Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Michael Best
Not Peer Reviewed

Textual Introduction

The original publication of King John

King John was first published in the First Folio in 1623. In general, it is a clean text, with relatively few textual problems. Its textual history is complicated, however, by the existence of the similarly named Troublesome Reign of King John (TRKJ), first published in 1591 as performed by the Queen's Men. Neither King John nor TRKJ was entered in the Stationers' Register. Quartos of TRKJ appeared in 1611 and 1622; the title page for the edition of 1611 attributed the play to "W.S.," that of 1622 to "William Shakespeare." E.K. Chambers, and others since, have remarked on the parallel with Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew and the anonymous Taming of a Shrew (first published in 1594); both are similarly named plays, both share much of their plot with Shakespeare's plays, and both are omitted from the list of Folio-only plays entered in the Stationers' Register on 8 November 1623. While the two cases share a number of features, Braunmuller lists several ways that the two are different (20). In addition to the points he makes, it is worth noting that the author of A Shrew lifts whole speeches from Marlowe, putting them in very different contexts in his play; while it may be true that the author of TRKJ is something of a magpie, picking up the orts and scraps of other writers, he does not import long chunks.