Saturday, September 04, 2010

Reader's Diary #646- William Shakespeare: King John

Not one of Shakespeare's better known or often performed plays, I didn't really know what to expect with King John. I've not been a huge fan of his history plays and at this point of my slow progress through The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, I've come to dread them. I throw one in every now and then simply so I won't be stuck with all those King plays at the end.

While I didn't hate King John and it wasn't too difficult to follow, it probably won't change my mind on the King plays.

While some characters stand out more than others (King John, Constance, Pandolph), no one is as compelling as say an Iago, Lady Macbeth, or even Queen Margaret). I'm not sure why this is, but I suspected it had something to do with the balance of lines. So I went searching for the stats of line numbers and found this wonderful site which breaks down all of his plays by number for all your comparison needs. Unfortunately, it didn't really help support or refute my theory. By line number, Constance and Pandolph did not have huge parts. On the other hand, King John did have the most (followed by Philip the Bastard and Hubert). I guess it's not the number of lines, but what you do with them, and no character in King John inspires any feeling stronger than mild distaste or slight respect.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the fatalistic message coursing through the veins of the play. There are quite a few twists and turns, but they always seem to end up where they started or at least no better off. Fatalism scares me. Someone mentions it and I want to run through a patio door, just because that can't possibly be part of my fate. Or can it?

Constance aligns with King Philip of France to get Arthur into, according to her, Arthur's rightful position as King of England instead of King John. France and England are about to war when the Bastard convinces them to marry King John's niece to King Philip's son and avoid war. However, Pandolph then convinces France to war with England anyway, for religious reasons, and we're back to square one.

Obviously some characters seem to have some sway on the surface, but after a few more such turns and returns, you sense that everything was inevitable.

There were also a few quotes in here that I quite liked. My favourite? "Life is as tedious as a twice told tale." Makes me want to break out the black mascara.

1 comment:

Carrie K said...

I'm sure you'd look fetching in the black mascara. :)

I'd say I like the King plays, but the only ones I read with any regularity are Richard III and MacBeth, and I'm not sure if either of those count.