List iconKing John:
Act 3, scene 1
List icon

King John
Act 3, 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 Constance, Arthur, and Salisbury.

CONSTANCE, to Salisbury 
 Gone to be married? Gone to swear a peace?
 False blood to false blood joined? Gone to be friends?
 Shall Louis have Blanche and Blanche those
5 It is not so. Thou hast misspoke, misheard.
 Be well advised; tell o’er thy tale again.
 It cannot be; thou dost but say ’tis so.
 I trust I may not trust thee, for thy word
 Is but the vain breath of a common man.
10 Believe me, I do not believe thee, man.
 I have a king’s oath to the contrary.
 Thou shalt be punished for thus flighting me,
 For I am sick and capable of fears,
 Oppressed with wrongs and therefore full of fears,
15 A widow, husbandless, subject to fears,
 A woman naturally born to fears.
 And though thou now confess thou didst but jest,
 With my vexed spirits I cannot take a truce,
 But they will quake and tremble all this day.
20 What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?
 Why dost thou look so sadly on my son?
 What means that hand upon that breast of thine?

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

 Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,
 Like a proud river peering o’er his bounds?
25 Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
 Then speak again—not all thy former tale,
 But this one word, whether thy tale be true.
 As true as I believe you think them false
 That give you cause to prove my saying true.
30 O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow,
 Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die,
 And let belief and life encounter so
 As doth the fury of two desperate men
 Which in the very meeting fall and die.
35 Louis marry Blanche?—O, boy, then where art
 France friend with England? What becomes of me?
 Fellow, be gone. I cannot brook thy sight.
 This news hath made thee a most ugly man.
40 What other harm have I, good lady, done
 But spoke the harm that is by others done?
 Which harm within itself so heinous is
 As it makes harmful all that speak of it.
 I do beseech you, madam, be content.
45 If thou that bidd’st me be content wert grim,
 Ugly, and sland’rous to thy mother’s womb,
 Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,
 Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
 Patched with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
50 I would not care; I then would be content,
 For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

 Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown.
 But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy,
 Nature and Fortune joined to make thee great.
55 Of Nature’s gifts thou mayst with lilies boast,
 And with the half-blown rose. But Fortune, O,
 She is corrupted, changed, and won from thee;
 Sh’ adulterates hourly with thine Uncle John,
 And with her golden hand hath plucked on France
60 To tread down fair respect of sovereignty,
 And made his majesty the bawd to theirs.
 France is a bawd to Fortune and King John,
 That strumpet Fortune, that usurping John.—
 Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn?
65 Envenom him with words, or get thee gone
 And leave those woes alone which I alone
 Am bound to underbear.
SALISBURY  Pardon me, madam,
 I may not go without you to the Kings.
70 Thou mayst, thou shalt, I will not go with thee.
 I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,
 For grief is proud and makes his owner stoop.
She sits down.
 To me and to the state of my great grief
 Let kings assemble, for my grief ’s so great
75 That no supporter but the huge firm Earth
 Can hold it up. Here I and sorrows sit.
 Here is my throne; bid kings come bow to it.

Enter King John, hand in hand with King Philip of
France, Louis the Dauphin, Blanche, Queen Eleanor,
Bastard, Austria, and Attendants.

KING PHILIP, to Blanche 
 ’Tis true, fair daughter, and this blessèd day
 Ever in France shall be kept festival.

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

80 To solemnize this day the glorious sun
 Stays in his course and plays the alchemist,
 Turning with splendor of his precious eye
 The meager cloddy earth to glittering gold.
 The yearly course that brings this day about
85 Shall never see it but a holy day.
CONSTANCE, rising 
 A wicked day, and not a holy day!
 What hath this day deserved? What hath it done
 That it in golden letters should be set
 Among the high tides in the calendar?
90 Nay, rather turn this day out of the week,
 This day of shame, oppression, perjury.
 Or if it must stand still, let wives with child
 Pray that their burdens may not fall this day,
 Lest that their hopes prodigiously be crossed.
95 But on this day let seamen fear no wrack;
 No bargains break that are not this day made;
 This day, all things begun come to ill end,
 Yea, faith itself to hollow falsehood change!
 By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause
100 To curse the fair proceedings of this day.
 Have I not pawned to you my majesty?
 You have beguiled me with a counterfeit
 Resembling majesty, which, being touched and tried,
 Proves valueless. You are forsworn, forsworn.
105 You came in arms to spill mine enemies’ blood,
 But now in arms you strengthen it with yours.
 The grappling vigor and rough frown of war
 Is cold in amity and painted peace,
 And our oppression hath made up this league.
110 Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perjured

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

 A widow cries; be husband to me, God!
 Let not the hours of this ungodly day
 Wear out the days in peace, but ere sunset
115 Set armèd discord ’twixt these perjured kings.
 Hear me, O, hear me!
AUSTRIA  Lady Constance, peace.
 War, war, no peace! Peace is to me a war.
 O Limoges, O Austria, thou dost shame
120 That bloody spoil. Thou slave, thou wretch, thou
 Thou little valiant, great in villainy,
 Thou ever strong upon the stronger side,
 Thou Fortune’s champion, that dost never fight
125 But when her humorous Ladyship is by
 To teach thee safety. Thou art perjured too,
 And sooth’st up greatness. What a fool art thou,
 A ramping fool, to brag and stamp and swear
 Upon my party. Thou cold-blooded slave,
130 Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side?
 Been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend
 Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength?
 And dost thou now fall over to my foes?
 Thou wear a lion’s hide! Doff it for shame,
135 And hang a calfskin on those recreant limbs.
 O, that a man should speak those words to me!
 “And hang a calfskin on those recreant limbs.”
 Thou dar’st not say so, villain, for thy life!
 “And hang a calfskin on those recreant limbs.”
140 We like not this. Thou dost forget thyself.

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

Enter Pandulph.

 Here comes the holy legate of the Pope.
 Hail, you anointed deputies of heaven!
 To thee, King John, my holy errand is.
 I, Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal
145 And from Pope Innocent the legate here,
 Do in his name religiously demand
 Why thou against the Church, our holy mother,
 So willfully dost spurn, and force perforce
 Keep Stephen Langton, chosen Archbishop
150 Of Canterbury, from that Holy See.
 This, in our foresaid Holy Father’s name,
 Pope Innocent, I do demand of thee.
 What earthy name to interrogatories
 Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
155 Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name
 So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous
 To charge me to an answer, as the Pope.
 Tell him this tale, and from the mouth of England
 Add thus much more, that no Italian priest
160 Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
 But as we under God are supreme head,
 So, under Him, that great supremacy
 Where we do reign we will alone uphold
 Without th’ assistance of a mortal hand.
165 So tell the Pope, all reverence set apart
 To him and his usurped authority.
 Brother of England, you blaspheme in this.
 Though you and all the kings of Christendom
 Are led so grossly by this meddling priest,

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

170 Dreading the curse that money may buy out,
 And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,
 Purchase corrupted pardon of a man
 Who in that sale sells pardon from himself,
 Though you and all the rest, so grossly led,
175 This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish,
 Yet I alone, alone do me oppose
 Against the Pope, and count his friends my foes.
 Then, by the lawful power that I have,
 Thou shalt stand cursed and excommunicate;
180 And blessèd shall he be that doth revolt
 From his allegiance to an heretic;
 And meritorious shall that hand be called,
 Canonizèd and worshiped as a saint,
 That takes away by any secret course
185 Thy hateful life.
CONSTANCE  O, lawful let it be
 That I have room with Rome to curse awhile!
 Good father cardinal, cry thou “Amen”
 To my keen curses, for without my wrong
190 There is no tongue hath power to curse him right.
 There’s law and warrant, lady, for my curse.
 And for mine, too. When law can do no right,
 Let it be lawful that law bar no wrong.
 Law cannot give my child his kingdom here,
195 For he that holds his kingdom holds the law.
 Therefore, since law itself is perfect wrong,
 How can the law forbid my tongue to curse?
 Philip of France, on peril of a curse,
 Let go the hand of that arch-heretic,
200 And raise the power of France upon his head
 Unless he do submit himself to Rome.

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

 Look’st thou pale, France? Do not let go thy hand.
 Look to that, devil, lest that France repent
 And by disjoining hands, hell lose a soul.
205 King Philip, listen to the Cardinal.
 And hang a calfskin on his recreant limbs.
 Well, ruffian, I must pocket up these wrongs,
BASTARD  Your breeches best may carry them.
210 Philip, what sayst thou to the Cardinal?
 What should he say, but as the Cardinal?
 Bethink you, father, for the difference
 Is purchase of a heavy curse from Rome,
 Or the light loss of England for a friend.
215 Forgo the easier.
BLANCHE  That’s the curse of Rome.
 O Louis, stand fast! The devil tempts thee here
 In likeness of a new untrimmèd bride.
 The Lady Constance speaks not from her faith,
220 But from her need.
CONSTANCE, to King Philip 
 O, if thou grant my need,
 Which only lives but by the death of faith,
 That need must needs infer this principle:
 That faith would live again by death of need.
225 O, then tread down my need, and faith mounts up;
 Keep my need up, and faith is trodden down.

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

 The King is moved, and answers not to this.
CONSTANCE, to King Philip 
 O, be removed from him, and answer well!
 Do so, King Philip. Hang no more in doubt.
230 Hang nothing but a calfskin, most sweet lout.
 I am perplexed and know not what to say.
 What canst thou say but will perplex thee more,
 If thou stand excommunicate and cursed?
 Good reverend father, make my person yours,
235 And tell me how you would bestow yourself.
 This royal hand and mine are newly knit,
 And the conjunction of our inward souls
 Married, in league, coupled, and linked together
 With all religious strength of sacred vows.
240 The latest breath that gave the sound of words
 Was deep-sworn faith, peace, amity, true love
 Between our kingdoms and our royal selves;
 And even before this truce, but new before,
 No longer than we well could wash our hands
245 To clap this royal bargain up of peace,
 God knows they were besmeared and overstained
 With slaughter’s pencil, where revenge did paint
 The fearful difference of incensèd kings.
 And shall these hands, so lately purged of blood,
250 So newly joined in love, so strong in both,
 Unyoke this seizure and this kind regreet?
 Play fast and loose with faith? So jest with heaven?
 Make such unconstant children of ourselves
 As now again to snatch our palm from palm,

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

255 Unswear faith sworn, and on the marriage bed
 Of smiling peace to march a bloody host
 And make a riot on the gentle brow
 Of true sincerity? O holy sir,
 My reverend father, let it not be so!
260 Out of your grace, devise, ordain, impose
 Some gentle order, and then we shall be blest
 To do your pleasure and continue friends.
 All form is formless, order orderless,
 Save what is opposite to England’s love.
265 Therefore to arms! Be champion of our Church,
 Or let the Church, our mother, breathe her curse,
 A mother’s curse, on her revolting son.
 France, thou mayst hold a serpent by the tongue,
 A chafèd lion by the mortal paw,
270 A fasting tiger safer by the tooth,
 Than keep in peace that hand which thou dost hold.
 I may disjoin my hand, but not my faith.
 So mak’st thou faith an enemy to faith,
 And like a civil war sett’st oath to oath,
275 Thy tongue against thy tongue. O, let thy vow
 First made to God, first be to God performed,
 That is, to be the champion of our Church!
 What since thou swor’st is sworn against thyself
 And may not be performèd by thyself,
280 For that which thou hast sworn to do amiss
 Is not amiss when it is truly done;
 And being not done where doing tends to ill,
 The truth is then most done not doing it.
 The better act of purposes mistook
285 Is to mistake again; though indirect,
 Yet indirection thereby grows direct,

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

 And falsehood falsehood cures, as fire cools fire
 Within the scorchèd veins of one new-burned.
 It is religion that doth make vows kept,
290 But thou hast sworn against religion
 By what thou swear’st against the thing thou
 And mak’st an oath the surety for thy truth
 Against an oath. The truth thou art unsure
295 To swear swears only not to be forsworn,
 Else what a mockery should it be to swear?
 But thou dost swear only to be forsworn,
 And most forsworn to keep what thou dost swear.
 Therefore thy later vows against thy first
300 Is in thyself rebellion to thyself.
 And better conquest never canst thou make
 Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts
 Against these giddy loose suggestions,
 Upon which better part our prayers come in,
305 If thou vouchsafe them. But if not, then know
 The peril of our curses light on thee
 So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,
 But in despair die under their black weight.
 Rebellion, flat rebellion!
BASTARD 310 Will ’t not be?
 Will not a calfskin stop that mouth of thine?
 Father, to arms!
BLANCHE  Upon thy wedding day?
 Against the blood that thou hast marrièd?
315 What, shall our feast be kept with slaughtered men?
 Shall braying trumpets and loud churlish drums,
 Clamors of hell, be measures to our pomp?
She kneels.
 O husband, hear me! Ay, alack, how new
 Is “husband” in my mouth! Even for that name,

King John
ACT 3. SC. 1

320 Which till this time my tongue did ne’er pronounce,
 Upon my knee I beg, go not to arms
 Against mine uncle.
CONSTANCE, kneeling 
 O, upon my knee
 Made hard with kneeling, I do pray to thee,
325 Thou virtuous Dauphin, alter not the doom
 Forethought by heaven!
BLANCHE, to Dauphin 
 Now shall I see thy love. What motive may
 Be stronger with thee than the name of wife?
 That which upholdeth him that thee upholds,
330 His honor.—O, thine honor, Louis, thine honor!
DAUPHIN, to King Philip 
 I muse your Majesty doth seem so cold,
 When such profound respects do pull you on.
 I will denounce a curse upon his head.
KING PHILIP, dropping King John’s hand 
 Thou shalt not need.—England, I will fall from
335 thee.
CONSTANCE, rising 
 O, fair return of banished majesty!
 O, foul revolt of French inconstancy!
 France, thou shalt rue this hour within this hour.
 Old Time the clock-setter, that bald sexton Time,
340 Is it as he will? Well, then, France shall rue.
BLANCHE, rising 
 The sun’s o’ercast with blood. Fair day, adieu.
 Which is the side that I must go withal?
 I am with both, each army hath a hand,

King John
ACT 3. SC. 2

 And in their rage, I having hold of both,
345 They whirl asunder and dismember me.
 Husband, I cannot pray that thou mayst win.—
 Uncle, I needs must pray that thou mayst lose.—
 Father, I may not wish the fortune thine.—
 Grandam, I will not wish thy wishes thrive.
350 Whoever wins, on that side shall I lose.
 Assurèd loss before the match be played.
 Lady, with me, with me thy fortune lies.
 There where my fortune lives, there my life dies.
KING JOHN, to Bastard 
 Cousin, go draw our puissance together.
Bastard exits.
355 France, I am burned up with inflaming wrath,
 A rage whose heat hath this condition,
 That nothing can allay, nothing but blood—
 The blood, and dearest-valued blood, of France.
 Thy rage shall burn thee up, and thou shalt turn
360 To ashes ere our blood shall quench that fire.
 Look to thyself. Thou art in jeopardy.
 No more than he that threats.—To arms let’s hie!
They exit.