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King John | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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King John | Characters

Character Description
King John King John is a hapless and unpopular monarch who struggles to retain his grip on the throne. Embroiled in a costly war with the French, he loses the support of his noblemen when he orders his nephew Arthur's assassination. Read More
Queen Eleanor King John's mother and the widow of Henry II of England, Queen Eleanor is a domineering presence in the English court. She despises her daughter-in-law, Constance, whom she sees—correctly—as a threat to her son John's rule. Read More
Constance Duchess of Sicily, King John's sister-in-law, and mother of the young Arthur, Constance is determined to see her son crowned king of England, a title she believes he rightfully possesses. Read More
Arthur Arthur is King John's nephew and a rival claimant to the English throne. Shakespeare presents him as a young boy easily coerced and frightened by his elders. Read More
King Philip II Fickle, untrustworthy king of France and instigator of the war with England, Philip II seeks to install Arthur on the English throne to increase France's influence over England. Read More
Dauphin Dauphin is the title of Louis, the French crown prince and a leader of France's invasion of England. Initially eager for peace, he later refuses to give up the invasion despite orders from the pope. Read More
The Bastard The Bastard, also known as Philip Faulconbridge, is an illegitimate son of Richard the Lionheart and is a military commander under King John. His speeches provide cynical commentary on the conflict between England and France. Read More
Duke of Austria The Duke of Austria, known in some scenes as Limoges, is a military commander fighting on the side of France. He claims credit for having killed Richard the Lionheart and wears a lion's skin as a memento.
Lord Bigot One of the noblemen who attend on King John, Lord Bigot joins the English earls first in rebelling against John and then in reconciling with him.
Blanche King John's niece, Blanche of Spain is wedded to the Dauphin as part of a peace treaty in Act 2.
Chatillon Chatillon is the French ambassador to England. Speaking on behalf of King Philip, he demands John give up the English crown.
Citizen The citizen speaks for the people of Angiers in Act 2. He refuses to admit either of the warring kings to the city until they can establish their claim to the English crown.
Earl of Essex The Earl of Essex is one of King John's courtiers. Unlike the other earls, he makes only a single brief appearance at the beginning of the play.
Executioners A group of executioners appear in Act 4, Scene 1 where they are instructed to help torture and kill Arthur. Pitying the boy, they leave the dirty work to Hubert.
Lady Faulconbridge Lady Faulconbridge is the mother of Robert Faulconbridge and his half brother Philip "the Bastard" Faulconbridge. She appears only in Act 1 where she is peripherally involved in the land dispute between her sons.
Robert Faulconbridge Son of a deceased knight, Robert Faulconbridge is the younger half brother of Philip "the Bastard." Robert asserts his half brother's illegitimacy to solidify his own claim to the family estate.
James Gurney James Gurney is Lady Faulconbridge's servant.
Prince Henry Prince Henry is King John's son and, after John's death, heir to the English throne.
English herald An English herald appears in Act 2 to announce England's victory over France. The news is premature, and the war soon resumes.
French herald The French herald, like his English counterpart, claims victory for his country in Act 2.
Hubert A loyal supporter of King John, Hubert cannot bring himself to carry out the king's order to assassinate Arthur.
Count Melun One of the French noblemen serving in the Dauphin's army, Count Melun reveals the Dauphin's treachery to the English lords just before his own death in Act 5.
Pandulph Cardinal Pandulph is a legate—a diplomatic representative—of the pope. He excommunicates King John for failing to obey the pontiff's decrees and rekindles the war between France and England.
Earl of Pembroke One of King John's high-ranking courtiers and advisers, the Earl of Pembroke rebels against John after learning of the king's attempt to assassinate Arthur.
Peter of Pomfret Peter of Pomfret is a soothsayer who foretells King John will relinquish his crown. John has him jailed for insolence.
Earl of Salisbury A leading nobleman in the court of King John, the Earl of Salisbury later becomes one of the "angry lords" who abandons John for trying to assassinate Arthur.
Sheriff The sheriff appears in the first scene of the play, where he introduces the feuding Faulconbridge brothers and then departs.
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