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King John

Author: Shakespeare

Director: Josie Rourke

Royal Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works Festival


Richard Coeur de Lion is dead. John, his younger brother, has become king, supported by their mother Queen Eleanor.

But there is a rival claim to the throne from Arthur, the son of John's dead brother Geoffrey. Chatillon, the French ambassador, tells John that King Philip of France supports the claim of Arthur. John declares war on France.

Philip the Bastard, supposed eldest son of Lord Falconbridge, arrives at court to settle a claim to his inheritance and is revealed to be the illegitimate son of King Richard. Created Sir Richard Plantagenet, he vows to follow King John to the wars in France.

The English forces meet those supporting Arthur outside the French town of Angiers. While the mothers of the rival claimants subject each other to a torrent of abuse, the citizens of Angiers declare that, as subjects of England, they will recognise only England's rightful king. The English and French armies are about to unite to destroy the town. Peace of a sort is concluded when the citizens suggest that the Dauphin should marry King John's niece Blanche. Delighted with this solution, John offers to create Arthur Earl of Richmond.

Furious at this bargain, Arthur's mother Constance berates John and his ally, the Duke of Austria. Her rage is interrupted by the arrival of the Papal Legate, Pandulph, come to excommunicate John for his refusal to recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed by the Pope. John remains defiant in his repudiation of Papal authority and is excommunicated. Threatened with the same fate, King Philip reneges on his treaty with John. A battle follows, in which the English are victorious and young Arthur is captured. John despatches him to England and secretly charges Hubert to kill the boy. Constance is overwhelmed by grief. more...

Joseph Millson Role

Bastard - Phillip Faulconbridge


July '06 - Oct '06: Swan Theatre, Stratford

November '06: Northern Stage, Newcastle


RSC Press Release

RSC info