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King John

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,874 Ratings  ·  247 Reviews
King John, a history play by William Shakespeare, dramatises the reign of John, King of England (ruled 1199–1216), son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and father of Henry III of England. It is believed to have been written in the mid-1590s but was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Simon Schuster (first published 1595)
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Bill  Kerwin
May 28, 2007 rated it it was ok

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
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I decided to work through the least memorable or least beloved plays while I'm working through the more beloved histories, and frankly, I don't think this one was bad at all.

Sure, there's no Magna Carta, even though it would have been signed one year before the King's death, but as it has been said many times before, no one in Shakespeare's time really gave a hoot about the document.

So why did this flop of a play even get written? For it was a flop at its inception and no one really wants to see
May 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, shakespeare
“Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man.”

― William Shakespeare, King John, Act III.4


All I want is the bastard. I want Stoppard to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead King John. The Universe revolves, uncorked around the Bastard not the King. I'm not sure who I want to play the Bastard, but he needs to be Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, and Edmund Kean all unwrapped, warped, and twisted into one. He needs to be unhinged, demonic, and perfect: a ballet danc
David Sarkies
Jul 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shakespeare tragics
Recommended to David by: It's Shakespeare
Shelves: historical
What! No Magna Carta!
29 July 2015

Okay, I said this many times before but this time one of the commentators at the end of the book pointed out that reading some plays doesn't bring the play out the same way that watching it performed does, but the reason Sylvia Barnett made this comment is because this is one of those plays that is very rarely performed – namely because people simply are not that interested in it. In fact when she was looking at the various productions of this play she noted tha
Dec 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, the-bard
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
Jun 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, reread, shakespeare
This is not the same King John you know from history. For one thing, there is no Runnymede and no Magna Carta in this play. Secondly, Richard the Lion-Hearted has already died, so there is no Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham, or Guy of Gisbourne. No, The Life and Death of King John is about retaining one's power as king when confronted with the demands of the papacy and of other surrounding monarchs.

In the process of trying to hold on to his power, John tries to have his nephew Arthur killed; b
João Fernandes
I went to see this play at the Shakespeare Globe a few months ago, and I've been meaning to read it ever since.

It was the first time I saw a performance of a Shakespearian play and it was incredible, I mean everyone left with a pleasantly bewildered look on their face.

Of course, this play doesn't even come close to the double tetralogy of the War of the Roses. It is no Richard II or Henry V, but it is still an intelligent play.

The Life and Death of King John is a play that touches on the issue
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
My junior class performed this for curricular drama class this year! (So I've read it about 50 times) This play was super fun to put on and I'm so thankful for all of my classmates! It actually went way better than I thought it would. (: I played Blanche and was married off for a marriage alliance that I DID NOT WANT haha. I also Stage Managed for this one and helped a ton with lights and sounds. Overall, this was probably the production that I was most involved in and I'm so happy I gained even ...more
Sarah Anne
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, plays
I enjoyed this but I now need to read a non-fiction book about King John so I know what happened. At one point I couldn't even tell if England was fighting France (a reasonable assumption) or if they were fighting a common enemy (much less reasonable). I didn't exactly figure out what happened there.
Caidyn (BW Book Reviews)
This review and others can be found on BW Book Reviews.

In a sentence: Poor man’s Richard III.

More elaborate description: John’s a carbon copy of Richard and it felt hilarious to see it like that. Richard III was published in 1591 and King John went out in 1595. To me, it just felt like an attempt to recapture what he had done with that. It just came out weak and reminding me constantly of a better play. It was also super confusing. I couldn’t get down characters or the plot. Maybe because I don’
Cindy Rollins
Once again my claim to have read the entire Shakespearean canon comes up short. I do not remember having read this before but then again I am getting old.

I am not sure what I would do without out my DK Kings and Queens of England and Scotland. This play is quite confusing with all kinds of hangers-on and bastards, none of whom seem to be threatening and yet King John is threatened on every side especially by the French(as usual for the Plantagenets.) As A.A. Milne says, "King John was not a goo
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I understand this isn't a favorite among Shakespeare fanatics, but I happened to like this over his other histories that I have read. For starters, I actually knew who the title character was before reading this play or looking him up afterwords. I also liked this play because Robin Hood wasn't in this nor was he even mentioned. You know, not everything King John related has to be stolen by Robin Hood's charm. If your looking for play that is about Robin Hood, the Magna Carta, or Richard the Lio ...more
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
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays, have, elizabethan
somewhere between 3 and 4 - say 3 1/2

Who King john was (History behind the play)

John was the youngest child of King Henry II (ruled 1154-1189) and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry and Eleanor had six other children (plus another son who died in infancy):

- The first male heir, Henry “the young king”, who Henry II actually caused to be crowned King of England in 1170. This Henry is considered a titular king only, since Henry II continued as the recognized ruler throughout his son’s “reign”, which ended
Shakespeare does what Shakespeare does: He demonstrates great insight into human psychology, including capriciousness, hypocrisy, and inconstancy, while giving eloquent voice to rage and despair. The princes are not the principals. The auxiliary characters are the principals, especially Bastard and Constance, while Hubert also adds significantly to the depth of the play's themes.

Narratively, it starts somewhat absurdly, and ends rather anti-climactically--and I don't care whether the death of Jo
Feb 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, 2010, shakespeare
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
Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ben Smitthimedhin
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldnt-finish
I was really close with this one. I figured I would quit after realizing that I was at the last Act and still didn't know what was going on.
Dameon Manuel
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heather Blair
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love Shakespeare. I've probably read both The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing a half a dozen times each, if not more. But...I never read any of the histories.

I confess, I thought they'd be dull, or at least too hard to follow(all those bloodlines!) A friend of mine recently expressed amazement at this and told me the histories are his favorites. Listening to him wax on, I decided, what the hell? I'd give it a go.

Damn, am I glad I did.

This is the first of the histories and per the general c
Duffy Pratt
Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it
It's hard to believe that I still haven't read all of the plays. This was supposed to be one of the worst, and while it isn't all that good, it's not as bad as I thought it would be. I rather enjoyed the elaborate series of betrayals. I guess if you want to write a play that makes royalty look bad, King John is about as good a subject as you could choose. His court, both for and against him, and some for, then against, and then for him again, look equally bad. And the French and the Church come ...more
Apr 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Este drama histórico narra la historia del rey Juan recordado más por su apelativo de "Sin Tierra", hermano de Ricardo Corazón de León y heredero de la corona inglesa. De su lado están su madre la Reina Leonor, el príncipe Enrique su hijo y Blanca su sobrina.
Al otro lado están los franceses con su rey Felipe II y su hijo el delfín Luis quien se casará con Blanca en un intento de hacer las paces. La pugna entre ambos bandos pronto explotará causado por las impertinencias en parte del rey Juan con
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I had never read Shakespeare's King John and I read through this once hoping to get the best of the tale with its high drama and it was there but I was not as familiar with King John's story. I know that that this was before the Tudor period and John had been a great ma at battle. To give a better review because of the vacabuary decoding ( ha) I want to skim over a few historic references and word etimologies to be sure I get the facts straight! I do love reading my Shakespeare aloud . It helps ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
Bravo, Arkangel, for your superb recording (this time, the interlude music was fitting).

Before 2017, I was unaware of Shakespeare's King John. I am taken aback by the heat of my appreciation for this historical play. It is not pretty. Nor is it pleasant. The characters, except for young prince Arthur, are not winsome. Yet after I finished it, my first response was I need to read this again.

I laughed:
What cracker is this same that deafs our ears with this abundance of superfluous breat
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays, 2017
Uh. I'm not quite sure how to feel about this one – the style and depiction of its characters are as spotless as always, but there was something about it that didn't quite resonate with me, at least not the way the rest of Shakespeare's plays have done in the past. But oh well, it's almost 2 AM and I'm practically falling asleep, so perhaps I should give it a re-read sometime soon.
Sep 05, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“King John” is often overlooked when one reads Shakespeare, and it should not be, as it has some great things to add to the canon. By the way, I give "King John" a 3.5 star rating compared to other Shakespeare, not to literature as a whole. The Bard is in a class of his own.
The Pelican series edition of this play has a very nice introduction by Claire McEachern in which she gives an informative discourse on the character of Philip the Bastard. Although Philip usually gets all the critical attent
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The Bard a Month ...: King John: Recordings & Adaptations 2 1 Jul 16, 2017 05:57PM  
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underrated 4 13 Apr 06, 2013 02:41PM  
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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...
“Be great in act, as you have been in thought.” 353 likes
“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. ”
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