King John

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter King John, Pembroke, Salisbury, and other



Here once again we sit, once again crowned,

And looked upon, I hope, with cheerful eyes.


This ‘ once again,’ but that your highness pleased,

Was once superfluous. You were crowned before,

And that high royalty was ne'er plucked off,
royalty (n.) 3 emblem of royalty, symbol of sovereignty

The faiths of men ne'er stained with revolt;
stain (v.) 1 corrupt, spoil, taint

Fresh expectation troubled not the land

With any longed-for change or better state.
state (n.) 10 government, ruling body, administration


Therefore, to be possessed with double pomp,
pomp (n.) 1 pageant, ceremony, procession

To guard a title that was rich before,
guard (v.) 3 adorn, ornament, deck out

To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,

To throw a perfume on the violet,

To smooth the ice, or add another hue

Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
taper-light (n.) candle-light

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,

Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.


But that your royal pleasure must be done,

This act is as an ancient tale new told,

And in the last repeating troublesome,
troublesome (adj.) 1 annoying, irritating, vexatious

Being urged at a time unseasonable.
unseasonable (adj.) 1 unsuitable, inappropriate, unwelcome


In this the antique and well noted face
antic, antick(e), antique (adj.) 2 ancient, olden, former
noted (adj.) 1 recognizable, well-known, familiar

Of plain old form is much disfigured;
form (n.) 5 way of behaving, behaviour, code of conduct

And, like a shifted wind unto a sail,

It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about,
fetch about (v.) change tack, move in a roundabout way

Startles and frights consideration,
consideration (n.) 1 moody contemplation, deep reflection
fright (v.), past form frighted frighten, scare, terrify See Topics: Frequency count

Makes sound opinion sick and truth suspected,
sound (adj.) 1 healthy, robust, uninfected

For putting on so new a fashioned robe.


When workmen strive to do better than well,

They do confound their skill in covetousness;
confound (v.) 2 mar, corrupt, spoil

And oftentimes excusing of a fault
fault (n.) 2 mistake, error, blunder
oftentimes (adv.) often, frequently, on many occasions

Doth make the fault the worse by th' excuse,

As patches set upon a little breach
breach (n.) 3 tear, gap, hole

Discredit more in hiding of the fault

Than did the fault before it was so patched.


To this effect, before you were new crowned,

We breathed our counsel. But it pleased your highness
breathe (v.) 1 speak, utter, talk

To overbear it, and we are all well pleased,
overbear (v.) 2 overrule, overcome, put down

Since all and every part of what we would

Doth make a stand at what your highness will.
will (v.), past form would 1 desire, wish, want


Some reasons of this double coronation

I have possessed you with, and think them strong;

And more, more strong, when lesser is my fear,

I shall indue you with. Meantime but ask
indue, endue (v.) 1 endow, furnish, provide

What you would have reformed that is not well,

And well shall you perceive how willingly

I will both hear and grant you your requests.


Then I, as one that am the tongue of these
tongue (n.) 3 spokesman, voice

To sound the purposes of all their hearts,
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

Both for myself and them – but, chief of all,

Your safety, for the which myself and them

Bend their best studies – heartily request
bend (v.) 1 aim, direct, level, turn
study (n.) 2 effort, endeavour

Th' enfranchisement of Arthur, whose restraint
enfranchisement (n.) freedom, liberation, release
restraint (n.) 1 captivity, imprisonment, confinement

Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent

To break into this dangerous argument:
argument (n.) 5 quarrel, dispute, point of contention

If what in rest you have in right you hold,
rest (n.) 1 [period of] peace, calm, repose

Why then your fears, which, as they say, attend
attend (v.) 4 accompany, follow closely, go with

The steps of wrong, should move you to mew up
mew up (v.) coop up, confine, shut up

Your tender kinsman, and to choke his days

With barbarous ignorance, and deny his youth

The rich advantage of good exercise.
exercise (n.) 2 manly sport, martial practice

That the time's enemies may not have this
time (n.) 7 circumstance, particular occasion

To grace occasions, let it be our suit,
grace (v.) 3 give credit to, lend plausibility to

That you have bid us ask, his liberty;
suit (n.) 1 formal request, entreaty, petition See Topics: Frequency count

Which for our goods we do no further ask

Than whereupon our weal, on you depending,
weal 2 welfare, well-being, prosperity

Counts it your weal he have his liberty.

Enter Hubert


Let it be so. I do commit his youth

To your direction. Hubert, what news with you?

He takes Hubert aside


This is the man should do the bloody deed;

He showed his warrant to a friend of mine.

The image of a wicked heinous fault

Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his
aspect (n.) 1 [of a human face] look, appearance, expression
close (adj.) 5 secretive, tight-lipped, uncommunicative

Does show the mood of a much troubled breast,

And I do fearfully believe 'tis done,

What we so feared he had a charge to do.
charge (n.) 1 command, order, injunction, instruction


The colour of the King doth come and go

Between his purpose and his conscience,
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

Like heralds 'twixt two dreadful battles set.
battle (n.) 1 army, fighting force, battalion

His passion is so ripe it needs must break.
passion (n.) 2 emotional state, mental condition


And when it breaks, I fear will issue thence

The foul corruption of a sweet child's death.


(coming forward)

We cannot hold mortality's strong hand.

Good lords, although my will to give is living,

The suit which you demand is gone and dead.
suit (n.) 1 formal request, entreaty, petition See Topics: Frequency count

He tells us Arthur is deceased tonight.
tonight (adv.) last night, this past night


Indeed we feared his sickness was past cure.


Indeed we heard how near his death he was,

Before the child himself felt he was sick.

This must be answered – either here or hence.
answer (v.) 14 account for, justify, defend


Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?
bend (v.) 4 [of brows] knit, wrinkle, frown
brow (n.) 3 eyebrow

Think you I bear the shears of destiny?

Have I commandment on the pulse of life?
commandment, commandement (n.) 2 control, authority, sovereignty [over]


It is apparent foul play; and 'tis shame
apparent (adj.) 1 plainly visible, conspicuous, evident, obvious

That greatness should so grossly offer it.
grossly (adv.) 1 openly, blatantly, brazenly
offer (v.) 2 dare, presume, venture

So thrive it in your game! And so, farewell.


Stay yet, Lord Salisbury. I'll go with thee,

And find th' inheritance of this poor child,

His little kingdom of a forced grave.

That blood which owed the breadth of all this isle,
blood (n.) 9 life-blood, spirit
owe (v.) 1 own, possess, have See Topics: Frequency count

Three foot of it doth hold – bad world the while!

This must not be thus borne; this will break out
break out (v.) rush out, come out

To all our sorrows, and ere long, I doubt.
doubt (v.) 1 fear, be afraid [for], feel anxious [for]

Exeunt Pembroke, Salisbury, and the other lords


They burn in indignation. I repent.

There is no sure foundation set on blood,

No certain life achieved by others' death.
certain (adj.) 4 secure, safe

Enter a Messenger
fearful (adj.) 1 timid, timorous, frightened, full of fear

A fearful eye thou hast. Where is that blood

That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks?

So foul a sky clears not without a storm;

Pour down thy weather – how goes all in France?
weather (n.) tempest, storm


From France to England; never such a power
power (n.) 1 armed force, troops, host, army See Topics: Frequency count

For any foreign preparation
preparation (n.) 2 expedition, military proceeding

Was levied in the body of a land.
body (n.) 5 length and breadth, extent

The copy of your speed is learned by them;
copy (n.) 1 example, model, pattern

For when you should be told they do prepare,

The tidings comes that they are all arrived.


O, where hath our intelligence been drunk?
intelligence (n.) 3 source of information, secret service

Where hath it slept? Where is my mother's care,
care (n.) 1 attentiveness, heedfulness, diligence

That such an army could be drawn in France
draw (v.) 1 bring together, draw in, gather

And she not hear of it?


                         My liege, her ear

Is stopped with dust. The first of April died

Your noble mother; and, as I hear, my lord,

The Lady Constance in a frenzy died
frenzy (n.) distraction, agitation, delirium

Three days before. But this from rumour's tongue

I idly heard; if true or false I know not.
false (adj.) 4 wrong, mistaken
idly (adv.) 2 without paying attention, casually


Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion!
occasion (n.) 4 course of events, state of affairs

O, make a league with me till I have pleased
please (v.) requite, satisfy, appease See Topics: Politeness

My discontented peers. What! Mother dead?

How wildly then walks my estate in France!
estate (n.) 1 state, situation, circumstances

Under whose conduct came those powers of France
conduct (n.) 1 leadership, command
power (n.) 1 armed force, troops, host, army See Topics: Frequency count

That thou for truth givest out are landed here?


Under the Dauphin.

Enter the Bastard and Peter of Pomfret
giddy (adj.) 3 bewildered, confused, nonplussed


                         Thou hast made me giddy

With these ill tidings. (to the Bastard) Now, what says the world

To your proceedings? Do not seek to stuff

My head with more ill news, for it is full.


But if you be afeard to hear the worst,
afeard (adj.) afraid, frightened, scared See Topics: Frequency count

Then let the worst unheard fall on your bead.


Bear with me, cousin, for I was amazed
amazed (adj.) dumbfounded, stunned, thunderstruck, overwhelmed

Under the tide; but now I breathe again

Aloft the flood, and can give audience
aloft (prep.) above, over
flood (n.) 1 sea, deep, waves, rushing water

To any tongue, speak it of what it will.


How I have sped among the clergymen,
speed (v.) 2 fare, manage, get on

The sums I have collected shall express.

But as I travelled hither through the land,

I find the people strangely fantasied,
fantasied (adj.) full of strange fancies

Possessed with rumours, full of idle dreams,

Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.

And here's a prophet that I brought with me

From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found

With many hundreds treading on his heels;

To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rhymes,
rude (adj.) 8 cacophonous, raucous, barbarous
sing (v.) 3 declaim in verse

That, ere the next Ascension Day at noon,

Your highness should deliver up your crown.


Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou so?


Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.
foreknow (v.) know in advance, have previous knowledge


Hubert, away with him! Imprison him;

And on that day at noon whereon he says

I shall yield up my crown, let him be hanged.

Deliver him to safety and return,
safety (n.) 2 safe keeping, custody

For I must use thee.

Exeunt Hubert with Peter of Pomfret
gentle (adj.) 1 well-born, honourable, noble See Topics: Frequency count

                         O my gentle cousin,

Hearest thou the news abroad, who are arrived?


The French, my lord – men's mouths are full of it.

Besides, I met Lord Bigot and Lord Salisbury,

With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire,

And others more, going to seek the grave

Of Arthur, whom they say is killed to-night
tonight (adv.) last night, this past night

On your suggestion.
gentle (adj.) 1 well-born, honourable, noble See Topics: Frequency count
suggestion (n.) temptation, instigation, prompting towards evil


                         Gentle kinsman, go,

And thrust thyself into their companies.

I have a way to win their loves again;

Bring them before me.


                         I will seek them out.


Nay, but make haste! The better foot before!

O, let me have no subject enemies,

When adverse foreigners affright my towns
adverse (adj.) 3 hostile, belligerent, antagonistic
affright (v.) frighten, terrify, scare

With dreadful pomp of stout invasion.
pomp (n.) 1 pageant, ceremony, procession
stout (adj.) 3 firm, bold, determined

Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels,

And fly like thought from them to me again.


The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.



Spoke like a sprightful noble gentleman!
sprightful, spriteful (adj.) spirited, animated, lively

(to the Messenger)

Go after him; for he perhaps shall need

Some messenger betwixt me and the peers;

And be thou he.


                         With all my heart, my liege.



My mother dead!

Enter Hubert


My lord, they say five moons were seen tonight –

Four fixed, and the fifth did whirl about

The other four in wondrous motion.
fift (adj) variant spelling of ‘fifth’
wondrous (adj.) unbelievable, bizarre, strange


Five moons?
beldam, beldame (n.) 2 old woman, crone


                         Old men and beldams in the streets

Do prophesy upon it dangerously.

Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths,

And when they talk of him they shake their heads

And whisper one another in the ear;

And he that speaks doth gripe the hearer's wrist,
gripe (v.) clutch, grasp, seize

Whilst he that hears makes fearful action,
action (n.) 8 movement, demeanour, gesture
fearful (adj.) 1 timid, timorous, frightened, full of fear

With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
brow (n.) 4 forehead [often plural, referring to the two prominences of the forehead]

I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,

The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,

With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;

Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,

Standing on slippers which his nimble haste

Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet,
contrary (adj.) 3 wrong, incorrect, erroneous

Told of a many thousand warlike French

That were embattailed and ranked in Kent.
embattailed (adj.) in battle positions, marshalled for fight
ranked (adj.) drawn up in battle order

Another lean unwashed artificer
artificer (n.) workman, artisan, craftsman

Cuts off his tale and talks of Arthur's death.
cut off (v.) 2 interrupt, break off


Why seekest thou to possess me with these fears?
possess (v.) 1 notify, inform, acquaint

Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
oft (adv.) often See Topics: Frequency count

Thy hand hath murdered him: I had a mighty cause
cause (n.) 1 reason, motive, ground

To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.


No had, my lord! Why, did you not provoke me?
provoke (v.) 4 incite, rouse, urge on


It is the curse of kings to be attended
attend (v.) 2 serve, follow, wait [on/upon]

By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
humour (n.) 2 fancy, whim, inclination, caprice

To break within the bloody house of life,
bloody (adj.) 5 blood-containing

And on the winking of authority
winking (n.) shutting the eyes

To understand a law, to know the meaning

Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
perchance (adv.) 1 perhaps, maybe See Topics: Frequency count

More upon humour than advised respect.
advised, avised (adj.) 1 calculated, premeditated, intentional
humour (n.) 2 fancy, whim, inclination, caprice
respect (n.) 2 attention, heed, deliberation


Here is your hand and seal for what I did.
hand (n.) 6 signature, written authorization


O, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth

Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal

Witness against us to damnation!

How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
ill (adj.) 2 evil, wicked, immoral
oft (adv.) often See Topics: Frequency count

Make deeds ill done! Hadst not thou been by,
ill (adv.) 1 badly, adversely, unfavourably See Topics: Frequency count

A fellow by the hand of nature marked,

Quoted, and signed to do a deed of shame,
quote (v.) 1 closely observe, note, examine
sign (v.) 1 mark distinctively, bear a signature

This murder had not come into my mind.

But taking note of thy abhorred aspect,
abhorred (adj.) horrifying, disgusting, abominable
aspect (n.) 1 [of a human face] look, appearance, expression

Finding thee fit for bloody villainy,

Apt, liable to be employed in danger,
apt (adj.) 1 fit, ready, prepared
liable (adj.) 3 fitting, apt, suitable

I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death;
break (v.) 2 broach a matter, speak
faintly (adv.) 2 timidly, half-heartedly, without conviction

And thou, to be endeared to a king,

Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.


My lord –


Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause

When I spake darkly what I purposed,
darkly (adv.) 3 obscurely, cryptically, enigmatically

Or turned an eye of doubt upon my face,

As bid me tell my tale in express words,
express (adj.) 1 explicit, specific, clear

Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me break off,

And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me.

But thou didst understand me by my signs

And didst in signs again parley with sin;
parle, parley (v.) 2 talk, discuss, enter into conversation

Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
stop (n.) 2 pause, hesitation, breaking off

And consequently thy rude hand to act
consequently (adv.) subsequently, later, then
rude (adj.) 1 violent, harsh, unkind

The deed which both our tongues held vile to name.

Out of my sight, and never see me more!

My nobles leave me; and my state is braved,
brave (v.) 1 challenge, defy, confront, provoke
state (n.) 10 government, ruling body, administration

Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers;

Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
fleshly (adj.) made of flesh, mortal

This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
confine (n.) 1 territory, region, domain

Hostility and civil tumult reigns

Between my conscience and my cousin's death.


Arm you against your other enemies;

I'll make a peace between your soul and you.

Young Arthur is alive. This hand of mine

Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand,
maiden (adj.) 1 unblemished, unstained, not put to use

Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.

Within this bosom never entered yet
bosom (n.) 1 heart, inner person

The dreadful motion of a murderous thought;
motion (n.) 2 emotion, inclination, desire, impulse

And you have slandered nature in my form,
form (n.) 8 physical appearance, outward appearance

Which, howsoever rude exteriorly,
exteriorly (adv.) on the outside, superficially
rude (adj.) 2 rough, wild, harsh-looking

Is yet the cover of a fairer mind

Than to be butcher of an innocent child.


Doth Arthur live? O, haste thee to the peers!

Throw this report on their incensed rage
incensed (adj.) inflamed, angered, enraged

And make them tame to their obedience.
tame (adj.) 1 submissive, resigned, habituated

Forgive the comment that my passion made
passion (n.) 5 passionate outburst, emotional passage

Upon thy feature; for my rage was blind,
feature (n.) physical appearance, bodily shape, looks

And foul imaginary eyes of blood

Presented thee more hideous than thou art.

O, answer not, but to my closet bring
closet (n.) 1 private chamber, study, own room

The angry lords with all expedient haste.
expedient (adj.) speedy, rapid, expeditious

I conjure thee but slowly – run more fast!
conjure (v.) 1 ask solemnly, entreat earnestly, beseech


  Previous scene     Next scene