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This play appears to have been written in 1596, but was not published till 1623. It was founded on an old play called The troublesome reign of King John, which was printed in 1591, and is attributed by Pope, though he does pot state his authority, to the joint efforts of Shakspeare and Rowley.--The elder play was twice published with the initials of Shakspeare on the title page. Shakspeare has preserved the greatest part of the conduct of it, as well as some of the lines. The number of quotations from Horace, and similar scraps of learning scattered over this piece, ascertain it to have been the work of a scholar. It contains likewise a quantity of rhyming Latin, and ballad metre; and in a scene where the Bastard is represented
as plundering a monastery, there are strokes of humour, which seem, from their particular turn, to have been most evidently produced by another hand than that of our author.
Of this historical drama there is a subsequent edition in 1611, printed for John Helme, whose name appears before none of the genuine pieces of Shakspeare. Mr. Steevens admitted this play as our author's own, among the twenty which he published from the old editions: he afterwards, perhaps with out sufficient grounds, receded from that opinion.
The action of the present tragedy occupies a space of about seventeen years ; beginning at the thirty-fourth year of King John's life.
Bretagne, the elder brother of King John.
England. WILLIAM LONGSWORD, earl of Salisbury.a Robert Bigot, earl of Norfolk. HUBERT DE BURGH, chamberlain to the king. Robert FAULCON BRIDGE, son of Sir Robert Faulcon
bridge: Philip FAULCONBRIDGE, his half-brother, bastard son to
King Richard the First. JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faulconbridge. Peter of Pomfret, a prophet. Philip, king of France. Lewis, the dauphin. Archduke of Austria. Cardinal PANDULPH, the pope's legate. MELUN, a French lord. CHATILLON, ambassador from France to King John. Elinor, the widow of King Henry II. and mother of King
John. CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur. BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso, king of Castile, and niece to
King John. Lady FAULCONBRIDGE, mother to the bastard and Robert
Faulconbridge. Lords, Ladies, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers,
Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants. SCENE, sometimes in England, and sometimes in France.
Salisbury.] Son to King Henry II. by Rosamond Clifford.
Scene I.--Northampton. A Room of State in
Enter King John, Queen ELINOR, PEMBROKE, Essex,
SALISBURY, and Others, with CHATILLON. King John. Now, say, Chatillon, what would France
Eli. A strange beginning ;-borrow'd majesty!
Chat. Philip of France, in right and true behalf
K. John. What follows, if we disallow of this?
Chat. The proud control of fierce and bloody war, To enforce these rites 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 furthest limit of my embassy.
a In my behaviour,] This word is here used in a very peculiar sense, and means in my assumed character.
control ] i. e. Compulsion:
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 sudden presage of your own decay,-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 Or else it must go wrong with you, and me: [right; So much my conscience whispers in your ear; Which none but heaven, and you, and I, shall hear.
Enter the Sheriff of Northamptonshire, who whispers
Essex. My liege, here is the strangest controversy,
[Erit Sheriff. Our abbies, and our priories shall pay
Re-enter Sheriff, with ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE, and
Philip, his bastard brother."
This expedition's charge. What men are you?
the manage-] i. e. Conduct, administration.
Philip, his bastard brother.] This character is compounded of two distinct personages :
Matthew Paris says, “ Sub illius temporis curriculo, Falcasius de Brente, Neusteriensis et spurius ex parte matris atque Bastardus, qui in vili jumento manticato ad Regis paulo ante clientelam descenderat,” &c.
Holinshed says, “ Richard the First had a natural son named Philip, who, in
Bast. Your faithful subject I, a gentleman,
K. John. What art thou?
K. John. Is that the elder, and art thou the heir ?
Bast. Most certain of one mother, mighty king,
Eli. Out on thee, rude man! thou dost shame thy moAnd wound her honour with this diffidence. [ther,
Bast. I, madam? no, I have no reason for it;
K. John. A good blunt fellow :-Why, being younger Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance ?
[born, Bast. I know not why, except to get the land. But once he slander'd me with bastardy : But whe're I be as true begot, or no, That still I lay upon my mother's head; But, that I am as well begot, my liege, (Fair fall the bones that took the pains for me!) Compare our faces, and be judge yourself. If old sir Robert did beget us both, And 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! the year following, killed the Viscount de Limoges, to revenge the death of his father.”
Our author was perhaps induced to give the name of Fuulconbridge to King Richard's natural son, from finding it in the continuation of Harding's Chronicle, 1548, fol. 24. 6. ad ann. 1472. He is only mentioned in our histories by the name of Philip..STEEVENS and Malone. whe'r]-for whether.