King John Paperback – 12 Oct 1967
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One of Shakespeare's most unpopular history plays, King John deals with the life and death of King John, who reigned from 1199 to 1216. This is as early as Shakespeare goes in his treatment of English history, concentrating more successfully on the later 14th and 15th centuries in the plays which stretch from Richard II to Henry VI. As a result King John suffers from being so historically distant in time, as well as offering a rather weak and vacillating king, who lacks the charisma and authority of Richard III or Henry V. The play begins with King John struggling to retain his throne, under attack from rebellious courtiers and Philip, the king of France. As the quarrel escalates into war with France, the play begins to take on a contemporary Elizabethan flavour--the feared invasion from a foreign (Catholic) nation, and the extent to which such an invasion is based on the questionable paternity of King John (like Queen Elizabeth, John is accused of being a bastard and is excommunicated). The play is saved from its rather colourless political machinations by Philip the Bastard, John's favourite, a dramatic forerunner of dubious but charismatic malcontents like Edmund in King Lear. It is also Philip who is given the most powerful and patriotic lines, when he claims that "This England never did, nor never shall,/Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror". King John's mysterious and anticlimactic death through illness at the end of the play deflates expectations - something that could be said of the play as a whole. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
`The Oxford Shakespeare is an admirably scholarly edition, immaculately presented, offering close attention to possibilities of staging as well as meaning.' Dr D. Sedge, Exeter University
`This edition offers the most substantial & one of the most penetrating discussions of the play to date. A remarkable scholarly achievement.' Dr René J.A. Weis, Department of English, University College, London
`a most impressive and illuminating edition' R. N. Alexander, Queen Mary Westfield, London
`The major strength of Professor Braunmuller's edition is its introduction. He offers a sane review of such difficult questions as the date of the play, and such controversial ones as its relation to "The Troublesome Reign". The evidence is marshalled in a lucid manner and sensible conclusions drawn ... This is a significant contribution to the (now quickly developing) debate on "King John", and a good demonstration that investigations of Shakespeare as a political dramatist (as opposed to a moral sage) need not be critically reductive.' The Review of English Studies
`By its 'conventionally ordered introduction' (p.1), A.R. Braunmuller's Oxford King John signals that it is, indeed what the dustjacket claims, 'the most thorough scholarly edition now available' ... his edition foregrounds technical material important to scholars over more general interests ... Braunmuller's approach to editing is as fair-minded and scholarly as his introduction ... the King John that sets out the issues most fully and fairly, the edition I want in my study, is Braunmuller's 'conventionally ordered', scholarly text.' Virginia Mason Vaughan, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, Yearbook of English Studies, 1992
'Stanley Wells' OUP Complete Works of Shakespeare is now eight years old and has spawned a new Oxford Shakespeare which appears now in splendidly affordable volumes in that nonpareil of libraries of good reading The World's Classics.'The Oxford Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.