Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Life and Death of King John Act 1, Scene 1


first day of rehearsal for Veronica's Room and first act of King John today! AND I got a visit with grandma. i feel so accomplished. the bad news is that as of now i have to wake up at 6:30 in the a.m. i know i know. boo flippin hoo, right? but dang that's hard when you're not used to it! and you don't even want to know how cranky i am in the morning. yeesh. i'm like King Phillip of France cranky. (see what i did there?)

act 1, scene 1
the newly-crowned King John is approached by an ambassador from France. Philip, King of France is demanding that John steps down and let Arthur, the 'rightful' king, rule. if John doesn't do so, war will be declared. John says: bring it. his mother, Eleanor, scolds him for exacerbating the situation when he could have attempted peace talks.
two brothers, Philip (not the French King) and Robert enter to have John settle their dispute. their father has died, and although Philip is the elder, Robert claims full entitlement to their father's land. his story is that Philip is a bastard. John and his mother recognize that Philip is the spitting image of the late King Richard. Robert claims that Richard sent his father, Robert, off to Germany and had his way with their mother. Philip is a bastard, and has no right to the land. Robert also didn't want Philip to have the land. John is about to say tough luck to Robert since Philip is the first born, but Eleanor takes a liking to him. they decide to knight him Sir Richard Plantagenet and take him right into their family. he sacrifices his land to his brother and takes the deal. (see quote below.) John and Eleanor head to France and Robert heads home while 'Bastard' ruminates on his good fortune.
Lady Faulconbridge, the mother, enters to find her sons Robert and Philip. he calls her out on her past misdeeds with Richard. after much prodding, she fesses up. Philip/Bastard/Plantagenet admits he wouldn't trade fathers for the world.

do i love this play already? yes. yes i do.

here's my favorite thing from today: in the footnotes i discovered an explanation for why Richard the Lionheart is thus named. according to Bevington, Richard was imprisoned in Austria and forced to face a lion. he was, of course, expected to fail. instead, he reached down the lion's throat and pulled his heart out. and then he ate it. ...

i'm not quite getting yet why we are supposed to identify with the Bastard character. maybe this will become more clear in the next act? any insight out there?

quote of the day:
'brother, take your land. i'll take my chance.
your face hath got five hundred pound a year,
yet sell your face fr five pence and 'tis dear.--
madam, i'll follow you until death.'

for tomorrow: act 2!

-rebecca may


  1. I love the movie THE LION IN WINTER, starring Peter O'Toole as Henry II, Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anthony Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart, and Timothy Dalton as Philip of France. The less famous Nigel Terry plays John. I don't know how historically accurate or relevant to Shakespeare it is, but the drama is wonderful. The script also contains a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor from a contemporary perspective reflecting on our view of the past.

  2. ah yes. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed that movie. thanks, susan!