Internet Shakespeare Editions

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  • Title: King John: Textual Introduction
  • Author: 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: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    King John: Textual Introduction

    1The modern-spelling text

    This edition follows the general Guidelines for the Internet Shakespeare Editions, which are based on those prepared for the Revels Plays by David Bevington, and on Wells, Re-Editing Shakespeare for the Modern Reader. The general intention is to make the text accessible for a modern reader, while remaining as close as reasonable to the original Folio. I follow modern conventions of spelling and punctuation, and have added some stage directions in order to make the implied action of the speeches clearer; where an action is likely, but not absolutely required, it is recorded in a lighter typeface than normal text.

    The modernizing of punctuation often requires that the editor become, in effect, an interpreter of the play, much as an actor or director makes choices about the multiplicity of possibilities a passage presents in expression. One notable example is in the passages Constance speaks, especially in those scenes where other characters on stage -- and many critics -- regard her speeches as outbursts of madness: the cardinal Pandulph specifically comments, "Lady, you utter madness and not sorrow" (TLN 1427). Editors have sprinkled Constance's speeches with exclamation marks as a way of signalling what they see as hyperbole, or extreme emotion. But exclamation marks are rare in the First Folio -- there are only two in King John, at TLN 728 and 1713 -- so editors have collectively tended to construct Constance's character through punctuating her speeches with added emphasis. This text is more cautious, leaving it to the reader or the actor to decide what is a statement, what an exclamation.