King John, one of William Shakespeare's plays, like most of his history plays, presents a struggle for the English crown. The struggle this time, however, is strikingly cold-blooded and brutal.
John, the younger brother of the late Richard I, is the king, and a savage one. His opponent is a boy, his nephew Arthur, supported by the King of France and the Duke of Austria. After Arthur falls into John's hands, John plots to torture him. Arthur's capture gives Louis, the Dauphin of France, the opportunity to lay claim to John's crown. John's nobles support Louis, but he schemes to betray them.
The play finds its hero in another figure: the Bastard, Sir Richard Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Richard I. Although he has an appetite for war, he also has a strong conscience and speaks with trenchant irony.
Research suggests that Shakespeare wrote King John in 1594-96. It was published in the 1623 First Folio. Sources include Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles. A contemporary play, The Troublesome Reign of John King of England, may be a source, too.
Productions at the Folger
Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M6 2003 copy 2 v.16
In popular culture
The Folger owns at least 7 stand-alone translations of King John in various languages (not including collected works). Cataloging of these works is ongoing as of early 2015, and many have full-level catalog records, but some works still have only partial records. Translations can be found Hamnet in by searching for "Translations"in the Genre/Form Term field, or by searching the Call Number (Left-Anchored) field for call numbers starting with PR2796 (see the list of Sh.Col. translations call numbers for specific language call numbers). Since not all translations are fully cataloged, some items may only turn up in one of these searches.
- Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 2000 Folger Shakespeare Library.