King John: overall impressions

Bottom of the barrel: I’ve liked King John least of the twelve plays I’ve read thus far in the project. I’ve like this least of the five histories I’ve read.

It’s repetitious. It’s talky. It’s got no real hero (even the Bastard is less than well-developed, without a true objective). And dare I say it,

say it, Bill, say it…

it’s boring.

as the first of the histories, but written later than those which discuss later events, I’m tempted to call this Shakespeare’s The Phantom Menace, but that would be an insult to George Lucas… 
and that, my friends, is saying something…

The sooner I forget about this experience, the better.

Bring on Shylock the Jew!

King John: numbers overall

King John

  • 2570 total lines; shorter than average play and history (average play: 2777; average tragedy: 3009)
  • At 598 and 118 lines, Act Two, Scene One and Act Five, Scene Seven, respectively, are the longest of their kind in the Canon
  • Act One: 276 lines; shorter than average (average play: 590, average history: 612)
  • Act Two: 598 lines; longer than the average play; shorter than average history (average play: 568, average history: 621)
  • Act Three: 613 lines; longer than average; shorter than average history (average play: 576, average history: 632)
  • Act Four: 562 lines; slightly shorter than average, much shorter than average history (average play: 563, average history: 651)
  • Act Five: 521 lines; longer than average (average play: 480, average history: 493)
  • 0 lines of prose (0.0% of total lines [as opposed to The Comedy of Errors: 13.31%, Titus Andronicus: 1.39%, The Taming of the Shrew: 20.82%, 1HenryVI: 0.37%, 2HenryVI: 16.64%, 3HenryVI: 0.14%, Richard III: 2.89%, Love’s Labor’s Lost: 35.08%, The Two Gentlemen of Verona: 26.81%, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: 19.75%, and Romeo and Juliet: 14.18%])
  • 159 rhyming lines (6.19% of total lines [as opposed to Comedy: 20.10%, Titus: 2.42%, Taming: 3.93%, 1HenryVI: 9.79%, 2HenryVI: 3.16%, 3HenryVI: 5.37%, Richard III: 7.55%, LLL: 40.86%, 2Gents: 35.08%, Midsummer: 43.5%, and Romeo: 16.61%])
  • 16 scenes; less than average (average play: 21; average history: 24)
  • only 27 characters (less than average [average play: 36, average history: 48])

Rah Rah… Goooooooo England

In King John, the Bastard has the final say. He has just pledged his loyalty and “faithful services” (V.vii.104) to the new king, young Henry III; Salisbury (remember him, he lead a rebellion of English lords against Henry’s father, our titular John) follows suit. Henry responds by saying, “I have a kind soul that would give you thanks // And knows not how to do it but with tears” (V.vii.108-109). His two lines are riddled with curious phrases for a king: “kind soul,” “give…thanks,” and “with tears.” Not exactly awe-inspiring (or, for that matter, just plain inspiring) stuff.
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Podcast 51: King John… DVD Review, Concepts, Casts, and Wrap-Up

This week’s podcast concludes our month-long discussion of King John with a review of the one and only King John available on DVD, a really brief discussion of concepts and casts, and we’ll finish off with discussion of this week’s blog entries.
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An Anachronism

Hola, all.

Taking a day off (well, the entire weekend actually) to attend the Southern California Writers Conference, so not much today save for this:

Shakespeare has been none to throw in an anachronism or two in his plays (a clock in Julius Caesar, for example), and we have one here in King John, as well.  When Eleanor and Constance are raging against one another before Angiers, King John tries to quiet them, crying, “Bedlam, have done” (II.i.183). He calls the women lunatics, as if they deserve imprisonment in the famed asylum of St. Mary of Bethlehem (Bedlam)…

Only one problem, the site didn’t open as a priory until 1247, and didn’t start treating the mentally ill until 1330.  And this scene takes place in 1200.

The French Suck, Part Two

In Act Five of King John, the wounded French Lord Melun comes from the battlefield to tell the Lords Pembroke and Salisbury, who had joined the French side of the fight because of King John’s ordered murder of Arthur, to

Unthread the rude eye of rebellion
And welcome home again discarded faith.
Seek out King John and fall before his feet;
For if the French be lords of this loud day,
He means to recompense the pains you take
By cutting off your heads: thus hath he sworn

— V.iv.11-16

Who is the “he” that plans to behead the English lords if the French win?

The Dauphin… what a scumbag.

Just another Shakespearean example of how the French suck.

The French Suck

In King John, just as in most other Shakespearean histories, the French are incompetent soldiers and fools, worthy of ridicule.

How to explain, then, the Bastard’s loss of half his army? The weather, of course:

I'll tell tree, Hubert, half my power this night,
Passing these flats, are taken by the tide.
These Lincoln Washes have devoured them.
Myself, well mounted, hardly have escaped.


Only weather, Nature, and God above can defeat the English.

Uh, yeah… right.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears… Oh, My! (and toss in a swan, as well)

What King John lacks in manly men (there’s the Bastard and… well, there’s the Bastard), it (sorta) makes up in animal imagery.
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Not So Little Women

We’ve discussed the role of women before in selected plays: The Comedy of Errors The Second and Third Parts of Henry the Sixth, Love’s Labor’s LostA Midsummer Night’s Dream, and of course The Taming of the Shrew (pretty much the whole damn month).

Well, we get four women in King John. What to make of them?
Continue reading “Not So Little Women”