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King Joon stands first in chronological order in the list of " Histories," or Chronicle Plays," written by Shakspeare, founded on the leading events which marked the reigns of the Kings of England whose lives he selected for dramatic illustration,

The old chroniclers, Hall, Holinshed, Stowe, and others, furnished the Poet ample and reliable materials for his principal Historical facts; and at times the very expression of these authorities is copiously used. In preparing King John, Shakspeare was also largely indebted to a chronicle drama he found upon the stage, entitled " The Troublesome Raigne of King John.” But while using this superstructure for his work, he clothes the dry historical details of the chronicler with all the beauty of his own poetic imagination, and invests his characters with a vigor and elevation which give a depth of interest mere dra. matic history could not attain. The action of this Play begins at the thirty-fourth year of John's life ; it takes in the principal transactions of his reign to the time of his death, being an interval of seventeen years.

The tragic interest of the Play mainly rests in the majesty of maternal grief, as exhibited in the character of Constance, and the innocence and winning affection of her son, young Arthur. They are exquisitely elaborated pictures. The predominant interest thrown around these two characters, seems to have prevented Shakspeare from introducing into this Play John's contest with his Barons, and his final signing of the great “ Magna Charta" of English liberty. The struggles of the King with the Papal power, his submission to the Pope, his resignation of the crown, and the other main incidents of his troublesome reign, are all depicted with historical accuracy.

PRINCE HENRY, his son.
ARTHUR, Duke of Bretagne, nephew to King John.
WILLIAM MARESHALL, Earl of Pembroke.
GEFFREY FITZ-PETER, Earl of Essex, chief justiciary of England.

WILLIAM LONGSWORD, Earl of Salisbury.
ROBERT Bigot, Earl of Norfolą.
Hubert De Búrgh, chamberlain to the King.
Philip FAULCONBRIDGE, his half-brother.
JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faulconbridge.
PETER OF POMFRET, a prophet.
Philip, King of France.
LEWIS, the Dauphin.
Cardinal PANDULPH, the Pope's legate.
MELUN, a French lord.
CHATILLON, ambassador from France.
ELINOR, widow of King Henry II., and mother to King John.
CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur.
BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso, King of Castile, and niece to King John.
Lady FAULCONBRIDGE, mother to Robert and Philip Faulconbridge.
Lords, Ladies, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers,

Messengers, and Attendants.
SCENE,-Sometimes in ENGLAND, and sometimes in FRANCE.


SCENE I.-Northampton. A Room of State in the Palace.

Enter King John, Queen ELINOR, PEMBROKE, Essex, SALISBURY,

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

Chat. Thus, after greeting, speaks the king of France,
In my behavior, to the majesty,
The borrow'd majesty of England here.
Eli. A strange beginning ;-borrow'd majesty !
K. John. Silence, good mother; hear the embassy.

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

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

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 ?
K. John. Our strong possession, and our right for us.

Eli. Your strong possession, much more than your right, Or else it must go wrong with you, and me.

Enter the Sheriff of Northamptonshire, who whispers Essex.

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.-

[Exit Sheriff.
Our abbeys, and our priories shall pay
This expedition's charge.-
Re-enter Sheriff, with ROBERT FAULOONBRIDGE, and Philip, his


What men are you?
Faul. Your faithful subject I; a gentleman
Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son,
As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
A soldier, by the honor-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.

Faul. 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.

Eli. Out on thee, rude man! thou dost shame thy mother,
And wound her honor with this diffidence.
Faul. 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
At least from fair five hundred pound a-year:
Heaven guard my mother's honor, and my land !

K. John. A good blunt fellow.—Why, being younger born, Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance ?

Faul. I know not why, except to get the land.
If Sir Robert were our father, and this son like him,
O, old Sir Robert, father, on my knee
I give heaven thanks, I was not like to thee.
K. John. Why, what a madcap hath heaven lent us here!

Eli. He hath a trick of Cæur-de-lion's face;
The accent of his tongue affecteth him:
Do you not read some tokens of my son
In the large composition of this man?

K. John. Mine eye hath well examined his parts,
And finds them perfect Richard.—Sirrah, speak,
What doth move you to claim your brother's land?

Faul. Because he hath a half-face, like my father,
With that half-face would he have all my land:
A half-fac'd groat five hundred pound a-year !

Rob. My gracious liege, when that my father liv'd,
Your brother did employ my father much,-
And once despatch'd him in an embassy
To Germany, there, with the emperor,
To treat of high affairs touching that time.
The advantage of his absence took the king,
And in the mean time sojourn'd at my father's;
Where how he did prevail, I shame to speak,-
But truth is truth:
My father on his death-bed by will bequeath'd
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.

K. John. Sirrah, your brother is legitimate, -
Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him ;
Your father's heir must have your father's land.
Eli. (To FAULOONBRIDGE.) Whether hadst thou rather be a

And like thy brother, to enjoy thy land,
Or the reputed son of Cæur-de-lion,
Lord of thy presence, and no land beside ?

Faul. Madam, an if my brother had my shape,
And I had his, Sir Robert his, like him;
And if my limbs were two such riding-rods,
My arms such eel-skins stuff’d; my face so thin,
That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose,

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