List iconKing John:
Act 1, scene 1
List icon

King John
Act 1, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

The events in King John take place in the thirteenth century, well before Shakespeare’s other English history plays. After the death of…

Act 1, scene 1

John, King of England, is told by a messenger from the King of France that the territories held by John…

Act 2, scene 1

King Philip of France and the Duke of Austria, on behalf of Arthur, begin to lay siege to the city…

Act 3, scene 1

The league between John and Philip is attacked first by Constance, who accuses Philip of treacherously betraying Arthur’s cause, and…

Act 3, scene 2

The Bastard, having killed the Duke of Austria, reports that he has rescued Queen Eleanor. Arthur, captured by John, is…

Act 3, scene 3

John prepares to leave for England with his forces. He tells Hubert that Arthur must die. Hubert promises to kill…

Act 3, scene 4

John’s victories and his capture of Arthur lead the French to despair and Constance to wild grief. Pandulph, predicting Arthur’s…

Act 4, scene 1

Hubert prepares to put out Arthur’s eyes with hot irons. Arthur begs him to show mercy. Hubert plans to tell…

Act 4, scene 2

The nobles express their disapproval of John’s second coronation and urge that he set Arthur free. When Hubert brings word…

Act 4, scene 3

Arthur dies as he attempts to leap from the prison wall. The Bastard reaches the nobles, on their way to…

Act 5, scene 1

King John submits his royal power to the Pope in exchange for Pandulph’s intercession against the French forces. The Bastard…

Act 5, scene 2

The rebellious English nobles swear to support the Dauphin in his attack on England. Pandulph tells the Dauphin to take…

Act 5, scene 3

King John, sick with a fever, is instructed by the Bastard to leave the battle. John receives the good news…

Act 5, scene 4

While the English army continues to fight successfully under the Bastard, the rebel English nobles learn from the wounded French…

Act 5, scene 5

The Dauphin rejoices that his forces have almost defeated the English. He then learns that Count Melun has died, that…

Act 5, scene 6

Hubert brings news to the Bastard that King John has been poisoned by a monk, and that, at the urging…

Act 5, scene 7

As King John lies dying, surrounded by his newly loyal nobles and his son, Prince Henry, the Bastard brings him…

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Scene 1
Enter King John, Queen Eleanor, Pembroke, Essex, and
Salisbury, with the Chatillion of France.

 Now say, Chatillion, 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.
5 A strange beginning: “borrowed majesty”!
 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
10 To 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,
15 Thy nephew and right royal sovereign.
 What follows if we disallow of this?

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

 The proud control of fierce and bloody war,
 To enforce these rights so forcibly withheld.
 Here have we war for war and blood for blood,
20 Controlment for controlment: so answer France.
 Then take my king’s defiance from my mouth,
 The farthest limit of my embassy.
 Bear mine to him, and so depart in peace.
 Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France,
25 For 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.
30 Pembroke, look to ’t.—Farewell, Chatillion.
Chatillion and Pembroke exit.
QUEEN ELEANOR, aside to King John 
 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
 Upon the right and party of her son?
35 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.
KING JOHN, aside to Queen Eleanor 
 Our strong possession and our right for us.
QUEEN ELEANOR, aside to King John 
40 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 God and you and I shall hear.

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

Enter a Sheriff, who speaks aside to Essex.

 My liege, here is the strangest controversy
45 Come from the country to be judged by you
 That e’er I heard. Shall I produce the men?
KING JOHN Let them approach.Sheriff exits.
 Our abbeys and our priories shall pay
 This expedition’s charge.

Enter Robert Faulconbridge and Philip Faulconbridge.

50 What men are you?
 Your faithful subject I, a gentleman,
 Born in Northamptonshire, and eldest son,
 As I suppose, to Robert Faulconbridge,
 A soldier, by the honor-giving hand
55 Of Coeur de Lion knighted in the field.
KING JOHN, to Robert Faulconbridge What art thou?
 The son and heir to that same Faulconbridge.
 Is that the elder, and art thou the heir?
 You came not of one mother then, it seems.
60 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
 I put you o’er to heaven and to my mother.
 Of that I doubt, as all men’s children may.
65 Out on thee, rude man! Thou dost shame thy
 And wound her honor with this diffidence.
 I, madam? No, I have no reason for it.
 That is my brother’s plea, and none of mine,

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

70 The which if he can prove, he pops me out
 At least from fair five hundred pound a year.
 Heaven guard my mother’s honor and my land!
 A good blunt fellow.—Why, being younger born,
 Doth he lay claim to thine inheritance?
75 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.
 But that I am as well begot, my liege—
80 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,
 O, old Sir Robert, father, on my knee
85 I give heaven thanks I was not like to thee!
 Why, what a madcap hath heaven lent us here!
QUEEN ELEANOR, aside to King John 
 He hath a trick of Coeur de Lion’s face;
 The accent of his tongue affecteth him.
 Do you not read some tokens of my son
90 In the large composition of this man?
KING JOHN, aside to Queen Eleanor 
 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?
95 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!
 My gracious liege, when that my father lived,
 Your brother did employ my father much—

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

100 Well, sir, by this you cannot get my land.
 Your tale must be how he employed my mother.
 And once dispatched him in an embassy
 To Germany, there with the Emperor
 To treat of high affairs touching that time.
105 Th’ 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,
110 As I have heard my father speak himself,
 When this same lusty gentleman was got.
 Upon his deathbed he by will bequeathed
 His lands to me, and took it on his death
 That this my mother’s son was none of his;
115 An 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.
 Sirrah, your brother is legitimate.
120 Your father’s wife did after wedlock bear him,
 An 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,
125 Had 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,
130 Being none of his, refuse him. This concludes:
 My mother’s son did get your father’s heir;
 Your father’s heir must have your father’s land.

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Shall then my father’s will be of no force
 To dispossess that child which is not his?
135 Of no more force to dispossess me, sir,
 Than was his will to get me, as I think.
 Whether hadst thou rather: be a Faulconbridge
 And, like thy brother, to enjoy thy land,
 Or the reputed son of Coeur de Lion,
140 Lord of thy presence, and no land besides?
 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
145 That in mine ear I durst not stick a rose,
 Lest men should say “Look where three-farthings
 And, to his shape, were heir to all this land,
 Would I might never stir from off this place,
150 I would give it every foot to have this face.
 I would not be Sir Nob in any case.
 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.
155 Brother, take you my land. I’ll take my chance.
 Your 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.
 Nay, I would have you go before me thither.
160 Our country manners give our betters way.

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

KING JOHN What is thy name?
 Philip, my liege, so is my name begun,
 Philip, good old Sir Robert’s wife’s eldest son.
 From henceforth bear his name whose form thou
165 bearest.
 Kneel thou down Philip, but rise more great.
Philip kneels. King John dubs him a knight,
tapping him on the shoulder with his sword.

 Arise Sir Richard and Plantagenet.
BASTARD, rising, to Robert Faulconbridge 
 Brother by th’ mother’s side, give me your hand.
 My father gave me honor, yours gave land.
170 Now blessèd be the hour, by night or day,
 When I was got, Sir Robert was away!
 The very spirit of Plantagenet!
 I am thy grandam, Richard. Call me so.
 Madam, by chance but not by truth. What though?
175 Something about, a little from the right,
  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,
180 And I am I, howe’er I was begot.
KING JOHN, to Robert Faulconbridge 
 Go, Faulconbridge, now hast thou thy desire.
 A landless knight makes thee a landed squire.—
 Come, madam,—and come, Richard. We must
185 For France, for France, for it is more than need.
 Brother, adieu, good fortune come to thee,

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

 For thou wast got i’ th’ way of honesty.
All but Bastard exit.
 A foot of honor better than I was,
 But many a many foot of land the worse.
190 Well, now can I make any Joan a lady.
 “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
195 For your conversion. Now your traveler,
 He 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,”
200 Thus leaning on mine elbow I begin,
 “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.”
205 “No, sir,” says Question, “I, sweet sir, at yours.”
 And 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,
210 It draws toward supper in conclusion so.
 But 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,
215 And so am I whether I smack or no;
 And not alone in habit and device,
 Exterior form, outward accouterment,
 But from the inward motion to deliver
 Sweet, sweet, sweet poison for the age’s tooth,
220 Which though I will not practice to deceive,

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Yet 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
225 That will take pains to blow a horn before her?
 O me, ’tis my mother.—How now, good lady?
 What brings you here to court so hastily?
 Where is that slave thy brother? Where is he
 That holds in chase mine honor up and down?
230 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?
 “Sir Robert’s son”? Ay, thou unreverent boy,
 Sir Robert’s son. Why scorn’st thou at Sir Robert?
235 He is Sir Robert’s son, and so art thou.
 James Gurney, wilt thou give us leave awhile?
 Good leave, good Philip.
BASTARD  “Philip Sparrow,” James.
 There’s toys abroad. Anon I’ll tell thee more.
James Gurney exits.
240 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—
 Could he get me. Sir Robert could not do it;
245 We know his handiwork. Therefore, good mother,
 To whom am I beholding for these limbs?
 Sir Robert never holp to make this leg.

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

 Hast thou conspirèd with thy brother too,
 That for thine own gain shouldst defend mine
250 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.
255 I 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?
 Hast thou denied thyself a Faulconbridge?
260 As faithfully as I deny the devil.
 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!
265 Thou art the issue of my dear offense,
 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,
270 And 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,
275 Nor keep his princely heart from Richard’s hand.
 He that perforce robs lions of their hearts

King John
ACT 1. SC. 1

 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
280 When 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.
They exit.