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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    Not Peer Reviewed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, Queen Eleanor, Pembroke, Essex, and Salisbury, with Chatillon of France.
    King John
    5Now say, Chatillon, what would France with us?
    Thus, after greeting, speaks the King of France
    In my behavior to the majesty --
    The borrowed majesty -- of England here.
    10Queen Eleanor
    A strange beginning: "borrowed majesty"?
    King John
    Silence, good mother, hear the embassy.
    Philip of France, in right and true behalf
    Of thy deceasèd brother Geoffrey's son,
    Arthur Plantagenet, lays most lawful claim
    15To this fair island, and the territories,
    To Ireland, Poitiers, Anjou, Touraine, Maine,
    Desiring thee to lay aside the sword
    Which sways usurpingly these several titles
    And put the same into young Arthur's hand,
    20Thy nephew, and right royal sovereign.
    King John
    What follows if we disallow of this?
    The proud control of fierce and bloody war
    To enforce these rights, so forcibly withheld.
    King John
    Here have we war for war and blood for blood,
    25Controlment for controlment. So answer France.
    Then take my king's defiance from my mouth,
    The farthest limit of my embassy.
    King John
    Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace.
    Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France,
    30For ere thou canst report I will be there;
    The thunder of my cannon shall be heard.
    So hence. Be thou the trumpet of our wrath
    And sullen presage of your own decay. --
    An honorable conduct let him have:
    35Pembroke look to't. -- Farewell, Chatillon.
    Exeunt Chatillon and Pembroke.
    Queen Eleanor
    What now, my son? Have I not ever said
    How that ambitious Constance would not cease
    Till she had kindled France and all the world
    40Upon the right and party of her son?
    This might have been prevented and made whole
    With very easy arguments of love,
    Which now the manage of two kingdoms must
    With fearful bloody issue arbitrate.
    45King John
    Our strong possession and our right for us.
    Queen Eleanor
    [Aside to John] Your strong possession much more than your right,
    Or else it must go wrong with you and me;
    So much my conscience whispers in your ear,
    Which none but heaven, and you, and I, shall hear.
    50Enter a Sheriff.
    My liege, here is the strangest controversy
    Come from the country to be judged by you
    That e'er I heard. Shall I produce the men?
    King John
    Let them approach.
    [Exit Sheriff.]
    55[To Eleanor] Our abbeys and our priories shall pay
    This expedition's charge.
    Enter Robert Faulconbridge and Philip [the Bastard].
    What men are you?
    Your faithful subject I, a gentleman,
    Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son,
    60As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
    A soldier by the honor-giving hand
    Of Coeur-de-lion knighted in the field.
    King John
    [To Robert Faulconbridge] What art thou?
    Robert Faulconbridge
    The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.
    65King John
    Is that the elder, and art thou the heir?
    You came not of one mother then, it seems.
    Most certain of one mother, mighty King,
    That is well known, and, as I think, one father.
    But for the certain knowledge of that truth,
    70I put you o'er to heaven, and to my mother;
    Of that I doubt, as all men's children may.
    Queen Eleanor
    Out on thee, rude man! Thou dost shame thy mother,
    And wound her honor with this diffidence.
    I Madam? No, I have no reason for it.
    75That is my brother's plea and none of mine,
    The which if he can prove, a pops me out,
    At least from fair five hundred pound a year.
    Heaven guard my mother's honor -- and my land.
    King John
    A good blunt fellow. Why, being younger born,
    80Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance?
    I know not why, except to get the land,
    But once he slandered me with bastardy.
    But whe'er I be as true begot or no,
    That still I lay upon my mother's head;
    85But that I am as well begot my liege --
    Fair fall the bones that took the pains for me --
    Compare our faces, and be judge yourself.
    If old Sir Robert did beget us both
    And were our father, and this son like him,
    90O, old Sir Robert, father, on my knee [Kneels]
    I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!
    King John
    Why, what a mad-cap hath heaven lent us here!
    Queen Eleanor
    [To John] He hath a trick of Coeur-de-lion's face,
    The accent of his tongue affecteth him.
    95Do you not read some tokens of my son
    In the large composition of this man?
    King John
    Mine eye hath well examinèd his parts,
    And finds them perfect Richard. [To Robert] Sirrah speak,
    What doth move you to claim your brother's land?
    100Bastard [Rises]
    Because he hath a half-face like my father.
    With half that face would he have all my land --
    A half-faced groat, five hundred pound a year?
    Robert Faulconbridge
    My gracious liege, when that my father lived
    Your brother did employ my father much --
    Well sir, by this you cannot get my land:
    Your tale must be how he employed my mother.
    Robert Faulconbridge
    -- And once dispatched him in an embassy
    To Germany, there with the Emperor
    To treat of high affairs touching that time.
    110Th'advantage of his absence took the King,
    And in the meantime sojourned at my father's,
    Where how he did prevail, I shame to speak.
    But truth is truth: large lengths of seas and shores
    Between my father and my mother lay,
    115As I have heard my father speak himself,
    When this same lusty gentleman was got.
    Upon his death-bed he by will bequeathed
    His lands to me, and took it on his death
    That this my mother's son was none of his;
    120And if he were, he came into the world
    Full fourteen weeks before the course of time.
    Then, good my liege, let me have what is mine,
    My father's land, as was my father's will.
    King John
    Sirrah, your brother is legitimate:
    125Your father's wife did after wedlock bear him,
    And if she did play false, the fault was hers,
    Which fault lies on the hazards of all husbands
    That marry wives. Tell me, how if my brother
    Who, as you say, took pains to get this son,
    130Had of your father claimed this son for his?
    In sooth, good friend, your father might have kept
    This calf, bred from his cow, from all the world,
    In sooth he might. Then if he were my brother's,
    My brother might not claim him, nor your father,
    135Being none of his, refuse him. This concludes:
    My mother's son did get your fathers heir,
    Your father's heir must have your father's land.
    Robert Faulconbridge
    Shall then my father's will be of no force
    To dispossess that child which is not his?
    Of no more force to dispossess me, sir,
    Than was his will to get me, as I think.
    Queen Eleanor
    Whether hadst thou rather be: a Faulconbridge,
    And like thy brother to enjoy thy land,
    Or the reputed son of Coeur-de-lion,
    145Lord of thy presence, and no land beside?
    Madam, an if my brother had my shape
    And I had his, Sir Robert's his like him,
    And if my legs were two such riding rods,
    My arms such eel-skins stuffed, my face so thin
    150That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose,
    Lest men should say, "Look where three farthings goes!"
    And to his shape were heir to all this land,
    Would I might never stir from off this place,
    I would give it every foot to have this face:
    155It would not be Sir Nob in any case.
    Queen Eleanor
    I like thee well. Wilt thou forsake thy fortune,
    Bequeath thy land to him and follow me?
    I am a soldier, and now bound to France.
    Brother, take you my land, I'll take my chance.
    160Your face hath got five hundred pound a year,
    Yet sell your face for five pence and 'tis dear.
    Madam, I'll follow you unto the death.
    Queen Eleanor
    Nay, I would have you go before me thither.
    Our country manners give our betters way.
    165King John
    What is thy name?
    Philip, my liege, so is my name begun;
    Philip, good old Sir Robert's wife's eldest son.
    King John
    From henceforth bear his name whose form thou bearest:
    170Kneel thou down Philip, but rise more great,
    [The Bastard kneels and is knighted.]
    Arise Sir Richard, and Plantagenet.
    [Rises] Brother by th' mother's side, give me your hand.
    My father gave me honor, yours gave land:
    Now blessèd be the hour by night or day,
    175When I was got, Sir Robert was away.
    Queen Eleanor
    The very spirit of Plantagenet!
    I am thy grandam, Richard, call me so.
    Madam, by chance, but not by truth; what though?
    Something about a little from the right,
    180 In at the window, or else o'er the hatch:
    Who dares not stir by day, must walk by night,
    And have is have, however men do catch:
    Near or far off, well won is still well shot,
    And I am I, howe'er I was begot.
    185King John
    Go, Faulconbridge, now hast thou thy desire:
    A landless knight makes thee a landed squire.
    Come, madam, and come, Richard, we must speed
    For France, for France, for it is more than need.
    Brother adieu; good fortune come to thee,
    190For thou wast got i'th'way of honesty.
    Exeunt all but [the] Bastard.
    A foot of honor better than I was,
    But many a many foot of land the worse.
    Well, now can I make any Joan a lady.
    195"Good den, Sir Richard," "God-a-mercy fellow."
    An if his name be George, I'll call him Peter;
    For new-made honor doth forget men's names:
    'Tis too respective, and too sociable
    For your conversion. Now your traveler,
    200He and his toothpick at my worship's mess,
    And when my knightly stomach is sufficed,
    Why then I suck my teeth, and catechize
    My pickèd man of countries: "My dear sir,"
    Thus leaning on mine elbow I begin,
    205"I shall beseech you" -- that is Question now,
    And then comes Answer like an Absey book:
    "O sir," says Answer, "at your best command,
    At your employment, at your service, sir."
    "No sir," says Question, "I, sweet sir, at yours,"
    210And so ere Answer knows what Question would,
    Saving in dialogue of compliment,
    And talking of the Alps and Apennines,
    The Pyrenean and the river Po,
    It draws toward supper in conclusion so.
    215But this is worshipful society,
    And fits the mounting spirit like myself,
    For he is but a bastard to the time
    That doth not smack of observation;
    And so am I whether I smack or no.
    220And not alone in habit and device,
    Exterior form, outward accoutrement,
    But from the inward motion to deliver
    Sweet, sweet, sweet poison for the age's tooth,
    Which, though I will not practice to deceive,
    225Yet to avoid deceit I mean to learn;
    For it shall strew the footsteps of my rising.
    Enter Lady Faulconbridge and James Gurney.
    But who comes in such haste in riding robes?
    What woman-post is this? Hath she no husband
    That will take pains to blow a horn before her?
    230O me, 'tis my mother. -- How now, good lady,
    What brings you here to court so hastily?
    Lady Faulconbridge
    Where is that slave thy brother? Where is he
    That holds in chase mine honor up and down?
    My brother Robert, old Sir Robert's son?
    Colbrand the Giant, that same mighty man?
    Is it Sir Robert's son that you seek so?
    Lady Faulconbridge
    Sir Robert's son? Ay, thou unreverent boy.
    Sir Robert's son? Why scorn'st thou at Sir Robert?
    240He is Sir Robert's son, and so art thou.
    James Gurney, wilt thou give us leave a while?
    Good leave, good Philip.
    "Philip Sparrow," James,
    There's toys abroad. Anon I'll tell thee more.
    245Exit James [Gurney].
    Madam, I was not old Sir Robert's son.
    Sir Robert might have eat his part in me
    Upon Good Friday and ne'er broke his fast:
    Sir Robert could do well -- marry, to confess --
    250Could get me? Sir Robert could not do it:
    We know his handiwork. Therefore, good mother,
    To whom am I beholding for these limbs?
    Sir Robert never holp to make this leg.
    Lady Faulconbridge
    Hast thou conspirèd with thy brother too,
    255That for thine own gain shouldst defend mine honor?
    What means this scorn, thou most untoward knave?
    Knight, knight, good mother, Basilisco-like.
    What, I am dubbed! I have it on my shoulder.
    But mother, I am not Sir Robert's son,
    260I have disclaimed Sir Robert and my land;
    Legitimation, name, and all is gone.
    Then, good my mother, let me know my father,
    Some proper man, I hope. Who was it mother?
    Lady Faulconbridge
    Hast thou denied thy self a Faulconbridge?
    As faithfully as I deny the devil.
    Lady Faulconbridge
    King Richard Coeur-de-lion was thy father.
    By long and vehement suit I was seduced
    To make room for him in my husband's bed --
    Heaven lay not my transgression to my charge!
    270Thou art the issue of my dear offence
    Which was so strongly urged past my defense.
    Now by this light were I to get again,
    Madam, I would not wish a better father.
    Some sins do bear their privilege on earth,
    275And so doth yours. Your fault was not your folly;
    Needs must you lay your heart at his dispose,
    Subjected tribute to commanding love,
    Against whose fury and unmatchèd force,
    The aweless lion could not wage the fight,
    280Nor keep his princely heart from Richard's hand:
    He that perforce robs lions of their hearts,
    May easily win a woman's. Ay, my mother,
    With all my heart I thank thee for my father:
    Who lives and dares but say thou didst not well
    285When I was got, I'll send his soul to hell.
    Come, lady, I will show thee to my kin,
    And they shall say, when Richard me begot,
    If thou hadst said him nay, it had been sin;
    Who says it was, he lies. I say 'twas not.