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    Not Peer Reviewed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 King John, King Philip, [Lewis the] Dauphin, Blanche, [Queen] Eleanor, [the Bastard, and] Austria.
    1000King Philip
    'Tis true, fair daughter, and this blessèd day
    Ever in France shall be kept festival.
    To solemnize this day the glorious sun
    Stays in his course and plays the alchemist,
    Turning with splendor of his precious eye
    1005The meager cloddy earth to glittering gold.
    The yearly course that brings this day about
    Shall never see it but a holiday.
    [Rising] A wicked day and not a holy day.
    What hath this day deserved? what hath it done,
    1010That it in golden letters should be set
    Among the high tides in the calendar?
    Nay, rather turn this day out of the week,
    This day of shame, oppression, perjury.
    Or, if it must stand still, let wives with child
    1015Pray that their burdens may not fall this day,
    Lest that their hopes prodigiously be crossed;
    But on this day let seamen fear no wreck;
    No bargains break that are not this day made;
    This day all things begun come to ill end;
    1020Yea, faith itself to hollow falsehood change.
    King Philip
    By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause
    To curse the fair proceedings of this day.
    Have I not pawned to you my majesty?
    You have beguiled me with a counterfeit
    1025Resembling majesty, which, being touched and tried,
    Proves valueless. You are forsworn, forsworn.
    You came in arms to spill mine enemy's blood,
    But now in arms you strengthen it with yours.
    The grappling vigor and rough frown of war
    1030Is cold in amity and painted peace,
    And our oppression hath made up this league.
    Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perjured kings!
    A widow cries, be husband to me, heavens.
    Let not the hours of this ungodly day
    1035Wear out the days in peace, but ere sunset
    Set armèd discord 'twixt these perjured kings.
    Hear me, O, hear me!
    Lady Constance, peace.
    War, war, no peace. Peace is to me a war.
    1040O Limoges, O Austria, thou dost shame
    That bloody spoil. Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward,
    Thou little valiant, great in villainy;
    Thou ever strong upon the stronger side;
    Thou Fortune's champion, that dost never fight
    1045But when her humorous ladyship is by
    To teach thee safety -- thou art perjured too,
    And sooth'st up greatness. What a fool art thou,
    A ramping fool, to brag and stamp and swear
    Upon my party. Thou cold-blooded slave,
    1050Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side?
    Been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend
    Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength?
    And dost thou now fall over to my foes?
    Thou wear a lion's hide? Doff it for shame,
    1055And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
    O that a man should speak those words to me!
    And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
    Thou dar'st not say so villain for thy life.
    And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
    1060King John
    We like not this, thou dost forget thyself.
    Enter Pandulph.
    King Philip
    Here comes the holy legate of the Pope.
    Hail you anointed deputies of heaven. --
    To thee King John my holy errand is.
    1065I, Pandulph, of fair Milan Cardinal,
    And from Pope Innocent the legate here,
    Do in his name religiously demand
    Why thou against the Church, our holy mother,
    So willfully dost spurn and force perforce
    1070Keep Stephen Langton, chosen Archbishop
    Of Canterbury, from that holy See.
    This in our foresaid Holy Father's name,
    Pope Innocent, I do demand of thee.
    King John
    What earthly name to interrogatories
    1075Can test the free breath of a sacred king?
    Thou canst not, Cardinal, devise a name
    So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous
    To charge me to an answer as the Pope.
    Tell him this tale, and from the mouth of England
    1080Add thus much more: that no Italian priest
    Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
    But as we, under [god], are supreme head,
    So under him that great supremacy
    Where we do reign, we will alone uphold
    1085Without th'assistance of a mortal hand.
    So tell the Pope, all reverence set apart,
    To him and his usurped authority.
    King Philip
    Brother of England, you blaspheme in this.
    King John
    Though you and all the kings of Christendom
    1090Are led so grossly by this meddling priest,
    Dreading the curse that money may buy out,
    And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,
    Purchase corrupted pardon of a man
    Who in that sale sells pardon from himself;
    1095Though you, and al the rest so grossly led,
    This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish,
    Yet I alone, alone do me oppose
    Against the Pope, and count his friends my foes.
    Then, by the lawful power that I have,
    1100Thou shalt stand curst and excommunicate,
    And blessèd shall he be that doth revolt
    From his allegiance to an heretic,
    And meritorious shall that hand be called,
    Canonizèd and worshipped as a saint,
    1105That takes away by any secret course
    Thy hateful life.
    O, lawful let it be
    That I have room with Rome to curse awhile.
    Good Father Cardinal, cry thou "amen"
    1110To my keen curses, for without my wrong
    There is no tongue hath power to curse him right.
    There's law and warrant, lady, for my curse.
    And for mine too. When law can do no right,
    Let it be lawful that law bar no wrong.
    1115Law cannot give my child his kingdom here,
    For he that holds his kingdom holds the law.
    Therefore, since law itself is perfect wrong,
    How can the law forbid my tongue to curse?
    Philip of France, on peril of a curse,
    1120Let go the hand of that arch-heretic
    And raise the power of France upon his head
    Unless he do submit himself to Rome.
    Queen Eleanor
    Look'st thou pale France? Do not let go thy hand.
    Look to that, devil, lest that France repent
    1125And by disjoining hands, hell lose a soul.
    King Philip, listen to the Cardinal.
    And hang a calf's-skin on his recreant limbs.
    Well ruffian, I must pocket up these wrongs,
    Because --
    Your breeches best may carry them.
    King John
    Philip, what sayest thou to the Cardinal?
    What should he say, but as the Cardinal?
    Bethink you father, for the difference
    Is purchase of a heavy curse from Rome,
    1135Or the light loss of England for a friend.
    Forgo the easier.
    That's the curse of Rome.
    O Lewis, stand fast; the devil tempts thee here
    In likeness of a new untrimmèd bride.
    The Lady Constance speaks not from her faith,
    But from her need.
    O, if thou grant my need,
    Which only lives but by the death of faith,
    That need must needs infer this principle:
    1145That faith would live again by death of need.
    O, then tread down my need, and faith mounts up,
    Keep my need up, and faith is trodden down.
    King John
    The king is moved and answers not to this.
    O, be removed from him, and answer well.
    Do so King Philip, hang no more in doubt.
    Hang nothing but a calf's-skin, most sweet lout.
    King Philip
    I am perplexed, and know not what to say.
    What canst thou say, but will perplex thee more
    If thou stand excommunicate and cursed?
    1155King Philip
    Good reverend father, make my person yours,
    And tell me how you would bestow yourself.
    This royal hand and mine are newly knit,
    And the conjunction of our inward souls
    Married in league, coupled, and linked together
    1160With all religious strength of sacred vows.
    The latest breath that gave the sound of words
    Was deep-sworn faith, peace, amity, true love
    Between our kingdoms and our royal selves;
    And even before this truce, but new before,
    1165No longer than we well could wash our hands,
    To clap this royal bargain up of peace,
    Heaven knows they were besmeared and over-stained
    With slaughter's pencil; where revenge did paint
    The fearful difference of incensèd kings.
    1170And shall these hands, so lately purged of blood,
    So newly joined in love, so strong in both,
    Unyoke this seizure and this kind regreet?
    Play fast and loose with faith? So jest with heaven,
    Make such unconstant children of ourselves
    1175As now again to snatch our palm from palm,
    Unswear faith sworn, and on the marriage bed
    Of smiling peace to march a bloody host,
    And make a riot on the gentle brow
    Of true sincerity? O, holy sir
    1180My reverend father, let it not be so;
    Out of your grace, devise, ordain, impose
    Some gentle order, and then we shall be blest
    To do your pleasure and continue friends.
    All form is formless, order orderless,
    1185Save what is opposite to England's love.
    Therefore to arms! Be champion of our church,
    Or let the church our mother breathe her curse,
    A mother's curse, on her revolting son.
    France, thou mayest hold a serpent by the tongue,
    1190A casèd lion by the mortal paw,
    A fasting tiger safer by the tooth,
    Than keep in peace that hand which thou dost hold.
    King Philip
    I may disjoin my hand, but not my faith.
    So mak'st thou faith an enemy to faith,
    1195And like a civil war set'st oath to oath,
    Thy tongue against thy tongue. O let thy vow
    First made to heaven, first be to heaven performed,
    That is, to be the champion of our church.
    What since thou swor'st is sworn against thyself
    1200And may not be performèd by thyself,
    For that which thou hast sworn to do amiss,
    Is not amiss when it is truly done.
    And being not done where doing tends to ill,
    The truth is then most done not doing it.
    1205The better act of purposes mistook
    Is to mistake again; though indirect,
    Yet indirection thereby grows direct,
    And falsehood falsehood cures, as fire cools fire
    Within the scorchèd veins of one new burned.
    1210It is religion that doth make vows kept,
    But thou hast sworn against religion
    By what thou swear'st against the thing thou swear'st,
    And mak'st an oath the surety for thy truth
    Against an oath. The truth thou art unsure
    1215To swear, swears only not to be forsworn,
    Else what a mockery should it be to swear?
    But thou dost swear only to be forsworn,
    And most forsworn to keep what thou dost swear.
    Therefore thy later vows against thy first
    1220Is in thy self rebellion to thy self;
    And better conquest never canst thou make,
    Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts
    Against these giddy loose suggestions,
    Upon which better part our prayers come in,
    1225If thou vouchsafe them. But if not, then know
    The peril of our curses light on thee
    So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,
    But in despair die under their black weight.
    Rebellion, flat rebellion!
    Will't not be?
    Will not a calf's-skin stop that mouth of thine?
    Father, to arms!
    Upon thy wedding day?
    Against the blood that thou hast marrièd?
    1235What, shall our feast be kept with slaughtered men?
    Shall braying trumpets and loud churlish drums,
    Clamors of hell, be measures to our pomp?
    O husband, hear me! Ay, alack, how new
    Is "husband" in my mouth! [Kneeling] Even for that name,
    1240Which till this time my tongue did ne'er pronounce,
    Upon my knee I beg, go not to arms
    Against mine uncle.
    [Kneeling] O, upon my knee made hard with kneeling,
    I do pray to thee, thou virtuous Dauphin,
    1245Alter not the doom forethought by heaven.
    [To Lewis] Now shall I see thy love. What motive may
    Be stronger with thee than the name of wife?
    That which upholdeth him that thee upholds,
    His honor. -- O, thine honor, Lewis, thine honor.
    [To King Philip] I muse your majesty doth seem so cold
    When such profound respects do pull you on.
    I will denounce a curse upon his head.
    King Philip
    Thou shalt not need. England, I will fall from thee.
    Constance [Rising]
    O fair return of banished majesty!
    1255Queen Eleanor
    O foul revolt of French inconstancy!
    King John
    France, thou shalt rue this hour within this hour.
    Old Time the clock-setter, that bald sexton Time,
    Is it as he will? Well then, France shall rue.
    [Rising] The Sun's o'ercast with blood. Fair day adieu.
    1260Which is the side that I must go withal?
    I am with both; each army hath a hand,
    And in their rage, I having hold of both,
    They whirl asunder and dismember me.
    Husband, I cannot pray that thou mayest win; --
    1265Uncle, I needs must pray that thou mayest lose; --
    Father, I may not wish the fortune thine; --
    Grandam, I will not wish thy wishes thrive.
    Whoever wins, on that side shall I lose,
    Assurèd loss, before the match be played.
    Lady, with me, with me thy fortune lies.
    There where my fortune lives, there my life dies.
    King John
    Cousin, go draw our puissance together.
    [Exit the Bastard.]
    France, I am burned up with inflaming wrath,
    A rage, whose heat hath this condition,
    1275That nothing can allay, nothing but blood --
    The blood and dearest-valued blood of France.
    King Philip
    Thy rage shall burn thee up and thou shalt turn
    To ashes ere our blood shall quench that fire.
    Look to thyself. Thou art in jeopardy.
    1280King John
    No more than he that threats. To arms let's hie.