the rebellious citizens of Angiers, at which point the citizens propose an alternative: Philip's son, Louis the Dauphin, should marry John's niece Blanche (a scheme that gives John a stronger claim to the throne) while Louis gains territory for France. Though a furious Constance accuses Philip of abandoning Arthur, Louis and Blanche are married.
Cardinal Pandolf arrives from Rome bearing a formal accusation that John has disobeyed the Pope and appointed an archbishop contrary to his desires. John refuses to recant, whereupon he is excommunicated. Pandolf pledges his support for Louis, though Philip is hesitant, having just established family ties with John. Pandolf brings him round by pointing out that his links to the church are older and firmer.
War breaks out; Austria is beheaded by the Bastard in revenge for his father's death; and both Angiers and Arthur are captured by the English. Eleanor is left in charge of English possessions in France, while the Bastard is sent to collect funds from English monasteries. John orders Hubert to kill Arthur. Pandolf suggests to Louis that he now has as strong a claim to the English throne as Arthur (and indeed John), and Louis agrees to invade England.
Hubert finds himself unable to kill Arthur. John's nobles urge Arthur's release. John agrees, but is wrong-footed[ clarification needed ] by Hubert's announcement that Arthur is dead. The nobles, believing he was murdered, defect to Louis' side. Equally upsetting, and more heartbreaking to John, is the news of his mother's death, along with that of Lady Constance. The Bastard reports that the monasteries are unhappy about John's attempt to seize their gold. Hubert has a furious argument with John, during which he reveals that Arthur is still alive. John, delighted, sends him to report the news to the nobles.
Arthur dies jumping from a castle wall. (It is open to interpretation whether he deliberately kills himself or just makes a risky escape attempt.) The nobles believe he was murdered by John, and refuse to believe Hubert's entreaties. John attempts to make a deal with Pandolf, swearing allegiance to the Pope in exchange for Pandolf's negotiating with the French on his behalf. John orders the Bastard, one of his few remaining loyal subjects, to lead the English army against France.
While John's former noblemen swear allegiance to Louis, Pandolf explains John's scheme, but Louis refuses to be taken in by it. The Bastard arrives with the English army and threatens Louis, but to no avail. War breaks out with substantial losses on each side, including Louis' reinforcements, who are drowned during the sea crossing. Many English nobles return to John's side after a dying French nobleman, Melun, warns them that Louis plans to kill them after his victory.
John is poisoned by a disgruntled monk. His nobles gather around him as he dies. The Bastard plans the final assault on Louis' forces, until he is told that Pandolf has arrived with a peace treaty. The English nobles swear allegiance to John's son Prince Henry, and the Bastard reflects that this episode has taught that internal bickering could be as perilous to England's fortunes as foreign invasion.
King John is closely related to an anonymous history play, The Troublesome Reign of King John (c. 1589), the "masterly construction"but infelicitous expression of which led Peter Alexander to argue that Shakespeare's was the earlier play. E. A. J. Honigmann elaborated these arguments, both in his preface to the second Arden edition of King John, and in his 1982 monograph on Shakespeare's influence on his contemporaries. The majority view, however, first advanced in a rebuttal of Honigmann's views by Kenneth Muir, holds that the Troublesome Reign antedates King John by a period of several years; and that the skilful plotting of the Troublesome Reign is neither unparalleled in the period, nor proof of Shakespeare's involvement.
Shakespeare derived from Holinshed's Chronicles certain verbal collocations and points of action.Honigmann discerned in the play the influence of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments , Matthew Paris' Historia Maior, and the Latin Wakefield Chronicle, but Muir demonstrated that this apparent influence could be explained by the priority of the Troublesome Reign, which contains similar or identical matter.
The date of composition is unknown, but must lie somewhere between 1587, the year of publication of the second, revised edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, upon which Shakespeare drew for this and other plays, and 1598, when King John was mentioned among Shakespeare's plays in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres.The editors of the Oxford Shakespeare conclude from the play's incidence of rare vocabulary, use of colloquialisms in verse, pause patterns, and infrequent rhyming that the play was composed in 1596, after Richard II but before Henry IV, Part I .
King John is one of only two plays by Shakespeare that are entirely written in verse, the other being Richard II .
The earliest known performance took place in 1737, when John Rich staged a production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. In 1745, the year of the Jacobite rebellion, competing productions were staged by Colley Cibber at Covent Garden and David Garrick at Drury Lane. Charles Kemble's 1823 production made a serious effort at historical accuracy, inaugurating the 19th century tradition of striving for historical accuracy in Shakespearean production. Other successful productions of the play were staged by William Charles Macready (1842) and Charles Kean (1846). Twentieth century revivals include Robert B. Mantell's 1915 production (the last production to be staged on Broadway) and Peter Brook's 1945 staging, featuring Paul Scofield as the Bastard.
In the Victorian era, King John was one of Shakespeare's most frequently staged plays, in part because its spectacle and pageantry were congenial to Victorian audiences. King John, however, has decreased in popularity: it is now one of Shakespeare's least-known plays and stagings of it are very rare.It has been staged four times on Broadway, the last time in 1915. It has also been staged five times from 1953 to 2014 at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Herbert Beerbohm Tree made a silent film version in 1899 entitled King John . It is a short film consisting of the King's death throes in Act V, Scene vii and is the earliest surviving film adaptation of a Shakespearean play. King John has been produced for television twice: in 1951 with Donald Wolfit and in 1984 with Leonard Rossiter as part of the BBC Television Shakespeare series of adaptations.
George Orwell specifically praised it in 1942 for its view of politics: "When I had read it as a boy it seemed to me archaic, something dug out of a history book and not having anything to do with our own time. Well, when I saw it acted, what with its intrigues and doublecrossings, non-aggression pacts, quislings, people changing sides in the middle of a battle, and what-not, it seemed to me extraordinarily up to date."
The Royal Shakespeare Company based in Stratford-upon-Avon presented three productions of King John: in 2006 directed by Josie Rourke as part of their Complete Works Festival 's King Johan (thought to be Shakespeare's own sources) and other works., in 2012 directed by Maria Aberg who cast a woman, Pippa Nixon, in the role of the Bastard , and in 2020, directed by Eleanor Rhode and with a woman, Rosie Sheehy, cast in the role of King John. The Company's 1974–5 production was heavily rewritten by director John Barton, who included material from The Troublesome Reign of King John , John Bale
In 2008, the Hudson Shakespeare Company of New Jersey produced King John as part of their annual Shakespeare in the Parks series. Director Tony White set the action in the medieval era but used a multi-ethnic and gender swapping cast. The roles of Constance and Dauphin Lewis were portrayed by African American actors Tzena Nicole Egblomasse and Jessie Steward and actresses Sharon Pinches and Allison Johnson were used in several male roles. Another notable departure for the production is the depiction of King John himself. Often portrayed as an ineffectual king, actor Jimmy Pravasilis portrayed a headstrong monarch sticking to his guns on his right to rule and his unwillingness to compromise became the result of his downfall.
New York's Theater for a New Audience presented a "remarkable" in-the-round production in 2000, emphasising Faulconbridge's introduction to court realpolitik to develop the audience's own awareness of the characters' motives. The director was Karin Coonrod.
In 2012, Bard on the Beachin Vancouver, British Columbia put on a production. It was also performed as part of the 2013 season at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, recipient of America's Outstanding Regional Theatre Tony Award (2000), presented by the American Theatre Wing and the League of American Theatres and Producers.
The play was presented at Shakespeare's Globe, directed by James Dacre, as part of the summer season 2015 in the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta.A co-production with Royal & Derngate, this production also played in Salisbury Cathedral, Temple Church and The Holy Sepulchre, Northampton.
The Rose Theatre, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey hosted Sir Trevor Nunn's direction of the play during May and June 2016, in the quatercentenary year of Shakespeare's death and the 800th anniversary year of King John's death.
The Worcester Repertory Company staged a production of the play (directed by Ben Humphrey) in 2016 around the tomb of King John in Worcester Cathedral on the 800th anniversary of the King's death. [ failed verification ]King John was played by Phil Leach.
Lord Banquo, the Thane of Lochaber, is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth and they meet the Three Witches together. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his descendants will be. Later, Macbeth in his lust for power sees Banquo as a threat and has him murdered by two hired assassins; Banquo's son, Fleance, escapes. Banquo's ghost returns in a later scene, causing Macbeth to react with alarm during a public feast.
Macbeth is a tragedy by William Shakespeare; it is thought to have been first performed in 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake. Of all the plays that Shakespeare wrote during the reign of James I, who was patron of Shakespeare's acting company, Macbeth most clearly reflects the playwright's relationship with his sovereign. It was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book, and is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy.
Shakespearean tragedy is the designation given to most tragedies written by playwright William Shakespeare. Many of his history plays share the qualifiers of a Shakespearean tragedy, but because they are based on real figures throughout the History of England, they were classified as "histories" in the First Folio. The Roman tragedies—Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus—are also based on historical figures, but because their source stories were foreign and ancient they are almost always classified as tragedies rather than histories. Shakespeare's romances were written late in his career and published originally as either tragedy or comedy. They share some elements of tragedy featuring a high status central character but end happily like Shakespearean comedies. Several hundred years after Shakespeare's death, scholar F.S. Boas also coined a fifth category, the "problem play," for plays that do not fit neatly into a single classification because of their subject matter, setting, or ending. The classifications of certain Shakespeare plays are still debated among scholars.
The Lion in Winter is a 1966 play by James Goldman, depicting the personal and political conflicts of Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their children and their guests during Christmas 1183. It premiered on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre on March 3, 1966, starring Robert Preston and Rosemary Harris, who won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Eleanor. It was adapted by Goldman into an Academy Award-winning 1968 film of the same name, starring Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn. The play has been produced numerous times, including Broadway and West End revivals.
Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent was Justiciar of England and Ireland and one of the most influential men in England during the reigns of King John (1199–1216) and of his infant son and successor King Henry III (1216–1272).
Raphael Holinshed whose first name is spelled with a double "l" on various title pages, ie "Raphaell," was an English chronicler, who was most famous for his work on The Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande, commonly known as Holinshed's Chronicles. It was the was "first complete printed history of England composed as a continuous narrative". The Holinshed Chronicles was a major influence on many Renaissances writers, such as William Shakespeare, Spenser, Daniel, and Marlowe. While not well-known, The Holinshed Chronicles set a precedent for a new age of play-writing. Even though they were underappreciated, the Holinshed Chronicles are still respected by those who know its far-reaching effects.
The Raigne of King Edward the Third, commonly shortened to Edward III, is an Elizabethan play printed anonymously in 1596, and partly written by William Shakespeare. It has recently become accepted as part of Shakespeare’s canon of plays. In the late 1990s it began to be included in publications of the complete works as co-authored by Shakespeare. Scholars who have supported this attribution include Jonathan Bate, Edward Capell, Eliot Slater, Eric Sams, Giorgio Melchiori, Brian Vickers, and others. The play was co-authored by another playwright: Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, Michael Drayton, Thomas Nashe, and George Peele have been suggested.
Arthur I was 4th Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany between 1196 and 1203. He was the posthumous son of Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany and Constance, Duchess of Brittany. His father, Geoffrey, was the son of Henry II, King of England.
Henry VI, Part 1, often referred to as 1 Henry VI, is a history play by William Shakespeare—possibly in collaboration with Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe—believed to have been written in 1591. It is set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England.
Henry VI, Part 3 is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591 and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England. Whereas 1 Henry VI deals with the loss of England's French territories and the political machinations leading up to the Wars of the Roses and 2 Henry VI focuses on the King's inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, and the inevitability of armed conflict, 3 Henry VI deals primarily with the horrors of that conflict, with the once stable nation thrown into chaos and barbarism as families break down and moral codes are subverted in the pursuit of revenge and power.
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. The histories—along with those of contemporary Renaissance playwrights—help define the genre of history plays. The Shakespearean histories are biographies of English kings of the previous four centuries and include the outliers King John, Edward III and Henry VIII as well as a continuous sequence of eight plays covering the Wars of the Roses. These last are considered to have been composed in two cycles. The so-called first tetralogy, apparently written in the early 1590s, deals with the later part of the struggle and includes Henry VI, Parts I, II & III and Richard III. The second tetralogy, finished in 1599 and including Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I & II and Henry V, is frequently called the Henriad after its protagonist Prince Hal, the future Henry V.
This article presents a possible chronological listing of the composition of the plays of William Shakespeare.
John II reigned as Duke of Brittany from 1286 until his death, and was also Earl of Richmond in the Peerage of England. He took part in two crusades prior to his accession to the ducal throne. As a duke, John was involved in the conflicts between the kings of France and England. He was crushed to death in an accident during the celebrations of a papal coronation.
The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer, known as Edward II, is a Renaissance or Early Modern period play written by Christopher Marlowe. It is one of the earliest English history plays, and focusses on the relationship between King Edward II of England and Piers Gaveston, and Edward's murder on the orders of Roger Mortimer.
The Angevin Empire describes the possessions of the Angevin kings of England who held lands in England and France during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its rulers were Henry II, Richard I, and John. The Angevin Empire is an early example of a composite state.
The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England, commonly called The Troublesome Reign of King John is an Elizabethan history play, probably by George Peele, that is generally accepted by scholars as the source and model that William Shakespeare employed for his own King John.
Kenneth Arthur Muir was a literary scholar and author, prominent in the fields of Shakespeare studies and English Renaissance theatre. He served as King Alfred Professor of English Literature at Liverpool University from 1951 to 1974.
Donalbain is a character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth. He is the younger son of King Duncan and brother to Malcolm, the heir to the throne. Donalbain flees to Ireland after the murder of his father for refuge.
King John is the title by which the earliest known example of a film based on a play by William Shakespeare is commonly known.
Owen Glendower is a character in William Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part One based on the historical Owain Glyndŵr. Glendower is referred to in Henry IV, Part Two, but he does not have a speaking role in that play.