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Day 1. Act I. sc. i.
An interval. Return of the French ambassador,
and arrival of John in France. Day 2. Act II. sc. i.
» Act III. sc. i.
since the French know that John has fortified the places he has won and has returned to England: from whence they also have news
that the Bastard is ransacking the church.) An interval: (deaths of Constance, 28th March,
and Elinor, ist April). Day 4. Act IV. sc. i. „ Act Iv. sc. ii. Hubert announces that “Arthur
is deceased to-night” ( last night). „ Act IV. sc. iii. “Hub. 'Tis not an hour since
I left him well”; i.e. at end of Act IV.
An interval. Day 5. Act v. sc. i. The arrival of Ascension Day,
the presence of Pandulph, the news of the Dauphin's success, demand an interval before this Act. On the other hand, the Bastard has only now returned from his mission to the nobles, and the King now hears first of Arthur's actual death. These facts would connect the scene closely with the preceding.
An interval—for Pandulph's return to the Dau
phin, the Bastard's preparation for defence,
and the march to St. Edmundsbury.
» Act v. sc. iii.
, Act v. sc. v.
„ Act v. sc. vii. An “interval” means at least a clear twenty-four hours, in one day.
As we have pointed out, the construction of the plot is entirely the work of the earlier unknown dramatist. We have catalogued the most important liberties he has taken with chronology and historical fact, and must now ask whether he was justified in so doing. He was more than justified; the alterations made were absolutely necessary in order to obtain sufficient dramatic concentration, for it needs no pointing out to see that the play would have been utterly impossible as a play if the writer had slavishly followed the chronicles. As it is, the identification of Lymoges with Austria, the presence of Blanch at the interview between the Kings, and the sudden “clapping up” of her marriage; and, above all, the close weaving together of the Papal interference, the death of Arthur, the baronial revolt as if brought about by Arthur's supposed murder, and the French invasion—all these are felt to be dramatic gains.
In his adaptation two small points escaped Shakespeare's notice ; in the first place, as we have previously mentioned, he does not explain the reason why Faulconbridge should so hate the Dauphin ; and, secondly, the monk who poisons John does so without any apparent motive, for by this time the King has submitted to the Pope. In the Troublesome Raigne things are a little more explicit. Swinsted seems to have suffered from John's previous plunderings, and, in revenge, the monk poisons the King.
Shakespeare does not seem to have consulted the Chronicles at first hand. Mr. Moore-Smith has indicated some minor points which seem to argue for his having done so—the accusation of unchastity brought by Constance against Elinor, the death of Elinor on ist April, the use of the word “supply” in the last Act, and John's desire to be buried at Worcester. Even granting that Shakespeare did go to the Chronicles, he made no independent use of them in any important detail.
There is no extant Quarto of King John, that is, it does not seem to have been published until it made its appearance in the First Folio of 1623. It is mentioned in Meres' Palladis Tamia, 1598, in the famous phrase “For tragedy: his (Shakespeare's] Richard II., Richard III., Henry IV., King John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet." We have already seen that the first edition of the Troublesome Raigne was published in 1591, and a reference in King John (Act 1. sc. i. 1. 244) to the play of Soliman and Perseda published in 1592, completes the only definite evidence we have concerning the date of the play. Often following what we shall see to be the most flimsy evidence of the purely internal kind—that which sees in certain passages obscure allusions to contemporary events—different editors have placed the play in every year between 1592 and 1598. Malone, for instance, was in favour of 1596 for the following reasons: (1) Shakespeare's son Hamnet died in August, 1596, and the lamentations of Constance for her captive son are partly an expression of Shakespeare's own grief. (2) Chatillon's speech, Act 11, sc. i., “a braver choice of dauntless spirits," etc., may refer to the fleet sent out against Spain in 1596. (3) The lines in Act III. sc. i. 176-9–
And meritorious shall that hand be callid,
may refer to the Bull published against Elizabeth in 1596. Other reasons are given which are even less plausible than these, and we must admit that when one of the greatest Shakespearian scholars can, along these lines, only adduce such slender evidence as this, we must search in other directions for clues to the date of our play.
First of all, it is quite clear that we are dealing with “early Shakespeare." Apart from a certain want of definite continuity throughout the play—which in itself might very well be put down to the close following of the older version-we find the “clenches,” the lengthy speeches, the antithetical answers, the absence of prose, and the more inelastic verse characteristic of Shakespeare's earlier manner. The minute analysis of this last point-verse—the formid. able array of perhaps rather too mechanical “double-ending,"
“light-ending,” and “broken-line” tests, together with the “rhyme-test,” lead us to the same conclusion. Professor Herford in his Introduction to the Warwick edition of Richard II. thus tabulates the results of these tests:
Rhyme test . .
3'0 35 17'2 8:2 137 19:51
19:518.2 8.3 110 5:1 16:3 . 10:4 100
30-14'2 17*7 19*9 22:8 214 21:8 *5 I'o 29 | 14'9 7'3 14'2 168 18.3
These percentages in the first two cases do not enlighten us much, but we notice that in the last two, which are generally supposed to be the more trustworthy, King John shares with Richard II. the middle place in the series, and on general grounds (following what we might call the “feeling” test) Richard II, and King John seem to be grouped together. Authorities unanimous in dating Richard II. about 1593-4 are now equally unanimous in dating John either immediately before or immediately after Richard; we have therefore to choose between a date nearer to 1593 and a date nearer to 1595. Nothing can guide us in our choice except a comparison of the plays in the hope of discovering signs of greater maturity in the treatment of one or the other. But even here we are handicapped; firstly, by the fact that Shakespeare deliberately chose to keep close to his "source" in so many respects, and therefore did not allow his own genius full play, and secondly, by the fact that, in any