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King John (play)

1596

The Life and Death of King John, a Shakespearean historic play by William Shakespeare, dramatises the reign of John, King of England (ruled 1199–1216), son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and father of Henry III of England. It is believed to have been written in the mid-1590s but was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623.

The death of King John, in an 1865 production of the play at the Drury Lane Theatre, London

Date and text

The date of composition is unknown, but must lie somewhere between 1587, the year of publication of the second, revised edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, upon which Shakespeare drew for this and other plays, and 1598, when King John was mentioned among Shakespeare's plays in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres. The editors of the Oxford Shakespeare conclude from the play's incidence of rare vocabulary, use of colloquialisms in verse, pause patterns, and infrequent rhyming that the play was composed in 1596, after Richard II but before Henry IV, Part I.

King John is one of only two plays by Shakespeare that are entirely written in verse, the other being Richard II.

The first page of King John from the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays, published in 1623

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Published in 18/09/2018

Updated in 19/02/2021

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