King John by William Shakespeare

I’m so excited for my last semester of college. I’m almost a month into my classes and I’m getting back to my roots. After finally finishing my GenEds last semester and dropping the minor I was no longer passionate about, I’m back to my roots. I’m taking all history and English classes and writing an honors thesis in English. The English class I’m most excited for is my War in Shakespeare’s Plays class. I’m taking it with my favorite professor, my best friend, and my favorite Shakespeare anthology. (No, it’s not this one, but the version I consider best for academic work. It’s David Bevington’s edition and I swear by it.) We’re reading works in which war is prevalent, which sadly leaves out some of my favorite plays, but it includes many of the history plays, which I’ve always been very intimidated by.

King John is the first play we read in this class and it has usurped Richard III (as always seems to happen to Richard III- haha history jokes) as my favorite history play. (Not my favorite play overall, that bounces around between King Lear – which you’ll notice is a change in opinion from when I originally reviewed the play, I’ve seen the error of my ways and now I absolutely love Lear, – Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra depending on my mood.) The wit and banter in this play is off the charts and there’s an amazing female presence in this play with the BAMF Eleanor of Aquitaine on the side of the English and her French counterpart Constance. These two women are hugely influential in the first half of the play, and honestly the work kind of suffers during the second half after they (spoilers!) both die.

Here are some highlights (and lowlights) of the play:

The plot on simplest terms: King of England wants to also be King of France, King of England may not even have a legitimate claim to the throne. Two moms yell at each other, a bunch of people die, and British history marches on.

Favorite character: Eleanor

Least favorite character: I don’t really have one? Okay, I lied. I find Hubert de Burgh massively annoying. Can you not be so moral? Like please.

Notable quote:

Bastard: Madam, I’ll follow you unto the death.

Eleanor: Nay, I would have you go before me thither.

(PS: Thinking of trying out this kind of format with all the Shakespeare plays I review this semester. If you have any feedback, leave it in the comments!)

Obviously I think very highly of King John. It’s an exceptionally well crafted play, even by Shakespeare’s standards. I’m so glad I kicked off this semester with this work!

5/5 stars


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