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King John

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  1,777 ratings  ·  143 reviews
The Arden Shakespeare is the established edition of Shakespeare's work. Justly celebrated for its authoritative scholarship and invaluable commentary, Arden guides you a richer understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare's plays.This edition of King John provides, a clear and authoritative text, detailed notes and commentary on the same page as the text, a full introduct ...more
Paperback, Second Series, 256 pages
Published October 12th 1967 by Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare (first published 1596)
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It's been a while (high school!) since I've read Shakespeare, and the pleasures of his language and verse-flow were almost completely lost on me at that time. Like many youths who are required to read the Bard at an obscenely young age (Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet were assigned in middle school for goodness’ sake), I viewed his verse and language as impediments to the story, which was sometimes pretty interesting to a distracted, pimply youth. But fast-forward a few years and here I am ne ...more
Bill  Kerwin

This is perhaps Shakespeare's worst play, and certainly the worst of the history plays. It has an interesting theme underlying all the conflicts--what are the legitimate sources of power and authority--but throughout the various struggles (between first-born illegitimate and second-born legitimate sons, between an established king and his deceased older brother's minor heir, between the monarchy and the universal church) the connections are not artfully made nor are the distinctions carefully dr
The Life and Death of King John is a very good play. It's similar to my recently reviewed Richard II in that there are no outright heroes or villains; it is instead a play about fallible men attempting to control events that are beyond their capacity.

The central character is King John. Not unintelligent but not a good king. He's unable to command the respect of his nobles, and even his villainies are small-minded and weak. Compare his treatment of Arthur with Richard III's treatment of his nephe
There are many people in the world who are intimidated by Shakespeare, namely his archaic language and inestimable impact on literature and the English language. To those, I gleefully point to King John and say, "See? Even Shakespeare had bad days!"

I started reading the play on a plane to San Francisco and was dismayed by my inability to grasp the characters and why things were happening. I mean, this is the King John who was the wicked Prince John from Robin Hood and the king who was convinced
The thing about King John that I'm not finding overtly discussed in the criticisms of the play (that I've read) is that it's essentially a comedy. Shakespeare takes a rote plot about regal machinations and twists it by creating the character of the Bastard Faulconbridge, a witty creation who comments on the action from his pragmatist's perspective. I really do think Shakespeare is going for satire here, and if you can read it as such, the play is well worth it. The mother of a usurped prince sho ...more
Thus begins my reading of the so-called "History" plays of one William Shakespeare. Some I have read before, the others have been put off indefinitely...until now! So let us dive the "beginning". Not the earlier plays that Shakespeare wrote, but rather the first play on a historical chronology: King John.

King John is based on that infamous king of England whose rule was so fantastic the Magna Carta was drafted as a result and King John would forever be the effeminate antagonist of Robin
Aditya Mallya
'King John' perfectly embodies one of the great pleasures of reading a great author's collected writings - the discovery that some of his little-known creations are just as good or sometimes better than his most celebrated works. This is a compelling tale of politics and war - a sort of game of thrones played out in venomously poetic language.

"I had a thing to say, but let it go:
The sun is in the heaven, and the proud day,
Attended with the pleasures of the world,
Is all too wanton and too full of
Fourth time reading this play. It never had much of an impact on me but now I see it as a cross between the early tetralogy of history plays (Henry VI, parts 1,2 & 3 and Richard III) and the later, glorious tetralogy (Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2 and Henry V). There is the satirical delight in exposing the raw mechanics of power-grabbing and political manipulation that you see in the earlier plays. There is wicked humor reminiscent of the best of Richard III. But there is a subtler c ...more
Dameon Manuel
King John is about the efforts of the eponymous king, a classic anti-hero, in navigating the murky realpolitik of west Europe in the early 1200s. Contending with finicky noblemen at home, enterprising relatives with ambitions of coronation and control, foreign armies, and a heavily influential Vatican, King John is completely overwhelmed. In spite of arguably having the military advantage over his foes, the events around him cause him to behave with irrational brashness, leading to the near-subj ...more
So, technically, I didn't read this play.

I used various study guides, then watched the play performed.

This leads me to theorize about what exactly constitutes fairness when determining if one has actually read a book.

Bear with me a moment.

If I read a book in my mind, then I have read that book.
If I read a book out loud, then I have read that book.
If I am reading with someone else (say a child), and we take turns reading passages out loud, then I have read that book.
If I look at the words while s
Abe Goolsby
Not the most memorable of Shakespeare's plays overall, but, as always, there are plenty of morsels to savor. I enjoyed it.

As an interesting aside, I was also working through a commentary on Ecclesiastes at the same time. The events of Act II in this play served as a nice complement to the following passage:

"This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great King against it, and besieged it, and built gre
King John is one of Shakespeare's least well-known plays, and there are some good reasons for this. We have seen some of its themes explored to better effect in Richard III, and even the Henry VI plays. Hence if we want a more satisfying account of a usurper who seeks to kill a child who is rightful heir to the throne, we should look to the former play. If we want a more fulsome account of England losing a war against France, we will find it in the latter plays.

The play has other serious faults.
Perry Whitford
Shakespeare's retelling of the life and death of King John of England (reigned from 1199-1216) is full of clever, forceful verse, but something of a muddle from a dramatic standpoint.

Known as 'Lackland' because, as the youngest son of Henry II he was last in line to any titles, he tried to usurp the throne of his brother Richard the Lionheart while he was away at the Crusades, but eventually became his disputed successor after his early death.

And it's his uncertain legitimacy that is the centra
Kind of odd for plotting--there are so many false starts, so many unfulfilled promises, and yet that may be the whole point of it. The Bastard, for a point of inconsistency, begins flippant and detached, but becomes so tied up in the intertwined battles (which are painfully personal, familiar) that he grows solemn and jaded. Constance, too, flares up and fades out of the play, and poor Arthur (spoiler alert) who pleads to elegantly to save his life is dispatched in less than 20 lines by making a ...more
My goal was to read 5 Shakespeare plays that I hadn't studied in school and this was #5. I added it because I had read a tragedy, a comedy, and a couple others and wanted to include one of the history plays. This one made me dizzy! According to the notes, the play compresses 14 years or so of English history into the span of several months, which doesn't help. But the switching of allegiances -- war! peace! war again! King John excommunicated -- then redeemed! All the nobles continually switchin ...more
Oft times funny and sad this follows John through his reign until his untimely death. He doesn't seem to be able to see beyond the moment. His decisions are instantaneous, and he fails to predict the route of the falling of the dominos, so to speak. The scenes alternate between foolishness and treachery. With John not knowing which way to turn. Easily influenced by those around him, he seems to be walking through an unlit maze with directions to the exit written in a language he will never under ...more
King John isn't a widely read or performed play, but I'm not sure why. In many ways, the plot looks a lot like Game of Thrones- complicated lines of succession, thrones contested, war, the question of the influence of the Pope, strategic marriages and offspring killed... It features one of the most intensely scary and stressful Shakespearean scenes I've ever read (Act IV, sc. 1, specifically). It also contains some intensely flowery language. A typical response in conversation in Act IV:

I really enjoyed this play! The dirty politics and shaky alliances really describe the time period well, and I loved the flowery speeches full of pomp and bravery and even a little sass. Love me some Shakespeare! I don't find the historical plays dry at all. Full of action and some really delightful characters and dialogue.

I was surprised that King John was written with any conscience whatsoever. He's the villain in every story ever written about him, and although he IS a bad guy in this play, h
Pietro Coen
This play is about two kings and a bastard, and it has some funny scenes though many people get killed in it. There is a king called John and his mum, Queen Elinor. John became king after his brother Geffrey was killed in battle. The French ambassador, Chatillon, tells John (on behalf of King Philip of France) that unless he leaves his kingdom (“this fair island and the territories, to Ireland, Poictiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine” ) to his nephew Arthur Plantagenet (Duke of Britaine), King Philip ...more
Jackson Cyril
One of Shakespeare's big underrated plays. I'm surprised that this book isn't studied more often. John and Phillip are both reluctant kings who don't want to fight and choose any option over war, and John especially comes off as an extremely unsavory character who can't inspire loyalty in anyone, and allows his mother too much freedom and power. Constance would actually be a great character if she didn't spend an entire scene crying over her captured (and then dead) son Arthur. The really fascin ...more
Edward Cheer
A bold, epic and intense story that builds and builds then leads to a sullen, depressing end. A great rendition of the actual king.
My favourite era of the Plantagenet reign, especially since it deals with who the hell should and can be king. This play tackles that, as primogeniture was just becoming the fashion, thank you very much Henry II; but the drama is kinda dull - more talk than action, notably the threat of eye-burning/mutilation from Hubert on Arthur. I do enjoy how John is crowned three times (to add to the confusion of who is king), and how characters flip-flop on political points. And the story ends without wrap ...more
Don Incognito
My Goodreads friend Mr. Kerwin believes King John is probably Shakespeare's worst play. I suppose it could be, notwithstanding that I've read only between a third and half of Shakespeare's plays; but King John is by no means worthless.Especially if, like me, one reads it only for content and notices the play's artistic features only incidentally.

There is actually one very valuable thing the reader should definitely gain from reading it: an understanding of Shakespeare's political philosophy. Pro
Certainly not among Shakespeare's greatest plays, "King John" isn't among his worst either. I found it pretty middle of the road overall -- a decent plot and good pacing, but lacking in those memorable lines of dialog that have filtered into modern times.

The plot, like most of the bard's historical plays, focuses on the struggle over the throne as a vacillating and somewhat weak-willed King John fights with the French. All this is viewed through his brother's illegitimate son's eyes.

I'm not sure
Marti Martinson
From a few of the reviews I read, this particular play is not well received. I, however, happen to REALLY like it. I saw it first on the BBC with Leonard Rossiter (famous comedian!) and Claire Bloom (pure class, even when playing a bitch of a mother on "Doc Martin"). This play should only be done in correct period costume: it is grand! All the main characters are easily hateworthy and that is what makes this so fun. I only pity First Citizen, Arthur, and Prince Henry (later Hank the 3rd -- what ...more
This play was mentioned in passing in another book I'm reading in a manner that made it sound interesting. I have read and enjoyed other works by Shakespeare but had not read or seen this one so figured I should give it a quick read. Definitely NOT his best work. Had one good character, but mostly lots of shallow characters doing things that seem very strange as there often seems to be no reason for what they do. Just one scene after another and seems almost like important scenes in between must ...more
Luciana Darce
Essa não é uma das mais conhecidas peças de Shakespeare e não é fácil encontrá-la traduzida – depois de muito procurar, acabei descobrindo-a em uma antologia dos dramas históricos do bardo, numa edição de preço bem salgado, motivo pelo qual me escarrapachei no chão e li na livraria mesmo. Afinal, considerando que eu tenho em outras edições pelo menos metade do que tinha na antologia, não valia tanto a pena assim o investimento...

Eu tenho fé que daqui para 2016, com o aniversário de 400 anos da m
Catherine  Mustread
A lesser known Shakespeare play with typical condensing of time and action for dramatic effect. The 13th of 38 Shakespeare's plays that I am reading along with the blog.

From The Play's the Thing blog: "The Life and Death of King Johncan be thought of as the chronicle play that got away. Set
in an earlier period of medieval history than the two “tetralogies,” it is even less well known than that other “stand alone” history play,Henry VIII. And despite a vivid life on stage during the nineteenth c
It's hard to know how to judge the histories--should we take form into consideration at all, or are they just supposed to be versifications of real events? King John, like Henry VIII, is formally all over the place; but better than Henry VIII in its verses. Does it matter that King John is essentially a soap opera, a plot rollercoaster so dramatic as to seem disorganized? Or should we just be reading it for the little things, for the poetry? I don't know. There are a few brief moments when it be ...more
David Grimaud
Though the play is named after King John, it centers on a 13th conflict between the French and English monarchies over "rights" (e.g. Who has the right to the city of Angers? Who has the right to the throne of England?) Rome (the Catholic church, this was before the Church of England) also struggles with both monarchies for its "rights." In fact, this play parallels the events surrounding the competing claims to the throne of Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots. (i.e. the passed Henry VIII ...more
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underrated 4 9 Apr 06, 2013 02:41PM  
  • Tamburlaine
  • The Alchemist
  • The Ecclesiazusae (or Women in Council)
  • Shakespeare After All
  • Brand
  • Eumenides
  • The Pirates of Penzance
  • Samson Agonistes
  • Ajax (Translations from Greek Drama)
  • The Shoemaker's Holiday
  • Herakles
  • Vera or the Nihilists
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more
More about William Shakespeare...
Romeo and Juliet Hamlet Macbeth A Midsummer Night's Dream Othello

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“He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such as she;
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fullness of perfection lies in him. ”
“Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty look, repeats his words,
Remembers me of his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form”
More quotes…