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WITH EXPLANATORY AND ILLUSTRATIVE NOTES
NUMEROUS EXTRACTS FROM THE HISTORY ON WHICH THE PLAY IS FOUNDED,
Instructor of Candidates for the Civil Service and other Public Examinations ;
Formerly Vice-Principal of the National Society's Training College, Battersea.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
OF Shakspeare's historical plays, King John is the first in the order of history. It is founded on an older play, first printed in 1591, entitled, The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England, with the Discoverie of King Richard Cordelion's base son, vulgarly named the Bastard Fauconbridge; also the death of King John at Swinstead Abbey.'
Malone has observed that “King John is the only one of our poet's uncontested plays that is not entered in the books of the Stationers' Company. Its name occurs in an enumeration of Shakspeare's plays in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres, 1598; and, accordingly, the date of its composition must have been somewhere between 1591 and 1598, probably not earlier than 1596, the year assigned by ¿Ialone. It was first published in the folio collection of 1623.
We believe that Shakspeare, in composing King John, partially consulted 'Holinshed's Chronicle'; but he was mainly guided by the action of the old play, and was thus made to deviate in several instances from authentic history, and to omit—what, perhaps, he would have included, had he made selections for himself from the old chronicler-a
reference to that great event in John's career, the signature of Magna Charta. The poet was contented with such incidents as he found in "The Troublesome Raigne, because it was, no doubt, a great favourite on the stage; but its faint and imperfect delineations of character were, by his wonderful genius and profound knowledge of human nature, rectified and developed into the most life-like, interesting, and instructive pictures.
REMARKS OF VARIOUS AUTHORS
SHAKSPEARE'S 'KING JOHN.'
“The dramas derived from the English history, ten in number, form one of the most valuable of Shakspeare's works, and partly the fruit of his maturest age. I say advisedly one of his works, for the poet evidently intended them to form one great whole. It is, as it were, an historical heroic poem
in the dramatic form, of which the separate plays constitute the rhapsodies. The principal features of the events are exhibited with such fidelity : their causes, and even their secret springs, are placed in such a clear light, that we may attain from them a knowledge of history in all its truth, while the living picture makes an impression on the imagination which can never be effaced.
• In King John the political and warlike events are dressed out with solemn pomp, for the very reason that they possess but little of true grandeur. The falsehood and selfishness of the monarch speak in the style of a manifesto. Conventional dignity is most indispensable where personal dignity is wanting. The bastard Faulconbridge is the witty interpreter of this language ; he ridicules the secret springs of politics without disapproving of them; for he owns that he is endeavouring to make his fortune by similar means, and wishes rather to belong to the deceivers han the deceived, for in his view of the world there is no other choice. His litigation with his brother respecting the succession of his pretended father, by which he effects his acknowledgment at court as natural son of the most chivalrous king of England, Richard Cour-de-Lion, forms a