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King John, is the first of that series of Dramas, written by our Poet to illustrate some of the most important events in English history. The old chroniclers furnished him with abundant material for his labors; but in this Play he has taken a chronicle historical Drama, entitled "The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England," and by his incomparable powers of transmutation, he has presented us with a vivid life-stirring picture of the eventful reign of this, one of the weakest monarchs that ever swayed the sceptre of England.
The chief interest in this Drama, is centred in the events connected with the Lady Constance and her son Arthur; we have therefore confined our selections to the scenes in which their mournful history is portrayed.
PRINCE HENRY, his son; afterwards King Henry III.
ARTHUR, Duke of Bretagne, son of Geffrey, late Duke of Bretagne, the elder brother of King John.
WILLIAM MARESHALL, Earl of Pembroke.
GEFFREY FITZ-PETER, Earl of Essex, chief justiciary of England.
ROBERT BIGOT, Earl of Norfolk.
HUBERT DE BURGH, chamberlain to the King.
ROBERT FAULCONBRIDGE, son of Sir Robert Faulconbridge.
PHILIP FAULCONBRIDGE, his half-brother, illegitimate son to King
JAMES GURNEY, servant to Lady Faulconbridge.
PETER, of Pomfret, a prophet.
PHILIP, King of France.
LEWIS, the Dauphin.
ARCHDUKE 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.
BLANCH, daughter to Alphonso, King of Castile, and niece to
Lords, Ladies, Citizens of Angiers, Sheriff, Heralds, Officers,
SCENE.-Sometimes in ENGLAND, and sometim s in FRANCE.
We commence our extracts at the period when King John invades France with a numerous army, to chastise Philip for espousing the cause of Prince Arthur, the rightful heir to the English throne.
The contending armies of England and France, meet before the city of Angiers; and after a battle, in which each party claims the victory, a peace is declared between the Sovereigns, to be cemented by the marriage of the French King's son, to Blanch, the niece of John. Philip further engages to break his league with the Lady Constance, and her son. The indignation and grief of the widowed mother, is beautifully depicted in the following scene.
SCENE. ANGIERS. The French King's Tent.
Enter CONSTANCE, ARTHUR, and SALISBURY.
Const. Gone to be married! gone to swear a peace!
Oppress'd with wrongs, and therefore full of fears;
A woman, naturally born to fears;
And though thou now confess, thou didst but jest,
Why dost thou look so sadly on my son?
Sal. As true, as, I believe, you think them false,
Const. O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow,
As doth the fury of two desperate men,
Sal. What other harm have I, good lady, done,
But spoke the harm that is by others done?
Const. Which harm within itself so heinous is,
As it makes harmful all that speak of it.
Arth. I do beseech you, madam, be content.
Const. If thou, that bid'st me be content, were grim,
may not go
Pardon me, madam,
without you to the kings.
Const. Thou may'st, thou shalt, I will not go with thee:
I will instruct my sorrows to be proud:
For grief is proud, and makes his owner stout.
To me, and to the state of my great grief,
Let kings assemble, for my grief's so great,
That no supporter but the huge firm earth
[She throws herself on the ground
Enter KING JOHN, KING PHILIP, LEWIS, BLANCH, ELINOR, FAUL-
K. Phi. 'Tis true, fair daughter; and this blessed day,
Const. A wicked day, and not a holyday!—
K. Phi. By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause
Const. You have beguil'd me with a counterfeit
And our oppression hath made up this league
Wear out the day in peace; but, ere sunset,
Lady Constance, peace.
Const. War! war! no peace! peace is to me a war.
O Lymoges! O Austria! thou dost shame
That bloody spoil: Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward;
Thou little valiant, great in villany!
Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!
Thou fortune's champion, that dost never fight
But when her humorous ladyship is by
To teach thee safety! Thou cold-blooded slave,
Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side?
Aust. O, that a man should speak those words to me!
K. Phi. Here comes the holy legate of the pope. Pand. Hail, you anointed deputies of heaven! To thee, king John, my holy errand is.
I, Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal,
And from pope Innocent the legate here,
Why thou against the church, our holy mother,
K. John. What earthly name to interrogatories,
Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the pope.
Tell him this tale; and from the mouth of England,
Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
But as we under heaven are supreme head,
K. Phi. Brother of England, you blaspheme in this.
Are led so grossly by this meddling priest,
Dreading the curse that money may buy out;