The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1927  Thursday, 2 October 2003

From:           Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 1 Oct 2003 21:54:21 +0100
Subject: 14.1893 King John and The Troublesome Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1893 King John and The Troublesome Play

In case it hasn't been mentioned--I haven't followed this thread
closely--John Klause recently published on the relation between
Shakespeare's _King John_ and _Trouble Reign_ ('New Sources for
Shakespeare's King John: The Writings of Robert Southwell', Studies in
Philology 98 [2001].401-27)

Klause argues that Shakespeare's King John was influenced by a number of
works by the Jesuit Robert Southwell. Klause finds 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 lists a collection of collocations linking
Saint Peter's Complaint and King John (pp. 406-7) and argues 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 explores
some phrases that Epistle of Comfort, Troublesome Reign, and King John
have in common and observes 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 lists the (rather weak) verbal
parallels (pp. 419-22). Klause suspects 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). For Klause, the most important
conclusion of all this is that Shakespeare "welcomed a Jesuit into his
mind" (p. 426).

Gabriel Egan

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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