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THE COMPLETE WORKS OF
WITH COPIOUS NOTES AND COMMENTS
TAMING OF THE SHREW
King John was first printed in the First Folio, where it occupies the first place in the division of "Histories.” The ten plays belonging to this series form as it were a great national Epic on the crises in English History from the reign of Richard II to that of Richard III, with King John and Henry VIII respectively as the Prologue and Epilogue of the whole. The Editors of the Folio were guided absolutely by chronological sequence in their arrangement of these plays: hence the place of King John.
SOURCE OF THE PLAY
Shakespeare's King John is a recast of an older play entitled Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England, printed for the first time in 1591, and again in 1611 and 1622. It is significant that the title-page of the 1611 edition states that the play was written by W. Sh.;" in the later edition boldly expanded to "W. Shakespeare. The Troublesome Raigne may safely be assigned to about the year 1589, with its pseudo-Marlowan lyrical note and classical frippery so common in the plays of the period, e.g.:
“The whistling leaves upon the trembling trees,
Records Philippus Regius filius: 1 Cp. Shakespeare Quarto Facsimiles, ed. by Dr. F. J. Furnivall, Vols. 40, 41 (Hazlitt's Shakespeare Library; Nichols' Six Old Plays, etc.).
Birds in their flight make music with their wings,
The old “two-sectioned" play may be described as the work of an imitator of Marlowe clinging to pre-Marlowan versification and diction and clownage.
It has many of the faults of the older Chronicle plays, as opposed to the Historical Dramas; chiefly noteworthy are :-(i) there is no hero; (ii) no one in whom one can take interest, except perhaps Faulconbridge; (iii) its Anti-Romish spirit which is at times harsh in the extreme; (iv) the doggerel character of much of its dialogue. On the other hand, the old playwright's treatment of his materials shows considerable merit, and to him belongs the invention of Faulconbridge 2 and his mother, his avoidance of Constance's re-marriages, important modifications in Holinshed's characters of Arthur, of Limoges, etc.; while the comic scene where the Bastard finds the nun locked up in the Prior's chest “to hide her from lay men,” and then discovers “Friar Lawrence” locked up in the ancient nun's chest, must, as Dr. Furnivall puts it, have been very telling on the Elizabethan stage ; "you can fancy the audience's chuckles over it.” Finally, it must be mentioned that the patriotic tone of Shakespeare's play re-echoes the sentiment of his original: especially striking
1“The Troublesome Raigne” must be carefully distinguished from Bale’s “Kynge Johan” (about 1548, printed by the Camden Society, ed. by J. P. Collier), which holds an interesting place in the history of Bale's attempt to build a Protestant drama on the ruins of the Catholic Mystery (cp. Herford's Literary Relations of England and Germany in the xvi. cent., ch. iii.). Shakespeare had certainly never seen this play.
2 Mr. Watkiss Lloyd suggested that some of Faulconbridge's characteristics were got from that raptarius nequissimus and bastard, Falco de Brenta,-or Foukes de Brent, as Holinshed calls him, who though he was one of the Barons who wrested Magna Charta from King John, yet gave him great help in his fight with his Barons, and backed his son against Lewes.