King John by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I decided to work through the least memorable or least beloved plays while I'm working through the more beloved histories, and frankly, I don't think this one was bad at all.
Sure, there's no Magna Carta, even though it would have been signed one year before the King's death, but as it has been said many times before, no one in Shakespeare's time really gave a hoot about the document.
So why did this flop of a play even get written? For it was a flop at its inception and no one really wants to see it on stage, now. Are there any redeeming virtues?
Hell yeah. Philip the Bastard. Many soliloquies, the last line in the play, and my god what a mouth he has. :) He has the righteous Plantagenet fire, the hot breast, the military and manly and steadfast nobility that everyone loves and honors... and yet, despite that, he's a Bastard.
Let me back up. Most bastards in any of the Shakespearian plays are real bastards. This is the only one that is truly noble, through and through. Wow! What a departure! Plus, he was pretty show-stealing every time he popped his head up on the page, with great quips, true heart, and utter loyalty to the king.
Plus we get to see a pretty spry old woman Eleanor of Aquitaine. But that's just for us history buffs. She really doesn't do much except support son the King's decisions and help raise the fortune of Philip the Bastard. :) Which is delightful enough.
The rest of the play, though, does appear to have the right kind of propagandist flavor, turning King John into a Protestant by default because he chooses to snub the Cardinal who then proceeds to excommunicate him, but in my eye, that's just the overt window dressing.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the story in the play, either. There's wars, reconciliations, humorous dealings at Anjou, bitter sorrow over Arthur, and more war, ending with the declaration that there will never be another successful invasion of England.
Pretty rousing. I was entertained. So why the hate?
*shrug* maybe people are just idiots. :) Great characters, good story. I guess this is just one of those cases that because Shakespeare wrote it, it must be brilliant instead of just fine, and therefore we must, obviously, rate it low. :)
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