Blogs

Abridged King John/#1/Background/Act 1, Scene 1.1

King John, his mother, Queen Eleanor, and Chatillion, an
ambassador from France, in London representing the French King, are on
stage.  The year is 1200 AD.  King John says “Chatillion, what does France
want with us?”  The ambassador says
“Through me, the King of France speaks to the borrowed majesty of
England.”  Eleanor says “borrowed
majesty.”  King John says “Silence, good
mother.”  Chatillion says “Philip of
France lays most lawful claim to this fair island, and puts the same into young
Arthur’s hand, thy nephew and right royal sovereign.”  John was Queen Eleanor’s (and her late
husband, King Henry II’s) fourth son, their only surviving son.  Richard I, their second son, had succeeded
Henry II at the time of his death in 1189.
Richard I had died in 1199, King John succeeding him.  Richard I’s older brother, Henry, had died in
1183. Geoffrey, their third son, had died in 1886, but had left a son, Arthur
Plantagenet, a young man now living in France with his mother, Constance,
Geoffrey’s widow.  And Constance is a
friend of Philip of France and is ambitious for her son.  Succession issues were not always easily
settled.  King John says to Chatillion
“What follows if we disallow of this?”
Chatillion replies “The forceful command of fierce and bloody war.”  King John says “Depart in peace.  The thunder of my cannon shall be heard.  Farewell, Chatillion.”  Aside, Queen Eleanor says “Have I not said
how that ambition Constance would not cease till she had kindled the King of
France upon the right and interest of her son.”
King John says aside to her “Our strong possession and our right for
us.”  Aside, she says “Your strong
possession much more than your right, or else it must go wrong with you and
me.”  A Sheriff enters and speaks to
Essex, an aide to the king.  Essex says
to King John “My liege, here is the strangest controversy come to be judged by
you.  Shall I produce the men?”  King John says “Let them approach.”  The Sheriff exits.

Abridged King John/#2/Relationships/Act 1, Scene 1.2

Robert and Philip Faulconbridge enter.  King John asks ‘What men are you?”  Philip says “I am the eldest son, as I suppose,
to Robert Faulconbridge.”  King John
turns to Robert and asks “What art thou?”
Robert replies “The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.”  The King assumes the young men had different
mothers, saying to Philip that “you came not of one mother then, it
seems.”  Philip says “Most certain of one
mother, mighty king, and, as I think, one father.”  Queen Eleanor cries “Out, rude man!  Thou dost shame thy mother.”  Philip says “I, madam?  No, I have no reason for it.  That is my brother’s plea, and none of
mine.”  King John says to Philip “Why,
being younger born, doth he lay claim to thine inheritance?”  Philip says “I know not why, except to get
the land.  But once he slandered me with
bastardy.  Whether I be as true begot or
no, that I lay to my mother’s responsibility.
Compare our faces and be judge yourself.
This son looks like his father, if old Sir Robert did beget us
both.”  Aside, Queen Eleanor says “He
hath characteristics of Coeur de Lion’s face (Richard I, John’s older
brother).  Aside, King John says “Mine
eye hath well examined his parts and find them perfect Richard.”  King John says to Robert “What doth move you
to claim your brother’s land?”  Robert
says “My gracious liege, your brother did employ my father much.”  Philip jumps in, saying “Well, sir, by this
you cannot get my land.  Your tale must
be how he employed my mother.”

Abridged King John/#3/Revelation/Act 1, Scene 1.3

Robert Faulconbridge says to King John, “Your brother
dispatched my father in an embassy to Germany, there with the Emperor.  But truth is truth: large lengths of seas
between my father and mother lay, as I have heard my father speak, when this
same lusty gentleman was got.  Upon his
deathbed he by will bequeathed his lands to me, and took it on his death that
this my mother’s son was none of his.
Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine, my father’s land, as was
my father’s will.”   King John says to
Robert “Sirrah, your brother is legitimate.
Tell me how your father claimed this son for his?  Your father might have kept this calf, bred
from his cow, from 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.”  The King tells Robert that “my mother’s son
did beget your father’s heir, and he must have your father’s land.”  To end the conflict, Queen Eleanor jumps in,
saying to Philip, “Which of the two would you prefer: be a Faulconbridge and
enjoy thy land, or the reputed son of Coeur de Lion, lord of thy presence, and
no land besides?”  Philip now becomes
known as the Bastard.  Philip says, as
only Shakespeare can, that if I looked like Robert’s father, I would hold firm
to the land.  Queen Eleanor says to
Philip “I like thee well.  Wilt thou
forsake thy fortune, bequeath thy land to him, and follow me?  I am a soldier and now bound to France.”  The Bastard enthusiastically accepts her
offer, saying he will follow her to his death.
She says “Nay, I would have you go before me thither.”  He courteously replies “Our country manners
give our betters way.”  King John asks
Philip “What is thy name?”  He replies
“Philip, good old Sir Robert’s wife’s eldest son.”  The King says “Kneel thou down Philip, but
rise more great.”  Philip kneels.  King John taps Philip on his shoulder with
his sword, and says “Arise Sir Richard and Plantagenet.”

Abridged King John/#4/Acknowledgement/Act 1, Scene 1.4

Philip Faulconbridge, known from here on through as the
Bastard, having been knighted by the King, rises as Sir Richard Plantagenet,
quite a name in medieval England.
Bastard is very gracious to his brother Robert.  Queen Eleanor says “The very spirit of
Plantagenet!  I am thy grandam, Richard. Call
me so.”   The ever gracious Bastard says
“Madam, though I was born by chance but not by truth, I am I, howe’er I was
begot.”  All but Bastard exit.  He reflects on the benefits of royalty, but
notes “This is a worshipful society.”  He
notes he must be careful, saying “Flattery is sweet poison for the age’s taste”
and that “I will not practice to deceive.”
Lady Faulconbridge enters.  He
says “O me, ‘tis my mother.”  She says
“Where is that slave thy brother.”
Bastard says “Is it Sir Robert’s son that you seek so?”  She says “Sir Robert’s son?  Ay, thou irreverent boy.  He is Sir Robert’s son, and so art
thou.”  He says “Madam, I was not old Sir
Robert’s son. Good mother, to whom am I beholding for these limbs?”  She says “What means this scorn?”  He says “But, mother, I am not Sir Robert’s
son.”  She says “King Richard Coeur de
Lion was thy father.”  She defends her
“transgression as her responsibility.”
He says “Now, by this light, I would not wish a better father.  Some sins do bear their privilege on earth,
and so doth yours.  Your fault was not
your folly.”  He beautifully thanks his
mother for his father.

Abridged King John/#5/Background/Act 2, Scene 1.1

The scene is at the base of the walls outside the city of
Angiers; Angiers being in the French province of Anjou.  Angiers is the property of the English
monarch. The Dauphin welcomes Austria (wearing a lion’s skin) and Arthur
(Geoffrey’s son, Geoffrey being Henry II’s third son; John being his
fourth).  The Dauphin describes Arthur in
terms of Richard I, “that great forerunner of thy blood,” and as the one who
“at our urging hither is come to rebuke the usurpation of thy unnatural uncle,
English John.”  Young Arthur says “God
shall forgive you Coeur de Lion’s death all the sooner that you give his
offspring life, shadowing their right under your wings of war.”  Austria chimes in, saying “I will no more
return till Angiers and the right thou hast in France and even till that
England salute thee for her king.”
Constance, Arthur’s mother, says “O, take his mother’s thanks, a widow’s
thanks.”  French King Philip says “Our
cannon shall be bent against the brows of this resisting town.  We will make it subject to this boy.”   Chatillion enters, and warns that “England
hath put himself in arms.  His marches
are expedient to this town, his forces strong, his soldiers confident.  With him is come the Mother Queen, her niece,
the Lady Blanche of Spain, and a bastard of the King’s deceased.”  A drum beats.
He says “They are at hand, to parley or to fight; therefore
prepare.”  Austria says “We are
prepared.”  King John, Bastard, Queen
Eleanor, Blanche and others enter.

Abridged King John/#6/Confrontation/Act 2, Scene 1.2

King John says “Peace be to France, if France in peace
permit our just and lineal entrance of my kingdom.”  King Philip says “Peace be to England, but
thou hast sought to undermine his lawful king, and violently stolen the crown.”  He points to Arthur, saying “Geoffrey was thy
elder brother born, and this his son.”
King John says he wants to know the authority under which the French King
does speak.  Philip says “That divine
judge hath made me guardian to his boy, under whose warrant I impeach thy
wrong.”  King John cries “Thou dost usurp
authority.”  Queen Eleanor jumps in,
saying “Who is it thou dost call usurper, France?”  Constance answers back at Eleanor, saying
“Thy usurping son.”  It gets nasty.  Eleanor cries, speaking to Constance of
Arthur “Thy bastard shall be king that thou mayst be a queen and check the
world.”   Constance comes back with “My
bed was ever to thy son as true as thine was to thy husband, and this boy closer
in feature to his father Geoffrey than thou and John.  My boy a bastard?”  Austria cries “Peace!”  The French King turns to his son, Louis the
Dauphin, who says “King John, this is the very sum of all: England and Ireland,
Anjou, Touraine, Maine, in right of Arthur do I claim of thee.  Wilt thee resign them and lay down thy
arms?”  King John replies “My life as
soon!  Arthur of Brittany, yield yourself
to my hand.”  Queen Eleanor says ‘Come to
thy grandam, child.”  Arthur weeps.  Queen Eleanor and Constance trade insults,
snarling at each other.  King Philip says
to Constance “Peace, lady.  Pause, or be
more temperate.”  The French King says
“These men of Angiers.  Let us hear them
speak whose title they acknowledge.
Arthur’s or John’s.”  A trumpet
sounds.

Abridged King John/#7/Standoff/Act 2, Scene 1.3

Citizens enter upon the walls of Angiers.  A Citizen cries “Who is it that hath warned
us to the walls?”  King Philip says “’Tis
France, for England.”  King John cries
“England, for itself.  You men of
Angiers, and my loving subjects.”  King
Philip says “You loving men of Angiers, Arthur’s subjects.”  King John follows, saying “These flags of
France have hither marched to your endangerment.  The cannons have their bowels full of wrath,
and ready mounted are they to spit forth their iron indignation ‘gainst your
walls.  But your lawful king hath brought
a countercheck before your gates to save unscratched your city’s threatened
cheeks.  They shoot but calm words folded
up in smoke to make a faithless error in your ears.  Your king craves shelter within your city
walls.”  Taking Arthur by the hand, King
Philip says “Be pleased to pay the duty which you truly owe to this young
Plantagenet, son of the elder brother of this man, and then our arms have all
offense sealed up.  But if you foolishly
disregard our proffered offer, then your old-faced walls cannot hide you from
our messengers of war.  Tell us.”  The Citizen says “We are the King of
England’s subjects.  For him we hold this
town.”  King John says “Then let us
in.”  The Citizen says “That can we
not.  But he that proves the King, to him
will we prove loyal.  Both kings argue
their positions.  The Citizen says “Till
you agree whose right is worthiest, we hold the right from both.”  King Philip cries “Mount! To arms!”  Austria cries “Peace! No more.”  King John says “Up higher to the plain.”  King Philip says “And at the other
hill.”  The Herald of France enters and
says “You men of Angiers, open wide your gates, and let young Arthur in.”  The English Herald enters and says “King
John, your king and England’s, doth approach.
Open your gates and give the victors way.”  The Citizen says “Both are alike, and both
alike we like.  One must prove
greatest.  We hold our town for neither,
yet for both.”  The two Kings and others
enter.

Abridged King John/#8/Resolution/Act 2, Scene 1.4

The kings confront each other, King John asking “France,
hast thou yet more blood to cast away?”
King Philip says “England, thou hast not saved one drop of blood in this
hot trial more than we of France, rather lost more.  Before we will lay down our just-borne arms,
we’ll put thee down.”  King John shouts
to the Citizen “Whose party do the townsmen yet admit?”  The Citizen replies “We do lock our strong-barred gates until our fears resolved be by some certain king purged and deposed.”  The Bastard says to the Kings
“By heaven, these wretches flout you, kings.
Be friends awhile, and both together direct your sharpest deeds of
malice on this town.  That done, dissever
your united strengths and part once again; turn face to face and bloody point
to point.  How like you this wild
counsel, mighty states?”  King John says
“I like it well.”  King Philip says “Let
it be so.”  England is going to come in
from the west, Austria from the north, France from the south.  Bastard says I’ll stir Austria and France to
shoot in each other’s mouth.”  The Citizen
cries “But hear me, mighty kings.  The
Lady Blanche is near to England.” Blanche is Eleanor’s daughter; her father was
Spanish, from Castille.  Eleanor was
Queen Eleanor’s only daughter.  The
Citizen suggests Blanche marry the Dauphin, saying “This union shall do more
than bombardment can to our fast-closed gates.”
King Philip and Louis the Dauphin walk aside and talk.

Abridged King John/#9/Self-interest/Act 2, Scene 1.5

Aside to King John, Queen Eleanor says “Son, make this
match.  Give our niece a dowry large enough,
for by this knot thou shalt so surely tie thy now unsured assurance to the
crown.”  The Citizen cries “Why answer
not the double majesties?”  King Philip
says “Speak England first.  What say
you?”  King John says “If that Dauphin there can in his book of beauty read ‘I love,’ her dowry shall weigh equal with a queen.  Anjou, and fair Touraine,
Maine, Poitiers, and all that we upon this side the sea, except this city now
besieged, shall make her rich in titles and honors, as she in beauty,
education, blood, holds hand with any princess of the world.”  King Philip turns to his son and says “What
sayst thou, boy?”  Dauphin says “I do, my
lord.”  Aside, Blanche says to the
Dauphin “My uncle’s (King John’s) wish in this respect is mine. I will not
flatter you, my lord, that all I see in you is worthy love, but nothing do I
see in you that I can find should merit any hate.”  King John asks the Dauphin “Can you love this
lady?”  He says “I do love her most
unfeignedly.”  King John says “I do give
her these five provinces and thirty thousand marks of English coin.”  King Philip says “Young princes, close your
hands.”  Austria says “And your lips
too.”  Dauphin and Blanche join hands and
kiss.  King Philip says “Now, citizens of
Angiers, ope your gates. I know Lady Constance is not here, for her presence
would have interrupted much.  Brother of
England, how may we content this widow lady?”
King John says “We will heal up all.
We’ll create young Arthur Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond, and
this rich, fair town we make him lord of.
Call the Lady Constance.”  All but
the Bastard exit.  The Bastard notes how
“mad” this compromise is, “that John, to stop Arthur’s title in the whole, hath
willingly given way most of England’s interest in France.”  He is upset that the King John to protect his
crown has so easily given away these English assets.

Abridged King John/#10/Resentment/Act 3, Scene 1.1

Constance, Arthur and Salisbury are on stage, Salisbury
being an English nobleman.  Constance
says to Salisbury “Gone to be married?
Shall Louis have Blanche and Blanche those provinces?  It is not so.
Thou hast misspoke, misheard.  I
do not believe thee, man.  Thou shalt be punished for thus frightening me, for I am sick and capable of fears.  Speak again, whether thy tale be true.”  Salisbury says “As true as I believe you
think them false.”  She says “Louis marry
Blanche?  What becomes of me?”  His says in effect I’m only a messenger.  Young Arthur chimes in, saying “I do beseech
you, madam, be content.”  She continues
her rant.  Salisbury says “Pardon me,
madam, I may not go without you to the Kings.”
She says “I will not go with thee,” and sits down.  Kings John and Philip along with Blanche,
Dauphin, Queen Eleanor, Austria and others enter.  King Philip says to Blanche “’Tis true, fair
daughter, this blessed day ever in France shall be kept festival.”  Constance rises and says “A wicked day, and
not a holy day.  Rather turn this day out
of the week, this day of shame, oppression, perjury.”  King Philip asks her “By heaven, lady, have I
not pledged to you my majesty?”  She says
to France’s King “You have beguiled me with an imitation resembling majesty,
which proves valueless.  Arm, you
heavens, against these perjured kings!”
Austria says “Lady Constance, peace.”
She responds to Austria with “Thou cold-blooded slave, hast thou not
spoke like thunder on my side?  Dost thou
now fall over to my foes?”  King John
says “We like not this.  Thou dost forget
thyself.”  Pandulph enters.  King Philip says “Here comes the holy legate
of the Pope.”