The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0686  Tuesday, 8 April 2003

From:           B. Vickers <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 08 Apr 2003 13:04:45 +0200
Subject: Re: King John Date
Comment:        SHK 14.0629 Re: King John Date

I'm glad to know that Ros King is 'not saying that only Shakespeare was
capable of inventing the Bastard', but wonder how she knows that the
author of The Troublesome Reign 'just does not know why the character
*needs* to be invented'. Peele, who wrote the first Act of Titus
Andronicus, and scenes 2.1, 2.2, and 4.1, was perfectly capable of
inventing characters and plot-mechanisms which blend historical and
fictional events. Given that King John was hardly an admirable figure
(he was included in a recent British TV series on the most evil men in
history), Peele -- I imagine -- could see that some other more likeable
character was needed to bridge gaps in the plot and to provide a central
focus for the post-Armada patriotism of the early 1590s. Hence this
bluff, vigorous, loyal but independent figure, comparable to Llewellyn
in Edward I.

That Peele wrote TR I argue in a forthcoming essay; that TR precedes
King John has been argued by several scholars, most cogently by Robert
Smallwood in his Penguin edition (1974), Appendix pp. 365-74, with
further arguments by Al Braunmuller in his Oxford edition (1989), pp.
1-19. -- That Shakespeare's King John is closely linked to Richard II
was shown by MacDonald P. Jackson in 'Pause Patterns in Shakespeare's
Verse: Canon and Chronology', Literary and Linguistic Computing, 17
(2002): 37-46.

That King John belongs to the mid- or late 1590s (1596 is preferred in
the Oxford Textual Concordance) is evident, also, from the treatment of
Constance, both in her intense foreboding of her son's death (more
powerful than anything Shakespeare had previously written), and in her
rejection of the consolations offered by King Philip and Pandulph
(3.4.25ff): 'He talks to me that never had a son' -- a disqualification
of the consoler which closely resembles the scene (3.3) in Romeo and
Juliet (1595) where Romeo rebuffs the Friar's attempted comfort: 'Thou
canst not speak of that thou dost not feel.  / Wert thou as young as I,
Juliet thy love, / An hour but married ...' . (See Brian Vickers,
'Shakespearian Consolations', PBA, 82 (1993): 219-84). The Bastard is
obviously a completely re-created figure, on the framework established
by Peele, with a great command of repartee in his twitting of Austria by
repeating the line 'And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs',
reminiscent of some verbal wit in Love's Labour's Lost (1594-5). But in
filling out Peele's template for the Bastard Shakespeare was repeating
something he'd recently done in Titus Andronicus (which I would date
1593-4), where he transformed Aaron from a stock villain into an
individual with quite distinctive features. Looking at his large and
varied output, perhaps Shakespeare's greatest skill was in transmuting
inherited material: King John is one of the first instances of that

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Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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