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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Date of King John
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0176  Friday, 28 January 2005

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 17:33:15 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0172 Date of King John

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 13:18:52 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0172 Date of King John


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 17:33:15 -0000
Subject: 16.0172 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0172 Date of King John

John Klause argued that Shakespeare's King John was influenced by a
number of works by the Jesuit Robert Southwell ("New sources for
Shakespeare's King John: The writings of Robert Southwell" Studies in
Philology 98 (2001) pp. 401-27). Klause found verbal parallels between
Louis the Dauphin's language about loving Lady Blanche because he is
reflected in her eyes and Southwell's poem Saint Peters Complaint on
Christ's eye, and perhaps the Bastard's mocking of it with images of
hanging, drawing, and quartering (1.2.497-510) draws on Shakespeare's
knowledge that Southwell himself was hanged, drawn, and quartered in
1595 (pp. 404-5).

Klause listed a collection of collocations linking Saint Peter's
Complaint and King John (pp. 406-7) and argued that the latter also owes
something to Southwell's Epistle of Comfort, since King John's use of a
couple of biblical quotations (from Psalms and Galatians) is odd until
we realize that Southwell too put them together. Likewise the language
of the scene in front of the walls of Angiers follows Epistle of
Comfort's description of the destruction of Jerusalem, and there are
some looser connections too (pp. 408-17). Cardinal Pandulph's speech to
the French king in 3.1 about which of several obligations in an oath
must be kept comes from the Epistle of Comfort and Shakespeare's writing
just after John's defiance of Pandulph (3.1) borrows a lot of words and
phrases from Epistle of Comfort, none of which matches what is in
Troublesome Reign, although for the actual defiance Troublesome Reign
matches King John closely. Klause explored some phrases that Epistle of
Comfort, Troublesome Reign, and King John have in common and observed
that Epistle of Comfort "shares nothing of significance with TR except
what King John has in common with both works", so there's no possibility
of descent by Epistle of Comfort to Troublesome Reign to King John, but
there might be linear descent by Epistle of Comfort to King John to
Troublesome Reign or else Epistle of Comfort to King John and
Troublesome Reign to King John (p. 417n21).

Another Southwell work, An Humble Supplication, circulating in
manuscript also "scatters its language throughout Shakespeare's play"
and it was written in response to a government proclamation against
Catholics of November 1591, and Klause listed the (rather weak) verbal
parallels (pp. 419-22). Klause suspected that the putting out of
Arthur's eyes (as a means to kill him) with hot irons came from
Southwell too. In Troublesome Reign Pandulph says that whoever kills the
king will be forgiven the sin, but that is doctrinally flawed from a
Catholic point of view since forgiveness requires contrition of the
sinner, religious authority is not enough, and it certainly cannot
forgive before the fact; thus Shakespeare (presumably informed by
Southwell) changed this so that killing the king is a virtue not a sin
at all (p. 424). If these borrowings are accepted, the earliest date for
King John is whenever An Humble Supplication was written, and since An
Humble Supplication was a response to a proclamation of November 1591,
King John cannot be earlier than, say, December 1591. Just possibly,
King John was written early in 1592 (counting January-December) and was
imitated in Troublesome Reign, which got into performance and print
before 25 March 1592, in which case its title-page dating of 1591 is
counting March-March (p. 425n34).

Those who are comfortable with stylometric as opposed to purely poetic
evidence might find be interested in MacDonald P. Jackson's essay "Pause
patterns in Shakespeare's verse: Canon and chronology" (Literary and
Linguistic Computing 17 (2002) pp. 36-47). It rather niftily confirms
the Oxford Shakespeare order of the play (although not the absolute
dates) and finds that King John has strong link with A Midsummer Night's
Dream (1595), Romeo and Juliet (1595), Love's Labour's Lost (1594-5),
The Comedy of Errors (1594), and Richard 2 (1595), so it can be dated
about 1595 if the Oxford dating of these other plays is right; hence
Troublesome Reign (printed 1591) was a source not a copy of King John.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jan 2005 13:18:52 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.0172 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0172 Date of King John

A few summers ago, I worked on sixteenth century perceptions and
presentations of King John, the historical person, not just the play.
This discussion reminds me of my wish to return to that work.

When we speak of a source, let's think of source of provocation as well
as source of material to incorporate into one's own work. The
Troublesome Reigne seems closely tied in its language to the narrative
of King John in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments (Book of Martyrs). The
narrative in Foxe's text is probably not by Foxe himself, but by John
Bale, who also wrote a morality play, King Johan, making history into
allegory.

Dating of Shakespeare King John splits between those who follow
Honigmann and those who favor the mid1590s. The problem seems impossible
to resolve precisely, but I view The Troublesome Reigne as a provocation
to Shakespeare's play: The plays are far apart ideologically, Peele
(probably) presenting a proto-protestant martyr, Shakespeare a would-be
Machiavel who didn't have the cajones to be a Richard III. The earliest
medieval histories I have found make John to be vicious and tyrannical.

I hope more Shakespeareans will read this play. I find it hugely
undervalued and very timely.

Jack Heller

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