King John by William Shakespeare

King John

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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

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Description

England is forced into war when the French challenge the legitimacy of Johns claim to the throne and are determined to install his nephew Arthur in his place. Political principles, hypocritically flaunted, are soon forgotten as the French and English kings form an alliance based on cynical self-interest. And as the desire to cling to power dominates Englands paranoid and weak-willed king, his country is threatened with disaster.


86 pages, with a reading time of ~2.75 hours (21,633 words), and first published in 1596. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

SCENE I

KING JOHN’S palace.

[Enter KING JOHN, QUEEN ELINOR, PEMBROKE, ESSEX, SALISBURY, and others, with CHATILLON]

KING JOHN

Now, say, Chatillon, what would France with us?

CHATILLON

Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of France In my behavior to the majesty, The borrow’d majesty, of England here.

QUEEN ELINOR

A strange beginning: ‘borrow’d majesty!’

KING JOHN

Silence, good mother; hear the embassy.

CHATILLON

Philip of France, in right and true behalf Of thy deceased brother Geffrey’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 these same into young Arthur’s hand, Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.

KING JOHN

What follows if we disallow of this?

CHATILLON

The proud control of fierce and bloody war, To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld.

KING JOHN

Here have we war for war and blood for blood, Controlment for controlment: so answer France.

CHATILLON

Then take my king’s defiance from my mouth, The farthest limit of my embassy.

KING JOHN

Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace: Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France; For ere thou canst report I will be there, The thunder of my cannon shall be heard: So hence! Be thou the trumpet of our wrath And sullen presage of your own decay. An honourable conduct let him have: Pembroke, look to ‘t. Farewell, Chatillon.

[Exeunt CHATILLON and PEMBROKE]

QUEEN ELINOR

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.

KING JOHN

Our strong possession and our right for us.

QUEEN ELINOR

Your strong possession much more than your right, 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 country to be judged by you, That e’er I heard: shall I produce the men?

KING JOHN

Let them approach. Our abbeys and our priories shall pay This expedition’s charge.

[Enter ROBERT and the BASTARD]

What men are you?

BASTARD

Your faithful subject I, a gentleman Born in Northamptonshire and eldest son, As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge, A soldier, by the honour-giving hand Of Coeur-de-lion knighted in the field.

KING JOHN

What art thou?

ROBERT

The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.

KING JOHN

Is that the elder, and art thou the heir? You came not of one mother then, it seems.

BASTARD

Most certain of one mother, mighty king; That is well known; and, as I think, one father: But for the certain knowledge of that truth I put you o’er to heaven and to my mother: Of that I doubt, as all men’s children may.

QUEEN ELINOR

Out on thee, rude man! thou dost shame thy mother And wound her honour with this diffidence.

BASTARD

I, madam? no, I have no reason for it; That is my brother’s plea and none of mine; The which if he can prove, a’ pops me out At least from fair five hundred pound a year: Heaven guard my mother’s honour and my land!

KING JOHN

A good blunt fellow. Why, being younger born, Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance?

BASTARD

I know not why, except to get the land. But once he slander’d me with bastardy: But whether I be as true begot or no, That still I lay upon my mother’s head, But that I am as well begot, my liege,– Fair fall the bones that took the pains for me!– Compare our faces and be judge yourself. If old sir Robert did beget us both And were our father and this son like him, O old sir Robert, father, on my knee I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!

KING JOHN

Why, what a madcap hath heaven lent us here!

QUEEN ELINOR

He hath a trick of Coeur-de-lion’s face; The accent of his tongue affecteth him. Do you not read some tokens of my son In the large composition of this man?

KING JOHN

Mine eye hath well examined his parts And finds them perfect Richard. Sirrah, speak, What doth move you to claim your brother’s land?

BASTARD

Because he hath a half-face, like my father. With half that face would he have all my land: A half-faced groat five hundred pound a year!

ROBERT

My gracious liege, when that my father lived, Your brother did employ my father much,–