My fears for Arthur Plantagenet were more or less realised as Act II began, universally patronised with the soubriquet, ‘boy’ and a quasi-contemptuous ‘thy’ by his father’s killer, Austria. And I still sensed that the real quarrel is between Arthur’s mother, Constance, and Eleanor – otherwise why would she come along? Never mind Iron Maiden‘s ‘Bring Your Daughter (to the Slaughter)‘ – how about ‘Bring Your Mother’?
Having broken out of my Romeo and Juliet-induced enervation, I approached King John with a sense of excitement bolstered by my positive experiences with the Henry VI plays. Unusually, maybe impatiently, I skipped my Arden’s introduction and got stuck in after finding these hopeful signs elsewhere:
“a neglected play about a flawed king” [a]
“King John has all the beauties of language and all the richness of the imagination to relieve the painfulness of the subject.” [b]
These famous passages become a little daunting, because hey, what can you say that hasn’t already been said in the past four-hundred years? Yet, as an educator, you have to step up to the plate: after all, this is what I encourage, almost demand, my students to do, isn’t it? We give them something which is one of the foundations upon which our literature and culture is built, and entice them with the promise of better marks for originality.
So here are some personal views on Romeo and Juliet’s meeting, and then I look for something else to say on pieces of this short scene that receive somewhat less attention.