King John by William Shakespeare

      Shakespeare’s history plays abound with stories of power hungry kings and royal men. They fight, betray and kill each other so that somehow power stays with them. King John, one of Shakespeare’s well-known history plays is about politics, war and bloodshed.

      King John was threatened by the French King Philip to renounce his throne in favour of his nephew Arthur. However, King John did not relent and sent forces against him. Although the war was fierce, there was no decisive victory to suggest a clear winner between them.

      In the meantime, Cardinal Pandolf arrived with the message that John had disobeyed the Pope and therefore, he was excommunicated. While trying to escape from the prison, Arthur died and that was enough for the nobles to withdraw their support for King John. There was war again and many of John’s enemies rejoined him. John, however, was poisoned to death and his son, Prince Henry, becomes the next King.

      The date of the play’s composition is not yet ascertained; however, it is believed to have been written between 1587 and 1588.

      The famous lines ‘Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale, vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man’ are from King John.

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