King John

William Shakespeare

Another surprisingly good play hidden in the English histories. The character of the Bastard is hilarious in writing and, I imagine, must be show stopping on stage. I love the outspoken strength of the royal women Constance and Eleanor present from the very beginning. Though the subject matter is often weighty, kingships and lives being at stake, so much of this play is comical that the first half flies by in a whirlwind of penis jokes.

The second half of the play, however, slowly declines. Apparently internally poisoned by the killing of Arthur (and then actually poisoned later), King John wastes away near the end, leaving the kingdom to a character that the audience has never even met before and therefore has no connection with. Some parts of the second half are downright confusing, like Arthur’s death (suicide?). Other parts are just un-engaging: the side-swapping English royals are certainly hard to empathize with, and the Bastard stops making so many raunchy jokes, which was half the reason the play was good in the first place. Also, the powerful women die off stage seemingly randomly, taking with them the interesting gender dynamics of the first half. Overall, I would love to see the play produced, but would be wary of an anticlimactic finish.