William Shakespeare's King John in the complete original text.
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The Life and Death of King John

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King John Play

King John begins with King Richard the First, (Geoffrey Plantagenet) being killed by a man called Austria. King Richard's youngest brother ascends to the throne as per King Richard's will but Constance, the widow of King Richard's other brother Geoffrey believes the crown should have gone to her teenage son Arthur. Not letting the issue rest, Constance seeks the help of King Phillip of France to replace King John with Arthur as King of England. Phillip, the illegitimate son of King Richard I and called the "Bastard" throughout this play, also makes a claim for the throne, but is generally ignored by Arthur and John. Phillip bears an uncanny resemblance to the late King Richard I.

We learn that Austria is helping the French with Phillip's son, The Dauphin (Prince Lewis) also siding against the English. A battle ensues between the English and French armies to prove to Hubert, the ruler of Algiers who truly holds the English crown. Hubert suggests that The Dauphin marry the daughter (Blanch) of the late King Richard I, thereby settling the dispute by uniting the two nations in marriage. The dowry is to be peace between the two rulers and some English land. Arthur is made Earl of Richmond and Duke of Britain. Constance is far from satisfied... Even the Bastard feels Hubert's plan will only end in disaster, Constance agreeing since the deal robs Arthur of ever holding the crown..

Sure enough, trouble quickly brews when Cardinal Pandulph insists as representative of the Pope, that the Archbishop of Canterbury be appointed by the Pope, King John refusing, the Cardinal excommunicating him. Nervous of this, Phillip walks away from peace, a battle quickly following where the Bastard slays Austria for killing his father (Richard I), Algiers is captured by the English and Arthur is captured. Wanting the threat of Arthur gone for once and for all, Hubert is ordered to return to England with Arthur and then to kill him. Meanwhile the Cardinal, knowing that the English will be far from pleased at Arthur's death, manipulates the Dauphin into making a play for the English throne. Arthur, however lives. Hubert hesitates to burn out Arthur's eyes, instead lying to King John that he is dead as ordered. The Lords of England now decide to side with The Dauphin upon hearing of Arthur's death. Constance passes away in grief for Arthur, Queen Elinor also passing away.

Hubert reveals that Arthur is not dead. Unfortunately Arthur actually is dead; he jumped to his death trying to escape from the castle where he was kept. King John, deeply remorseful over this, is accepted back into the church after admitting his guilt over Arthur but soon falls ill and becomes unable to rule, so much so that the Bastard assumes command of the army which is still fighting the French. The Bastard wins over the French, the English Lords learning what The Dauphin really has planned for them should he rule England... Beheadings for all noblemen! Unsurprisingly, the Lords now side with the English once more. Meanwhile, King John is poisoned in a monastery. Prince Henry, another claimant for the throne watches his father die, taking the crown after the Cardinal convinces the French to leave English soil, peace settling between England and France..


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I

Act II
Scene I

Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

Act IV
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act V
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V, Scene VI, Scene VII

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