Review: King John

Posted 21 May, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

King John
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: eBook

Under the rule of King John. England is forced into war when the French challenge the legitimacy of Johns claim to the throne and determine to install his nephew Arthur in his place. But political principles. hypocritically flaunted. are soon forgotten. as the French and English kings form an alliance based on cynical self-interest. And as the desire to cling to power dominates Englands paranoid and weak-willed king, his country is threatened with disaster.

One of the lesser-known plays by Shakespeare, King John jumped up my to-read list after I had seen a few production photos floating around for the play. I’m curious to see how it plays out, especially as it sounds like there’s been no move to really rehabilitate the play and give it more attention (though there is a production happening right now…I can’t remember if it’s at the Globe or not though).

Having read the play now, well, it’s not the worst I’ve read; it didn’t entirely bore me to tears or left me uber-frustrated. The play hits the ground running, which is great, and it’s fraught with fragile political alliances, flip-flopping, realpolitik-ing, issues of inheritance of the crown and England-France tensions, but it doesn’t quite engage me the way Richard II (review) or Richard III (review) does. The debates were there but felt rather textbook-like and not quite so very feeling.

My initial sense was that King John seemed all right but he’s surrounded by people who are very in tune with the political game and are out for their own interests no matter what and that he’s in a precarious situation. As the story progresses, it’s clear that he’s not very good when it comes to foreseeing problems and making decisions that aid in long-term planning. He just came off as rather confused and surrounded by grey characters with their own interests. I just didn’t really care for any of them, though the Bastard seemed rather interesting (well, with a name like that, he’s got to live up to some expectations, right?), trolling Austria and all.

I have to say, the most intense scene for me had to be Act IV, Scene 1

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Overall, King John was all right. It wasn’t terribly exciting (save for Act IV, Scene 1) but it wasn’t terribly dull. There were some segments of interest, such as Lady Constance talking about grief, whichw as a poignant monologue. Some elements of the story does remind me of other plays too, which was interesting (all of the monarchs are pretty colourful in their own way, but Shakespeare had a knack of spinning quite a yarn for some of the more intriguing ones, yes?). I wouldn’t recommend checking out this play if you’re new to reading Shakespeare’s plays but it is worth checking out eventually.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply