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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING JOHN
King John is the only undoubtedly Shakespearean play not entered in the Stationers' Register, nor is there any trace of its having been printed before there appeared in the First Folio the text on which the present edition is based. A mention in Meres's list in 1598 gives a later limit for the date of production; and an earlier limit is approximately fixed by the date of its source, which was published in 1591, and cannot have been written earlier than about 1587. Within this range of ten years we have no good external evidence. Attempts to find allusions to current politics are negatived by the existence of the supposed allusions in the source also. Modern critics vary in their judgments between 1593 and 1596, and considerations of metre and style point rather to the earlier of these dates, and make it probable that the play was written between Richard III and Richard II.
About the middle of the sixteenth century Bishop Bale had made the reign of John the subject of an historical morality with a virulently Protestant purpose ; but it does not appear that this piece was used in any of the later dramatic treatments of the theme. In 1591 was published The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England, an anonymous historical play in two parts, written in blank verse of considerable power. On this Shakespeare founded the present drama, without seeking either to corroborate or to correct, by reference to the chronicles, the very legendary history of his source. The earlier author not only disregarded chronology, but invented, altered, or ignored the facts with the greatest freedom. Like Bale, though to a less degree, he gave his work an anti-Papal bias. He invented the part played by the Bastard Faulconbridge; he combined in one person the Archduke of Austria, who had imprisoned Richard I and was dead at the time of the play, with the Viscount of Limoges, before whose castle C@ur-de-lion had received his mortal wound; he made Arthur younger than he was, and kept Constance a widow, for purposes of dramatic effectiveness ; and he omitted all mention of Magna Charta, and with it of the constitutional element in the quarrel between John and his barons. Such are only a few of the violations of historical accuracy which mark almost every scene.
Shakespeare's method of treating the work of his predecessor was peculiar. He re-wrote practically every line, and he condensed the two parts into five acts of moderate length. He selected some scenes and rejected others, but to the action he added almost nothing. On several occasions he economized by representing an action as just completed (e. g., the second coronation), instead of showing it on the stage. He cut out the long comic scene in which Faulconbridge exposes the immorality of the monasteries; and in general he gave up the attempt to picture John as a Protestant hero.
With much gain in compactness and rapidity of action, these changes involved also some loss. The play was left without a leading motive or a truly central character, and some details are not wholly intelligible. Thus the reasons of the Bastard's hatred of Austria, and of his ill. natured speech on the betrothal of Lewis and Blanch (11. i. 504 ff.), are not clear without the prominence given in The Troublesome Raigne to the legendary view of Cæur-de-lion's death at Austria's hands in the one case, and in the other to Eleanor's scheme for marrying Faulconbridge himself to Blanch. More serious is the loss of motive in the poisoning of the King by the monk, - a deed easily intelligible in the older play on account of the prominence given throughout to the hostility between John and the Church.
Shakespeare's additions consist chiefly in the elaboration of character. Most notable are the cases of Constance and the Bastard. The speeches of both are greatly increased in number and length; and the passion of Constance is developed from a slight indication in The Troublesome Raigne, to a representation, which, thougb verging on the sentimental and hysterical, has been taken as the supreme utterance of motherly love in literature. Faulconbridge is made more consistent and more important, being given the rôle embodying the sturdy sense and patriotism of the loyal Englishman, and voicing, especially in his last speech, what comes as near being a central theme as the play possesses.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF KING JOHN
(DRAMATIS PERSONA KING JOHN.
PHILIP, king of France. PRINCE HENRY, son to the king.
LEWIS, the Dauphin, ARTHUR, duke of Bretagne, nephew to the king. LYMOGES, duke of Austria. The Earl of PEMBROKE.
CARDINAL PANDULPH, the Pope's legate. The Earl of Essex.
MELUN, a French Lord. The Earl of SALISBURY.
CHATILLON, ambassador from France to King John. The Lord Bigot. HUBERT DE BURGH.
QUEEN ELEANOR, mother to King John. ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE.
CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur. PHILIP the BASTARD, his half-brother.
BLANCH of Spain, niece to King John. JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faulconbridge.
LADY FAULCONBRIDGE, widow to Sir Robert FaulconPETER of Pomfret, a prophet.
bridge. Lords, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE : Partly in England, and partly in France.]
BROKE, Essex, SALISBURY (and others), with
France with us ?
embassy. Chat. Philip of France, in right and true
behalf Of thy deceased brother Geoffrey'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. Ř. John. What follows if we disallow of
this ? Chat. The proud control of fierce and bloody
war, To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld. K. John. Here have we war for war and
blood for blood, Controlment for controlment :
mouth, The farthest limit of my embassy. K. John. Bear mine to him, and so depart
Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
(Exeunt Chatillon and Pembroke. El. 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 El. Your strong possession much more than
your right, Or else it inust 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 (and whispers to Essex). Essex. My liege, here is the strangest con
troversy 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. Our abbeys and our priories shall pay This expedition's charge. Enter Robert FAULCONBRIDGE and PHILIP.
What men are you? Bast. Your faithful subject I, a gentleman Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son, As I suppose, to Robert Eaulconbridge,
A soldier by the honour-giving hand
K. John. What art thou ?
bridge. 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. El. Out on thee, rude man! thou dost shame
thy mother And wound her honour with this diffidence. 65 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, 'a pops me out At least from fair five hundred pounds 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 whe'er 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 us here! El. He hath a trick of Cæur-de-lion's face ; 86 The accent of his tongue affecteth him. Do you not read some tokens of my son In the large composition of this man? K. 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 ? Bast. Because he hath a half-face, like my
father. With half that face would he have all my
land, A half-fac'd groat five hundred pound a year! Rob. My gracious liege, when that my father
liv'd, Your brother did employ my father much, -Bast. Well, sir, by this you cannot get my
land. Your tale must be how he employ'd my mother.
Rob. And once dispatch'd him in an embassy To Germany, there with the Emperor To treat of high affairs touching that time.
The advantage of his absence took the King And in the meantime sojourn'd at my father's; Where how he did prevail I shame to speak. But truth is truth. Large lergths of seas and
shores Between my father and my mother lay, As I have heard my father speak himself, When this same lusty gentleman was got. Upon his death-bed he by will bequeath'd His lands to me, and took it on his death That this my mother's son was none of his; And if he were, he came into the world Full fourteen weeks before the course of time. Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine, My father's land, as was my father's will.
K. John. Sirrah, your brother is legitimate. Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him, And if she did play false, the fault was hers; Which fault lies on the hazards of all hus
bands That marry wives. Tell me, how if my brother, Who, as you say, took pains to get this son, in Had of your father claim'd this son for his ? In sooth, good friend, your father might have
kept This calf bred from his cow from all the world; In sooth he might; then, if he were my
brother's, My brother might not claim him, nor your
father, Being none of his, refuse him. This concludes: My mother's son did get your father's heir; Your father's heir must have your father's
land. Rob. Shall then my father's will be of no
force To dispossess that child which is not his ?
Bast. Of no more force to dispossess me, sir, Than was his will to get me, as I think. El. Whether hadst thou rather be a Fanl.
conbridge And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land, Or the reputed son of Cæur-de-lion, Lord of thy presence and no land beside? Bast. Madam, an if my brother had my
shape, And I had his, Sir Robert's his, like him; And if my legs were two such riding-rods, My arms such eel-skins stuff'd, my face so thin That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose Lest men should say, Look, where three-far
things goes ! And, to his shape, were heir to all this land, Would I might never stir from off this place ! -I would give it every foot to have this face; 146 I would not be Sir Nob in any case. El. I like thee well. Wilt thou forsake the
fortune, Bequeath thy land to him and follow me? I am a soldier, and now bound to France. Bast. Brother, take you my land, I'll take
my chance. Your face hath got five hundred pound a year, Yet sell your face for five pence and 't is dear. Madam, I'll follow you unto the death. El. Nay, I would have you go before me