King John - today remembered as the villainous opponent of Robin Hood and the Magna Carta - was for Shakespeare and his audience a heroic figure who stood up to England's enemies. This Penguin Shakespeare edition is edited by R. L. Smallwood with an introduction by Eugene Giddens.
'This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror'
Under the rule of King John, England is forced into war when the French challenge the legitimacy of John's claim to the throne and determine to install his nephew Arthur in his place. But political principles, hypocritically flaunted, are soon forgotten, as the French and English kings form an alliance based on cynical self-interest. And as the desire to cling to power dominates England's paranoid and weak-willed king, his country is threatened with disaster.
This book contains a general introduction to Shakespeare's life and Elizabethan theatre, a separate introduction to Richard II, a chronology, suggestions for further reading, an essay discussing performance options on both stage and screen, and a commentary.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He wrote about 38 plays (the precise number is uncertain), many of which are regarded as the most exceptional works of drama ever produced, including Romeo and Juliet (1595), Henry V (1599), Hamlet (1601), Othello (1604), King Lear (1606) and Macbeth (1606), as well as a collection of 154 sonnets, which are among the most profound and influential love poetry in English.
William Shakespeare was born in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died in 1616. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. Stanley Wells is Emeritus Professor of the University of Birmingham and Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Robert Smallwood was Head of Education at the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon and is now an Honorary Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute of the University of Birmingham.