King John (Pelican) - Stephen Orgel, A.R. Braunmuller, William Shakespeare Shakespeare’s interpretation of King John summarizes the period of John’s reign after the death of Richard I until his poisoning. He works to solidify his authority against the aspirations of his nephew, Arthur, who also claims the crown. Unlike Richard III, John vacillates in his ruthlessness, making him more sympathetic, but also more inept, than Shakespeare’s most infamous king.

The Bastard, a fictional child by Richard I, provides a window into royalty from the audience’s perspective. The machinations of war and policy for personal gain are painfully apparent in King John and the Bastard’s a quick study. He quickly loses any illusions of noble nobility and realizes that the only purpose for participating in the royal court is for his own gain.

It’s an interesting play though not one that really fulfills drama. John’s anticlimactic death elevates Henry III, but the play makes no mention of the most significant of John’s legacies- the Magna Carta.