Character Directory


King John of England (1167-1216) Historical figure and title character in King John. John is a complicated protagonist of a complicated play. Not quite hero or villain, he espouses values of English patriotism while his selfish ambition leads the country to catastrophe. John passes from unscrupulous strength to dispirited weakness, and his own moral failings are at the heart of his collapse. He is ultimately an inadequate leader, controlled by events rather than controlling them. As the play opens, John has usurped the English throne from his nephew Arthur. Nevertheless, he initially appears to be a strong king: in 1.1 he boldly defies the challenge to his rule from Arthur's supporter King Philip of France. However, he soon displays his weakness when, in the treaty concluded in 2.1, he surrenders a great deal of English territory in order to protect his claim to the rest. He exhibits strength again, in a context particularly significant to 16th-century Protestant England, when he refuses to obey the dictates of the pope, conveyed by Pandulph in 3.1, and renewed war with France results. John's forces capture Arthur, and the king dishonorably orders him killed by Hubert in 3.2 (3.3). He also commands the Bastard to loot England's religious houses to pay for the war. 

Shakespeare's handling of Arthur's death, the central event of the play, illuminates John's ambiguous nature. Before learning that Hubert has not killed the boy, John expresses regret for the crime and dishonestly tries to excuse himself in 4.2.103-105 and 205-248; he rejoices when he discovers that Arthur is alive. Yet Arthur does die when he tries to escape his captors. John is thus blamed for the death anyway and suffers the political consequences. 

John's fortunes deteriorate from this point on. His barons desert him; his mother. Queen Eleanor, dies; a wandering seer, Peter, predicts that he will give up his crown. The Dauphin Lewis of France invades England, and several barons join his forces. In 5.1 John formally acknowledges the supremacy of the pope over England, in return for Pandulph's promise to make the French withdraw. Lewis will not abandon his successful invasion, however, and only the efforts of the Bastard keep England's defenses functioning. Demoralised and sick, John withdraws to Swinstead Abbey, where a- monk, enraged by the king's pillaging of the churches, poisons him. John dies in torment, just as an urgent message of fresh disaster is being delivered. His death returns peace and stability to England, as the French finally withdraw and the Bastard leads the nobles in pledging allegiance to John's successor, Henry. 

The sources Shakespeare used in creating his John were not very accurate, according to modern scholarship, and the playwright altered many details in any case. The historical John was not a usurper; he did not lose the support of his barons by killing an innocent boy; he was not murdered. He was indeed an unsuccessful king, though probably due more to the assets of his enemies than to his own defects. Philip Augustus of France was a powerful soldier and statesman, and Innocent III was one of the greatest of medieval popes. John did not, however, lack leadership skills himself. Many of his nobles remained loyal to him, and he never withdrew from the fight against the rebels and their French allies; he died of a sickness contracted on the battlefield. His personality is not well recorded, but he appears to have been highly temperamental, perhaps deranged; according to one account he beat Arthur to death in a drunken rage. However, Shakespeare did not attempt to delineate John's true nature; the character is a fiction designed to illustrate the nature of misused power. The king's moral weakness is central to an intellectual drama of politics, and his personality is not relevant.


Prince Henry (later King Henry III of England) (1207-1272) is the son of King John. Henry appears only in the final scene, 5.7, in which he witnesses the death of his father and accepts the submission of the noblemen to him as the next King. He is thus a symbol of the restoration of social order after the dislocations of John's reign.  Shakespeare's Henry is a young man but definitely an adult, capable of musing on the nature of disease and death. The historical Prince was only nine years old upon his succession. He ruled England well for 56 years.


Prince Arthur of England (1187-1203) is nephew and victim of King John. John has usurped Arthur's crown as the play opens. A defenseless boy, Arthur is supported by King Philip of France and the Archduke of Austria, who go to war with England. Arthur is captured and is taken to England in the custody of Hubert, who is instructed to kill him. However, Hubert grows fond of his prisoner and cannot bring himself to carry out his orders. First, he decides to blind the boy; then, in 4.1, in response to Arthur's heart-rending pleas for mercy, he spares him altogether. To protect himself, Hubert reports that Arthur has died. Arthur in the meantime, attempts to escape and perishes jumping from a castle wall. His death provokes a rebellion by John's nobles, whose reservations about the royal succession are now reinforced by revulsion at Arthur's murder, as they believe it to be. Historically, Arthur had little claim to the English crown, although he was the son of John's older brother, for the rule of primogeniture—succession passing to eldest sons of eldest sons—was not yet accepted in England. John was named heir to the throne in Richard I's will, and he succeeded his brother peacefully, as Shakespeare's sources make clear. Philip's sponsorship of Arthur was intended purely to justify a war and had no legitimacy for Englishmen, but the playwright wished to develop the theme of usurpation. 

Further ignoring his sources, Shakespeare made Arthur a young boy, said to be about 3 feet tall (4.2.100), so as to stress the pathos of his treatment. The historical Arthur was an adult by medieval standards. He was a soldier, the nominal leader, at 15 years old, of the force that besieged Queen Eleanor at Mirabeau, Shakespeare's Angiers. Captured in battle there, Arthur was at first in the custody of Hubert but was transferred to an English-held castle at Rouen. He was never taken to England, as in the play. It is unclear how Arthur died. One contemporary account held that John had proposed blinding and castrating his prisoner to make him unfit for kingship; Hubert dissuaded the King from this course and then falsely announced Arthur's death, intending to discourage his followers. Another source reported that Arthur drowned attempting to escape. Shakespeare combined these two anecdotes. According to a third version of the story, John killed Arthur himself in a fit of drunken rage. The detailed truth cannot be known, but guilt for Arthur's death must ultimately lie with John. The murder did not trigger the barons' revolt, as it does in the play—that event occurred many years later—but it may have contributed to the spate of desertions by various nobles that affected the final year of the war against France, which John lost decisively.


William Marshall Pembroke, Earl of (c. 1146-1219) Historical figure and minor character in King John, a rebel against King John. Pembroke, like Lord Bigot, is merely a representative rebellious baron with no distinctive personality.  The historical William Marshall was a famous soldier who in fact remained loyal to John throughout his reign. Shakespeare confused him with his son, who did join the French invasion forces.


Geoffrey FitzPeter Essex (d. 1213) is a follower of King John. Essex appears only in 1.1 and has only one short speech. Textual scholars speculate that Essex' lines were assigned to Lord Bigot—perhaps in 1601, after the failed rebellion of the later Earl of Essex—and that this alteration was overlooked in the one speech in the First Folio text. The historical Essex, no relation to Shakespeare's contemporary, had been named an earl by John and remained a loyal follower of the King.


William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury (d. 1226) is the leader of the English noblemen who rebel against John.  Salisbury is the spokesman for the other rebels, the Earl of Pembroke and Lord Bigot. They desert John and join a French invasion force, believing that the king has foully murdered young Prince Arthur. They return to John's side when they learn from Melun that the French leader, Lewis, plans treachery against them. The rebellious barons represent an evil consequence of John's evil behavior, and Salisbury effectively expresses their motives, both in disrupting the realm and in returning to loyalty. 

The historical Salisbury was King John's half brother, an illegitimate son of King Henry II. He was not a leader of the rebellious barons, but remained loyal to the king through the settlement that produced the Magna Charta in 1215. However, upon the resumption of civil war, Salisbury joined the alliance of the barons and the invading French, leaving it only after John's death. He was no relation to the other earls of Salisbury who appear in Shakespeare's plays.


Roger Bigot (d. 1220) is a rebel against King John. Bigot is one of the noblemen who oppose the King, responding to the death of Arthur, and who treacherously ally themselves with the invading French. Bigot speaks in only one of the four scenes in which he appears.  The historical Bigot was one of the barons who opposed John in 1214 and forced him to sign the Magna Charta. He was a great landowner in eastern England.


Hubert is a follower of King John and custodian of Arthur. Hubert first appears as a representative of the city of Angiers, proposing a compromise between John and King Philip of France. His opening remarks (2.1.325-333) emphasize the balance between opposing forces that recurs throughout the play. By 3.2 (3.3) (for citation, see King John, 'Synopsis'), Hubert has joined King John's entourage. When Arthur is captured in battle, Hubert accepts John's implicit order to kill him. In 4.1, one of Shakespeare's most terrifying and moving scenes, Hubert, touched by the boy's innocence, hides Arthur and tells the king that he has died. Arthur's supposed death proves politically catastrophic to the king; yet when Hubert reveals that Arthur is alive, it turns out that the young prince has in the meantime died attempting to escape. Thus Hubert's career mirrors the changes in fortune and the ambiguities of good and evil that are a principal theme of the play. 

Shakespeare's character bears almost no resemblance to the historical figure who provided the name.  Hubert de Burgh (d. 1243), although he briefly had custody of Arthur, seems not to have been involved in his death; he may have actually tried to prevent it. In any case, he certainly was not the bourgeois opportunist depicted in the play. On the contrary, he was one of the highest-ranking aristocrats in England, being descended directly from Charlemagne, and he was an  important administrator both before and during the period of the play and under John's successor, Henry III. Furthermore, he won a great naval victory over a French fleet that was attempting to reinforce the forces of Lewis in England. Shakespeare translates this battle—the first in Britain's long tradition of naval supremacy—into a storm, reported in 5.3.9-11, rather than give credit to Hubert. The playwright may have felt that depicting Hubert as a commoner made the unscrupulous ambition that leads him to agree to kill a boy more believable, while the character's lack of commitment to the high politics of the realm could make his subsequent mercy credible.


Robert Faulconbridge is the younger brother of the Bastard.  Robert comes to King John in 1.1, seeking to claim his father's estate. He asserts that his brother is illegitimate, having been fathered by the late King Richard I When the Bastard accepts this lineage and joins the royal court, Robert is awarded the estate and disappears from the play. Content with comfortable nonentity, he is depicted as inferior to the Bastard, who seeks g ^ch is made of Robert's extraordinarily thin face, as in 1 138-147. This is thought to indicate that the actor who originally played Robert was John Sincklo, whose appearance is similarly noted in several other roles.


Philip Faulconbridge, The Bastard is the illegitimate nephew of King John. The Bastard, the most prominent character in the play, is a complicated figure. Early in the play he satirizes courtly manners while revealing the self-serving behavior he mocks. He impulsively insults others and makes humorous asides to himself, yet he is at the same time a calculating social climber. His illegitimacy parallels the king's status as a usurper, and, just as John defies the French challenge to his rule, so the Bastard relies on his strength of character to maintain himself in aristocratic society. Yet while John falls, the Bastard prospers; his rise is concurrent with John's fall, and the contrast lends piquancy to the king's collapse. He begins as a comical figure, but by the end of the play he is clearly the mainstay of the English forces. He has remained true to the king, unlike the other noblemen, and it is he who first acknowledges Prince Henry as the new king, emphasizing the restoration of social order.  The Bastard also functions as a Chorus, commenting on the foibles of society, sometimes contradicting his role in the plot. For instance, he deplores 'commodity', or self-interest, in a famous soliloquy (2.1.561-598), yet he is guilty of commodity himself, as he admits in the last dozen lines of the speech. Shakespeare uses the fictitious Bastard somewhat in the manner of the allegorical figures of a Morality Play, while at the same time making his spirited courage and loyalty humanly admirable. Most strikingly, while the Bastard bears some resemblance to the ancient dramatic figure of the Vice—in his repeated identification with the devil (e.g., in 2.1.134-135), and in his presentation of satirical monologues directly to the audience—he is also in some sense the hero of the play, an exemplar of patriotic virtue. He closes the play with a speech (5.7.112-118) that has been a staple of British patriotic literature since it first appeared. 

The Bastard is not based on any single historical figure, although elements of his situation are drawn from the lives of several historical bastards. King Richard I did have an illegitimate son named Philip, and, although very little is known of him, he is reputed to have killed the Viscount of Limoges in revenge for his father's death; the Bastard has his first name and kills Austria, who is identified with Limoges in the play. The name Faulconbridge was borne by another noteworthy bastard, William Neville, Lord Falconbridge, who is mentioned in 3 Henry VI. An illegitimate Norman nobleman, Faukes de Breaute (d. c. 1227), led John's armies against the rebellious barons, as the Bastard does in the play, but Shakespeare's character bears no resemblance to this man, a notoriously cruel and oppressive mercenary soldier who finally had to be driven from England by force in 1224. Another famous figure, Jean Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans, apparently contributed to Shakespeare's character as well. Dunois appears in 1 Henry VI, but that play does not present this famed general with historical accuracy. However, his proclamation, reported in Holinshed’s Chronicles, that he would rather be the bastard of a great man than the legitimate heir of a humble one, is clearly echoed by the Bastard of King John (1.1.164, 259-276).


James Gumey is a friend of Lady Faulconbridge. Gurney speaks only half of one line (1.1.231), a friendly response of his dismissal from the scene (and the play) by the Bastard, Lady Faulconbridge's son. This mom illuminates the world of rural informality that the Bastard has come from.


Peter of Pomfret (d. 1213) is a wandering 'prophet' whose public forecasts of the fall of King John are recounted by the Bastard in 4.2. Peter himself, who has been brought to the King, speaks only one line, affirming his belief that John will have surrendered his crown by the following Ascension Day. John orders him imprisoned, to be hung on Ascension Day, and he does not reappear. On Ascension Day, when John does indeed give up his crown—only to receive it again from the papal legate Pandulph—he recalls the prophecy and observes that it has been fulfilled, in an unanticipated way. We are not informed of Peter's fate, however. The incident illustrates popular dissatisfaction with John's reign and also suggests that his fall was inevitable. 

Shakespeare read of this prophecy in Holinshed’s Chronicles, where Peter, a hermit 'in great reputation with the common people' for his powers of prophecy, offered himself to be executed if he proved wrong. On Ascension Day, John still being in power, he was hung, along with his son. Holinshed thought that the prophet was a fraud, but he records that Peter's death was popularly held to be an injustice in light of John's temporary surrender of his crown to Pandulph, which had occurred the day before and seemed to fulfill the prediction.

PHILIP King of France

Philip Augustus, King of France (1165-1223) is the enemy of King John and supporter of Arthur. Philip is presented as an opportunist intent on political and military advantage over England by any means available, while mouthing graceful sentiments about honor. In 2.1 he backs Arthur's claim to the English throne which John has usurped, but he willingly enters into a treaty by which his son Lewis marries John's niece Blanche, receiving in her dowry a large grant of English-held territory. Philip then breaks this alliance under Pandulph’s threat of excommunication—am launches a war that results in Lewis' invasion of England in Acts 4-5. Philip himself disappears from their play in 3.3 (3.4), after Arthur's mother, Constance, delivers a fierce tirade against his treacherous abandonment of the boy. 

The historical Philip is regarded as one of the great kings of France. He was a successful general who regained much of English-held France, to the north and west of Paris, seized territories from Flanders, and began the Albigensian Crusade, which was to result, under Blanche, in the accession of what is now southern France. Philip also successfully opposed the independence of the great barons of France, doing much to establish the powerful monarchy that was to bring s France into early modern times. For these achievements he was known as Augustus, after the founder of the Roman Empire.

LEWIS the Dauphin.

Lewis the Dauphin (later King Louis VIII of France, 1187-1226) is the son of King Philip of France.  Lewis joins his father in supporting Arthur, whose rightful inheritance of the English crown has been prevented by King John. The French abandon Arthur's cause for a favorable peace, under whose terms Lewis marries John's niece Blanche. In 3.1, despite his bride's pleas, Lewis urges his father to support the pope and turn on John, and he later leads an invasion of England. He refuses to cease fighting when John makes his peace with Rome, insisting that France would be dishonored by retreat. He withdraws only when deserted by the disaffected English lords who had been aiding him. Lewis is a superficially civil but treacherous Frenchman of a type that Shakespeare often depicted; here the stereotype not only heightens the patriotic sentiments of King John, but also stresses the motif of faithlessness that runs through the play. The historical Lewis did invade England and was successful at first. However, the invasion was not prompted by the pope's quarrel with John, which had been settled earlier. In fact, it was undertaken in defiance of a papal prohibition; it was intended to place Lewis on the English throne, at the invitation of rebellious English barons. A reunited England under John's successor, HENRY (1), drove Lewis back to France. Lewis is frequently referred to as the Dauphin, or Dolphin, a title traditionally given to the eldest son of a King of France, as Prince of Wales is given to his English equivalent. However, this practice began only in 1350, so its application to Lewis is inaccurate.


Limoges (Lymoges), Archduke of Austria is an ally of Arthur and King Philip of France. Austria undertakes to fight King John and place Arthur on the throne of England. He claims to have killed the former English king, the famed Richard Coeur-de-Lion, and he wears a lion's skin as a trophy of this act. Austria is boastful, but when he is baited by the Bastard, as in 3.1.56-58 (3.1.131-133 for citation, see King John, 'Synopsis'), he reveals his cowardice. In 3.2 (3.3) the Bastard displays Austria's head. 

Shakespeare confused two historical figures in creating the Archduke. In the 16th century Austria was a major European power, and the playwright treats it as such, but in King John's day it was a minor German state. Leopold of Babenberg, a duke of Austria who died in 1194, five years before the earliest events of the play, had feuded with Richard Coeur-de-Lion when they were both Crusaders in Palestine; he then captured and held Richard for two years, until he received a great ransom. Later, in an unrelated battle, Richard died while besieging the castle of Waldemar, Viscount of Limoges (d. 1199), who may have been killed in revenge by Richard's illegitimate son (who did not otherwise resemble the fictitious Bastard of the play). Thus Shakespeare makes the territory of one of Richard's foes the first name of another. The playwright apparently took this error from 16th-century popular romances, which recounted Richard's life with little or no regard for accuracy.


Pandulph is the papal legate and enemy of King John. Pandulph appears in 3.1 to demand John's submission to the pope in the appointment of an archbishop. When John refuses, Pandulph threatens King Philip of France with excommunication if he does not break his new alliance with England and declare war on John. Pandulph offers an elaborate and specious argument (3.1.189-223) justifying the breaking of an oath. In 3.3 he offers the Dauphin LEWIS (1) a plan whereby he may conquer England and claim the throne. Having thus launched an invasion of England, Pandulph promises John that he will call it off in exchange for his oath of submission to the pope. John agrees, and he relinquishes his crown to Pandulph, who recrowns him, thus symbolically asserting papal supremacy over the government of England. However, in 5.2 Lewis refuses to withdraw and is defeated only when his traitorous English allies return to King John's side. Pandulph's unscrupulous warmongering and his inability to fulfill a promise fit the stereotype he represents: that of the steely, hypocritical Jesuit, capable of arguing any side of a question to suit the ends of the Catholic Church. 

The historical Pandulph, a native of Rome, was sent to England in 1211—long after the marriage of Lewis and Blanche in 1200, with which his arrival is associated in the play—to insist that the papal candidate be installed as Archbishop of Canterbury, as in the play. But Shakespeare's condensation of history has skewed Pandulph's subsequent role, for by the time of the barons' revolt he was John's ally. After receiving John's submission to the pope in 1213, Pandulph supported him against his rebellious nobles, excommunicating those of them who extracted the Magna Charta from the king. John rewarded him with the bishopric of Norwich. Pandulph attempted unsuccessfully to prevent Lewis' invasion in 1216. He remained an influential bishop in England after John's death, serving as one of the regents for the young King Henry until 1221, when Henry exiled him, apparently on personal grounds. Pandulph died in Rome, but he was buried in Norwich, at his own request. Pandulph was never a cardinal, the rank he holds in the play. Shakespeare may have taken this error from an early 16th-century play on King John, but there is no other evidence that he knew the work. It is more likely that Pandulph was elevated in rank for a simple and sensible theatrical reason: to dress him in the boldly dramatic scarlet robes of a cardinal, an ordinary item in the wardrobes of acting companies.


Lord Giles de Melun (d. 1216) The fatally wounded Melun, a French lord, relieves his conscience before dying by warning the rebellious English nobles who have aided the French invasion that Lewis, the French leader, intends to kill them after he has defeated King John. This information sparks the renewed loyalty of the rebels, led by the Earl of Salisbury.  Shakespeare took this incident from Holinshed’s history, but it is probably not accurate. In any case, little more is known of Melun. In the play he speaks of his English grandfather, who may have been Robert de Melun, Bishop of Hereford (d. 1164); this cannot be confirmed by known records, however.


Chatillon (Chatillion) is the ambassador of King Philip of France to King John. A haughty lord, Chatillon opens the play by delivering an ultimatum to John in terms that are obviously meant to be insulting. He reappears only briefly, bearing the news of John's invasion of France in 2.1; while belittling the English, he must speak of their military success. Chatillon's role helps to develop a strong sense of the arrogance of power, heightening the impact of treachery in high places, one of the play's major themes.


Eleanor (Elinor) of Aquitaine, Queen of England (1122-1204) and mother of King John.  Queen Eleanor is a bold and forthright character, quick to respond to possible insult to her son, whether from Chatillon or from King Philip of France (2.1.120). She is fully prepared to fight (1.1.40), but she is also a wise diplomat, equally ready to make peace when it seems profitable (2.1.468-479). It is clear that she is a very important figure in John's life, and his distraction following her death just as the French invade, in 4.2, is completely understandable. 

The historical Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages. The daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, she inherited her father's duchy, a powerful independent territory in what is now the south of France, at the age of 15. Three months later, she married the Dauphin of France; one month after that, her new father-in-law died, and she became Queen of France. However, she bore no heirs to Louis VII. This fact, the great personality differences between herself and the King, and her marital infidelities, referred to in 2.1.125, resulted in their divorce in 1152. Eleanor was publicly humiliated in the process, but as Duchess of Aquitaine, the greatest heiress in Europe, she was able to avenge herself immediately by marrying Louis’ greatest rival, Henry II of England.  By Henry she bore four sons, among them both Richard I and John.  However, her relationship with her second husband was no better than with her first, and she incited her sons to rebel against him.  When the revolt failed, she was imprisoned for15 years, being released only upon Henry’s death.  She devoted the rest of her life to supporting her sons, and her death in 1204, at 83, must indeed have seemed a monumental loss to John, although it occurred many years before the crisis which it is associated in the play.


Constance, Duchess of Brittany (d. 1201) and is the mother of Arthur.  Before the play begins, Constance has gained the support of King Philip of France in her attempt to place Arthur on the throne of England, from which King John, his uncle, has displaced him. In 3.1 she rages furiously at the betrayal of her cause by Philip and the Archduke of Austria emphasizing the theme of treachery that runs throughout the play. However, she then helps persuade Philip to another betrayal, as he turns on his new ally. King John. In 3.3 (3.4; for citation, see King John, 'Synopsis'), Constance grieves hysterically over Arthur's capture by King John. She raves about making love to death (3.3.25-36), and Philip fears that she will harm herself. Her death 'in a frenzy' is reported in 4.2.122. Her agonizing madness helps to stress the evil of John's usurpation. 

The historical Constance was the daughter of a rebellious duke of Brittany whom King John's father, Henry II, defeated. In an effort to assure Brittany's loyalty. Henry insisted that Constance marry his son Geoffrey. After Geoffrey's death Constance ruled Brittany for Arthur, whose name may suggest her ambition to see her son rule England. Her ambition is /reflected in Shakespeare's sources, but the playwright altered the details other life freely. For instance, Constance bemoans her 'husbandless' state in 2.2.14 (3.1. 14), but in fact she married twice after Geoffrey's death. Also, in order to continue a deliberate pairing of Constance with Eleanor, he has the two women die at the same time, although in fact Constance died three years before.

BLANCH of Spain

Blanche (Blanch) of Spain (1188-1252) is the niece of King John, who marries Lewis, the French Dauphin, after 2.1. Blanche finds herself with mixed loyalties when hostilities break out between her uncle and her new husband. In 3.1 she unsuccessfully attempts to persuade her husband and his father, King Philip, to refrain from fighting England. She is reduced to a bewildered lament that plaintively expresses the helplessness of the noncombatant.  The historical Blanche of Castile, as she is better known, was raised in Spain. Her mother was John's sister Eleanor, and her father was the King of Castile. A treaty between John and Philip provided for the marriage of Lewis to a princess of Castile, and Queen Eleanor traveled to Spain and selected Blanche from among several eligible sisters. Thus, at 12, Blanche was taken by her grandmother, whom she had not met before, to another country to marry a man whom she had never met. Although her initial depression in her new home was noted in a contemporary chronicle, she went on to become one of the great women in French history. After the brief reign of Lewis (Louis VIII), Blanche acted as regent for her son, Louis IX, known to history as St Louis. She put down several rebellions and completed the subjection of southern France to royal rule. St Louis spent much of his reign crusading in the Holy Land, and Blanche governed effectively in is absence.


Lady Faulconbridge (Falconbridge) is the mother of the Bastard and Robert. Lady Faulconbridge follows her two sons to court, where Robert has claimed that his older brother is the illegitimate son of the late King Richard I. She hopes to preserve her reputation, but when the Bastard tells her that he has renounced his status as a Faulconbridge in favor of royal illegitimacy, she confesses that Richard was indeed his father. Her role serves merely to allow her son's spirit to manifest itself.

Herald Heralds are either of two characters in King John the respective representatives of King John of England and King Philip of France, to the city of Angiers in 2.1. Each Herald formally proclaims the victory of his King in the preceding skirmish and demands that the city declare its loyalty to that ruler and open its gates to his soldiers. The symmetrical opposition of the Heralds emphasizes the difficulty in resolving competing claims to power, an important theme of the play.

Executioners are any of two characters in King John, Hubert’s assistants in the preparations to blind Arthur. Before Hubert dismisses the Executioners, one of them, the First Executioner, voices the distaste with which these hardened men view the prospect of practicing their profession on a boy. His qualms heighten the pathos of the scene.


First Messenger - In 4.2 the Messenger brings King John news of both the French invasion and the death of John's mother, Queen Eleanor, and in 5.3 he reappears with a message from the Bastard, urging the king to remove himself from battle. Thus this underling marks the beginning and end of John's collapse. 

Second Messenger - In 5.5 the Messenger brings Lewis three pieces of bad news: the death of Lord Melun, the desertion from the French forces of the English barons who had been in revolt against King John, and the loss of French ships at sea. These tidings collectively spell doom for the French invasion of England.


Sheriff is a petty official who escorts Robert Faulconbridge and the Bastard into the King's presence in 1.1.44. The Sheriff, who does not speak, represents the world of country gentry from which the brothers come.


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