Internet Shakespeare Editions

Shakespeare in Performance: Film

King John (1899, Herbert Beerbohm Tree)

TitleKing John
Release LocationsUK
DirectorHerbert Beerbohm Tree
MediumBlack & white video, no sound
Length1 mins, 1 segments
Play ConnectionsKing John (scene(s))
Media Collections


Of prime importance to historians of Shakespeare on film as the first Shakespeare movie ever made. As Professor Ball argues, this recording of a scene from Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's spectacular production of King John at Her Majesty's Theatre showed the signing of the Magna Charta, which scene is of course not in Shakespeare's play at all. Hence the inaugural attempt to put Shakespeare on screen embodied the unending dialectical struggle between film directors and the Shakespeare text. It therefore might be said that Tree was the first director to attempt to impose his own signature as auteur on a Shakespeare film. He was also the creator of the first "exploitation" movie in the sense that the film was largely designed to publicize his stage production of the play

Description from Shakespeare on Screen : an International Filmography and Videography by Kenneth S. Rothwell and Annabelle Henkin Melzer. ©1990 Kenneth S. Rothwell. Cited by permission. — Added 2008-11-14

Cast Overview

King JohnHerbert Beerbohm Tree
Prince HenryMiss Dora Senior
PembrokeJames Fisher
SalisburyS. A. Cookson

Production Team and Crew Overview

DirectorHerbert Beerbohm Tree

Production information courtesy of: Kenneth Rothwell