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THOUGH this play have the title of the Life and Death of King John, yet the action of it begins at the thirty-fourth year of his life ; and takes in only some transactions of his reign to the time of his demise, being an interval of about seventeen years.
THEOBALD. There is extant another play of King John, published in 1591. Shakspeare has preserved the greatest part of the conduct of it, as well as a number of the lines. The number of quotations from Horace, and similar scraps of learning scattered over this motly piece, ascertain it to have been the work of a scholar. It contains likewise a quantity of rhyming Latin, and ballad-metre ; and in a scene where the Bastard is represented as plundering a monastery, there are strokes of humour, which seem, from their particular turn, to have been most evidently produced by another hand than that of our author.
Of this historical drama there is a subsequent edition in 1611, printed for John Helme, whose name appears before none of the genuine pieces of Shakspeare. I admitted this play some years ago as our author's own, among the twenty which I published from the old editions ; but a more careful perusal of it, and a further conviction of his custom of borrowing plots, sentiments, &c. disposes me to recede from that opinion.
Hall, Holinshed, Stowe, &c. are closely followed not only in the conduct, but sometimes in the very expressions throughout the following historical dramas, viz. Macbeth, this play, Richard II. Henry IV. 2 parts, Henry V. Henry VI. 3 parts, Richard 11. and Henry VIII.
STEEVENS. The tragedy of King John, though not written with the utmost power of Shakspeare, is varied with a very pleasing in. terchange of incidents and characters. The lady's grief is very affecting, and the character of the Bastard contains that mixture of greatness and levity which this author delighted to exhibit.
King John :
of Bretagne, the elder brother of king John. WILLIAM MARESHALL, earl of Pembroke. GEFFREY FIT 2-PETER, earl of E88ex, chief justicia
ry of England. WILLIAM LONGSWORD, earl of Salisbury. ROBERT Bigot, earl of Norfolk. HUBERT DE BURGH, chamberlain to the king. ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE, son of Sir Rooert Faul
conbridge : PHILIP FAULCONBRIDGE, his half-brother, bastard
son to king Richard the first. JAMES GURNEY, serrant to Lady Faulconbridge. PETER of Pomfret, a prophet. Philip, king of France. LEWIS, the dauphin. Arch-duke of Austria. Cardinal PANDULPH, the pope's legate. Melun, a French lord. CHATILLON, ambassador from France to king John.
ELINOR, the widow of king Henry II. and mother of
king John. CONSTANCE, mother to Arthur. BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso, king of Castile, and
niece to king John. Lady FAULCONBRIDGE, mother to the bastard, and
Lords, Ladies, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Ättendants.
SCENE--sometimes in England, and sometimes in