Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: King John (Modern)
  • Editor: Michael Best
  • General textual editor: Eric Rasmussen
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-410-3

    Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    King John (Modern)



    Enter Constance, Arthur, and Salisbury.
    Constance Gone to be married? Gone to swear a peace?
    False blood to false blood joined? Gone to be friends?
    Shall Lewis have Blanche and Blanche those provinces?
    925It is not so. Thou hast misspoke, misheard.
    Be well advised, tell o'er thy tale again.
    It cannot be. Thou dost but say 'tis so.
    I trust I may not trust thee, for thy word
    Is but the vain breath of a common man.
    930Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;
    I have a King's oath to the contrary.
    Thou shalt be punished for thus frighting me,
    For I am sick and capable of fears,
    Oppressed with wrongs and therefore full of fears,
    935A widow, husbandless, subject to fears,
    A woman naturally born to fears.
    And though thou now confess thou didst but jest,
    With my vexed spirits I cannot take a truce,
    But they will quake and tremble all this day.
    940What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
    Why dost thou look so sadly on my son?
    What means that hand upon that breast of thine?
    Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,
    Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds?
    945Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
    Then speak again, not all thy former tale,
    But this one word -- whether thy tale be true.
    Salisbury As true as I believe you think them false
    That give you cause to prove my saying true.
    950Constance O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow,
    Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die,
    And let belief and life encounter so
    As doth the fury of two desperate men,
    Which in the very meeting fall and die.
    955Lewis marry Blanche? O boy, then where art thou?
    France friend with England? What becomes of me?
    Fellow, be gone. I cannot brook thy sight.
    This news hath made thee a most ugly man.
    Salisbury What other harm have I, good lady, done
    960But spoke the harm that is by others done?
    Constance Which harm within itself so heinous is
    As it makes harmful all that speak of it.
    Arthur I do beseech you, madam, be content.
    Constance If thou that bidst me be content wert grim,
    965Ugly, and slanderous to thy mother's womb,
    Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,
    Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
    Patched with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
    I would not care; I then would be content,
    970For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou
    Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown.
    But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy,
    Nature and Fortune joined to make thee great.
    Of Nature's gifts thou mayest with lilies boast,
    975And with the half-blown rose. But Fortune, O,
    She is corrupted, changed, and won from thee.
    Sh'adulterates hourly with thine uncle John,
    And with her golden hand hath plucked on France
    To tread down fair respect of sovereignty,
    980And made his majesty the bawd to theirs.
    France is a bawd to Fortune and King John;
    That strumpet Fortune, that usurping John.
    Tell me thou fellow, is not France forsworn?
    Envenom him with words or get thee gone
    985And leave those woes alone which I alone
    Am bound to underbear.
    Pardon me, Madam,
    I may not go without you to the kings.
    Constance Thou mayest; thou shalt. I will not go with thee.
    990I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,
    For grief is proud and makes his owner stoop.
    [She sits on the ground.]
    To me and to the state of my great grief,
    Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great
    That no supporter but the huge firm earth
    995Can hold it up. Here I and sorrows sit.
    Here is my throne; bid kings come bow to it.
    [Exit Salisbury and Arthur. Constance remains seated.]