KING JOHN IN
King John, youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, rules the British empire with its various holdings in France. His claim to these is challenged by Constance, widow of his eldest brother Geoffrey, who believes that her young son Arthur is rightfully king. Philip, the King of France supports Constance in her claim, while the bastard son of of Richard the Lionhart and Eleanor support King John. When, after consulting with his mother, John and Philip devise an alliance between themselves (By marrying Eleanor's niece Blanche of Spain to Philips son Louis, the Dauphin) Constance finds herself and her cause abandoned. Then John defies the Pope by refusing to pay tribute and faced by the threat of excommunication, Philip goes to war with John and England. During this decision making period in France, John is tying up loose and and ordering the blinding and then execution of Arthur to ensure his lineage survives. England however is thoroughly divided by John's actions to maintain his kingdom and after his nobles revolt against him he is forced to sign the Magna Carta after which he dies of poisoning.
From the outcast the play is about the relationships John makes with France, Rome and the people of England, and while the play is called King John, most of the scenes take place from another's point of view. Shakespeare often takes the point of view of John's mother Eleanor who appears to be controlling John like a puppet.
The play's interest lies in that the story is a history. If one takes away the fact that most of these events actually happened in the span of one medieval ruler's reign, the story is boring. The story that Shakespeare tells actually livens up one of the most complicated tales of the British monarchy, but without a few good sword fights the show is tedious and seems to go on forever.