Page images


INTRODUCTION. The germ of this historical play is a strange, hybrid drama, written with a half-religious, half-political, purpose by Bishop Bale, about the year 1550. It is hybrid, not because of this double purpose, but because in its structure it is a transition between the old Morality and the true dramatic History. Some of its personages are allegori. cal abstractions, some historical realities; albeit the historical people have as little of human flesh and blood and soul as the allegorical fig. ures. The object of the writer was to stimulate the Protestant and the patriotic feeling of Englishmen. But Bale's King John is without any other merit than its purpose. Another play so coarse, so dull, and so void of dramatic interest could hardly be found, even among the works of pre-Elizabethan playwrights. Bale's play, however, led to the production, with a like purpose, of another, founded upon the incidents of King John's reign, The Troublesome Reign of King John. The authorship of this drama is unknown ; but although no one would think of reading it nowadays for pleasure, it is a long stride in advance of its predecessor, and is not without some literary and dramatic merit. Its author, or authors, abandoned allegory altogether, and went to history or to real life for its dramatis persona. But at present its only claim upon the attention of the world is that Shakespeare made it the foundation of his King John. He remodelled it; he condensed it; he elevated it even in its design; he rewrote it; he transfigured it; but, nevertheless, he found in it the incidents, the personages, the movement, and occasionally even the language of his own great historical drama. He had it constantly in mind, and probably before his eyes, as he wrote, modifying but never changing its purpose, and we may even say its spirit, which had their origin in Bishop Bale. At what time he did this is not certain; but it must have been between the years 1591 and 1598; for Meres mentions the play in Palladis Tamia. From internal evidence it would appear to have written about 1596. It was first printed in the folio of 1623, where its text is given in a state nearly approaching purity. The troublesome reign, of the latter part of which it presents a dramatic picture, began in the year 1199 and ended in 1216.


King Jonn.

LEWIS, the Dauphin. PRINCE HENRY, son to the king. LYMOGES, Duke of AUSTRIA. ARTHUR, Duke of Bretagne, nephew CARDINAL PanduLPH, the Pope's legto the king.

ate. The Earl of PEMBROKE.

Melun, a French Lord. The Earl of Essex.

CHATILLON, ambassador from France The Earl of SALISBURY.

to King John. The Lord Bigor. HUBERT DE BURGII.

QUEEN ELINOR, mother to King John. ROBERT FAULCOWBRIDGE, son to Sir CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur. Robert Faulconbridge.

BLANCH of Spain, niece to King Philip the BASTARD, his half-brother. John. JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faul Lady FaulCONBRIDGE.

conbridge. PETER of Pomfret, a prophet.

Lords, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff,

Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, MessenPhilip, King of France.

gers, and other Attendants. Scene: Partly in England, and partly in France.



SCENE I. KING John's palace : a room of state. Enter KING JOHN, QUEEN ELINOR, PEMBROKE, Essex, SALISBURY, and others, with


[ocr errors]

K. John. Now, say, Chatillon, what would France with us?

Chat. Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of France
In my behaviour to the majesty,
The borrowed majesty, of England here.

Eli. A strange beginning : “borrowed majesty! ”
K. John. Silence, good mother; hear the embassy.

Chat. Philip of France, in right and true behalf
Of thy deceased brother Geffrey'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.

K. 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: so answer France.

20 Chat. Then take my king's defiance from my mouth, The farthest limit of my embassy.

K. John. Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace :
Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
For ere thou canst report I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be heard :
So hence! Be thou the trumpet of our wrath
And sullen presage of your own decay.

Chatillon : printed in the folio Chatillion, as it is pronounced.

26 my cannon. There were no cannon until two hundred years later, but for that s. cared nothing, even if he knew it.


An honourable conduct let him have:
Pembroke, look to 't. Farewell, Chatillon.

(Exeunt Chatillon and Pembroke.
Eli. 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 for us.

Eli. Your strong possession much more than your right, 40
Or else it must 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.
Essex. My liege, here is the strangest controversy
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 Purlip, his bastard brother.

What men are you?
Bast. Your faithful subject I, a gentleman
Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son,
As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
A soldier, by the honour-giving hand
Of Cæur-de-lion knighted in the field.

K. John. What art thou ?
Rob. The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.

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.

Eli. Out on thee, rude man! thou dost shame thy mother And wound her honour with this diffidence.

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

64 Caur-de-lion. This name was pronounced like one English word, Cordelion, and is so printed in the folio.

« PreviousContinue »