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THE PLOT, THE FABLE, AND CONSTRUCTION
THE Tragedy of King John, though not written with the utmost power of Shakspeare, is varied with a very pleasing interchange of incidents and characters. The lady's grief is very affecting, and the character of the bastard contains that mixture of greatness and levity which this author delighted to exhibit.
There is extant another play of King John, published in 1611. Shakspeare has preserved the greatest part of the conduct of it, as well as a number of the lines. What most inclines me to think it the work of some contemporary writer, is the number of quotations from Horace, and other scraps of learning, scattered over it. There is likewise a quantity of rhiming Latin and ballad-metre, in a scene where the bastard is represented as plundering a monastery; and some strokes of humour, which seem, from their particular turn, to have been most evidently produced by another hand than that of Shakspeare. Of this play there is said to have been an edition in 1591 for
Samson Clarke, but I have never seen it; and the copy in 1611, which is the oldest I could find, was printed for John Helme, whose name appears before no other of the plays of Shakspeare. I admitted this play, some years ago, as Shakspeare's own, among the twenty which I published from the old editions; but a more careful perusal of it, and a farther conviction of our poet's custom of borrowing plots, sentiments, &c. dispose me to recede from that opinion.
Prince HENRY, his son; afterwards King Henry III, ARTHUR, Duke of Bretagne, son of Geffrey, late Duke of Bretagne, the elder brother of King John. WILLIAM MARESHALL, Earl of Pembroke. GEFFREY FITZ-PETER, Earl of Essex, Chief Justiciary of England.
WILLIAM LONGSWORD, Earl of Salisbury.
HUBERT DE BURGH, Chamberlain to the King. ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE, son of Sir Robert Faulconbridge:
PHILIP FAULCON BRIDGE, his half-brother; bastard son to King Richard the First.
JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faulconbridge.
PHILIP, King of France.
Cardinal PANDULPH, the Pope's Legate.
MELUN, a French Lord.
CHATILLON, Ambassador from France to King John.
ELINOR, the widow of King Henry II. and mother of King John.
CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur.
BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso King of Castile, and niece to King John.
Lady FAULCONBRIDGE, mother to the Bastard, and Robert Faulconbridge.
Lords, Ladies, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE, sometimes in England, and sometimes in France.
ACT I. 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 us?
Chat. Thus, after greeting, speaks the king of France, 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:
K. John. What follows, if we disallow of this?