Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2023: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 14 - Aug. 16

June 14:
Troilus and Cressida

June 21:
Titus Andronicus

June 28:
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 5

July 12:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 19:
Timon of Athens

July 26:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 2:
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 9:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 16:
Pastoral and Romance

King John

Things to consider while reading King John

Like King Henry VIII, King John stands out the two tetralogies (so-called) of the Shakespeare history plays (Richard II; Henry IV, Part i; Henry IV, Part ii; and Henry V, and Henry VI, Part i; Henry VI, Part ii; Henry VI, Part iii; and Richard III). What does that do for it? Do you feel that it is as integrated into a larger whole, or is it more a free-standing product?

The play also deserves to be considered on its own terms, of course. What is its internal dynamic? What is its point?

King John and what has come before

Shakespeare’s Sources

Two particular sources have been suggested for the play, neither of them really absolutely certain, and one general one:

Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)

This is a twisty play without a very clearly delineated agenda or (for that matter) a very obvious endpoint. What you choose to make of it, therefore, will depend on which themes you decide to emphasize.

Symmetries in the play

Much of the thematic backbone of this play (as any other) is made up of thematic symmetries and oppositions.

Problems in the play

This has never been one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays. There are many reasons for that. It is indirect, its flow is outside the larger architecture of the two great tetralogies, and it has a less than obvious program. The titular character rumbles along without doing much, really, while the people around him do a great deal. Still, there are nuances to be gathered, and questions to be asked.