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FIRST printed in the folio of 1623.—Though some critics have fancied that
they could discover certain “notes of time” in this play, there are, in fact,
none : we only know that it was written before 1598, as it is enumerated
among works by Shakespeare in Meres's Palladis Tamia, &c., which was
published during that year (see the Memoir of Shakespeare).-King John
is founded on an older play, in Two Parts, entitled The Troublesome Raigne
of Iohn King of England, with the discouerie of King Richard Cordelions
base sonne (vulgarly named, The Bastard Fawconbridge): also the death
of King Iohn at Sninstead Abbey, &c., -first printed in 1591, afterwards
in 1611, and 1622 :—the earliest edition is without an author's name :
but the publisher of the second edition put on the title-page the name
"W. Sh.”; which in the third edition became “W. Shakespeare.” By whom
it was really written is a vain inquiry : more than one poet would seem to
have been concerned in its composition. (See it, reprinted by Steevens,
among Twenty of the Plays of Shakespeare, &c., 1766, and by Nichols among
Six Old Plays, on which Shakespeare founded, &c., 1779.)
PRINCE HENRY, his son; afterwards King Henry III.
ARTHUR, duke of Bretagne, son to Geffrey, late Duke of Bretagne,
the elder brother to King John.
WILLIAM MARESHALL, earl of Pembroke.
GEFFREY FITZ-PETER, earl of Essex, chief-justiciary of England.
WILLIAM LONGSWORD, earl of Salisbury.
ROBERT BIGOT, earl of Norfolk.
HUBERT DE BURGH, chamberlain to the King.
ROBERT FALCONBRIDGE, son to Sir Robert Falconbridge.
PHILIP FALCONBRIDGE, his half-brother, bastard son to King
Richard the First.
JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Falconbridge.
PETER of Pomfret, à prophet.
PHILIP, king of France.
LOUIS, the Dauphin.
Archduke of Austria.
CARDINAL PANDULPH, the Pope's legate.
MELUN, a French lord.
CHATILLON, ambassador from France to King John.
ELINOR, widow of King Henry II. and mother to King John.
CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur.
BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso, king of Castile, and niece to King
LADY FALCONBRIDGE, mother to the Bastard and Robert Falcon-
Lords, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers,
and other Attendants.
SCENE-Sometimes in England, and sometimes in France.
SCENE I. Northampton. A room of state in the palace. Enter King John, Queen ELINOR, PEMBROKE, Essex, SALISBURY,
and others, with CHATILLON. K. John. Now, say, Chatillon, what would France with
Chat. Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of France,
In my behaviour, to the majesty,
The borrow'd majesty of England here.
Eli. A strange beginning ;-borrow'd majesty!
K. John. Silence, good mother; hear the embassy.
Chat. 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 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, T' enforce these rights so forcibly withheld.
K. John. Here have we war for and blood for blood, Controlment for controlment: so answer France.
Chat. Then take my king's defiance from my mouth, The furthest limit of my embassy.
K. 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.
Eli. 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 for us.
Eli. [aside to K. John] Your strong possession much more
your right, Or else it must
So much my conscience whispers in your ear,
Which none but heaven and you and I shall hear.
Enter the Sheriff of Northamptonshire, who whispers Essex.
Essex. My liege, here is the strangest controversy,
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.—
[Exit Sheriff. Our abbeys and our priories shall pay This expedition's charge.
Re-enter Sheriff, with ROBERT FALCONBRIDGE, and Philip his
What men are you?
Bast. Your faithful subject I, a gentleman
Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son,
As I suppose, to Robert Falconbridge,
A soldier, by the honour-giving hand
Of Cour-de-lion knighted in the field.
K. John. What art thou?
Rob. The son and heir to that same Falconbridge.
K. John. Is that the elder, and art thou the heir ?
You came not of one mother, then, it seems.
Bast. 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.
Eli. Out on thee, rude man! thou dost shame thy mother And wound her honour with this diffidence.
Bast. 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,
At least from fair five hundred pound a year:
Heaven guard my mother's honour and my land !
K. John. A good blunt fellow.— Why, being younger
born, Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance ?
Bast. I know not why, except to get the land. But once he slander'd me with bastardy: But whêr 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 ! K. John. Why, what a madcap hath heaven lent(1) us
here! Eli. He hath a trick of Cour-de-lion's face; The accent of his tongue affecteth him : Do you not read some tokens of
my In the large composition of this man?
K. John. Mine eye hath well examined his parts,
And finds them perfect Richard.—Sirrah, speak,
brother's land ?
Bast. Because he hath a half-face, like my father,
With that half-face(2) would he have all my land :
A half-fac'd groat five hundred pound a year!