King John


Writers: William Shakespeare


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Drama, Historical/Biographical
Cast Size
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes child, early teen, late teen, mature adult, adult, young adult characters


King John holds the throne of England illegitimately, having stolen it from the rightful heir, his nephew Arthur. Supported by his powerful mother, Queen Elinor, John decides to go to war with France. Arthur's mother, Constance, has convinced Lewis, the Dauphin of France, to back Arthur. The armies meet outside Angiers, and, for a long time, whether negotiating or fighting, there is no clear victor. Finally, England wins the day, and Arthur is captured. He is taken back to England, where King John orders him murdered, but Arthur's executioner can't kill the boy. Instead, Arthur, in an attempt to escape, falls to his death. King John is crushed; he had changed his mind about killing the young duke, and the boy's death takes a lot out of him. The Church, then, excommunicates King John, who is told that he must submit to Rome or lose his crown. The Pope orders the armies to stand down after King John pledges his allegiance to Rome, but neither the French nor the English go home. They fight, and England wins a glorious victory. King John enjoys brief good favor, but soon after, he is poisoned to death.

Lead Characters

King John guide sections