William Shakespeare



a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Arthur is the son of Geoffrey, the second son of Henry II. He is considered by his mother, Constance, and Philip of France, to have a better claim to the throne than John, and Philip and John fight a battle over the throne which Arthur does not participate in. Instead, he weeps over the trouble his claim has caused. After the second battle, Arthur is taken prisoner by John, who asks Hubert to have him put to death. At some point offstage, this order is changed, since Hubert arrives at the prison to blind Arthur. Arthur begs for Hubert's compassion, reminding Hubert that he has loved him. Hubert is won over and hides Arthur. However, Arthur decides to escape and leaps from the prison wall, dying on the ground below.


Austria is a conflation of the historical Duke of Austria, who imprisoned Richard, and the historical Viscount of Limoges, who actually killed him. He is allied with Philip in an attempt to put Arthur on the throne. When Constance rages against the marriage of the Dauphin and Blanche, Austria tries to calm her and she taunts him about the lion's skin he wears, claiming he should replace it with a calf's skin. Austria declares that he would never accept such words from a man, causing the Bastard to continually taunt him with those exact words. In the battle resulting from Cardinal Pandolf's excommunication of John, Austria is killed by the Bastard and his head brought on stage.


Philip the Bastard is the son of Lady Falconbridge and Richard I. He and his younger brother appear before John quarreling over who should inherit Lord Falconbridge's land. John and Eleanor are convinced by the Bastard's appearance that he is the son of Richard, and suggest that he give up his claim to the land and instead serve the Queen. When he agrees, John renames him Richard Plantagenet. After the first, inconclusive battle between France and England, he suggests they join together to conquer Angers. At first they agree, but the Citizen suggests a marital alliance instead, an agreement which enrages the Bastard. In the second battle, the Bastard kills Austria and rescues Queen Eleanor from capture. John then sends the Bastard to England to take money for the fight from the monasteries. He does so, but as he is collecting money, he realizes that the people are turning against John, and finds Peter of Pomfret, a prophet, who has declared that John will give up his crown soon. John then sends the Bastard to seek out Salisbury, Bigot and Pembroke, who have turned against him. When the Bastard finds them, they have discovered the dead body of Arthur. At first the Bastard is as appalled as they are, but he believes Hubert's claim that it was not murder, and returns to John. When John submits to Pandolf, the Bastard is disgusted, but remains loyal. He protects England against the Dauphin's army when John is poisoned, and after he is dead speaks the final lines promising that England will never be conquered if her subjects are true to her.


Lord Bigot first appears with Salisbury and Pembroke, making plans to ally with France and then discovering the body of Arthur. Although he is listed as appearing in several scenes after this, he does not speak and never acts separately from Salisbury and Pembroke. Since Essex appears in the first scene and then disappears, it is possible that Shakespeare meant to combine the roles.


Lady Blanche of Spain is the niece of King John. After the first, inconclusive battle between France and England at Angers, the Citizen suggests that Blanche marry the Dauphin and that her dowry be the disputed territories. Blanche immediately and dutifully admits to being in love with the Dauphin. When Pandolf excommunicates John and the Dauphin urges his father to take up arms against England, Blanche protests that it is her wedding day and begs him not to attack her uncle. He ignores her pleas except to point out that his fortune is hers now. Blanche bitterly laments her torn loyalties, but accepts her duty to follow her new husband.


The Chatillon of France delivers Philip's message that France believes Arthur is the rightful king of England and will fight to put him on the throne. He returns to France with the message that he is only a step ahead of John, due to the winds, and that John has decided to bring the battle to France rather than wait for an invasion.


The Citizen of Angers appears on the wall and declares that the city is loyal to the King of England, but that the citizens do not know yet if that is John or Arthur. They prefer to wait until a battle has demonstrated who the correct king is. After an inconclusive battle, the Citizen suggests that the Dauphin marry Blanche and thus create peace between France and England. This proposal is accepted.


Constance is the widow of Geoffrey and the mother of Arthur. She is staunch in support of her son's right to the throne of England and has allied herself with Philip of France. She argues with Eleanor and is not moved by Arthur's tears over the trouble he has caused, claiming instead he is ashamed of his grandmother. When the decision is made to marry Blanche to the Dauphin and end the war, the two kings try to smooth things over with Constance by offering Arthur titles and several towns, but this does not help. She verbally attacks first Salisbury, who gives her the news, and then all in the wedding party. When Pandolf arrives, Constance begs Philip to turn against John and rejoices when he does so. After Arthur is captured, Constance goes mad, although she claims she is not because then she would not care about her son. Later, the Messenger tells John that there is a rumor that she has died, but cannot confirm this.


Louis, the Dauphin of France, is with his father Philip when England and France meet before the gates of Angers, but does not speak until after the first, inconclusive battle. When the Citizen suggests that peace be made by marrying Blanche and the Dauphin, he quickly finds her everything he could want in a wife. When Pandolf arrives and excommunicates John, the Dauphin immediately urges his father to war, and ignores his new wife's pleas that he consider her conflicting loyalties. When the Dauphin hears that Arthur has been taken, and presumably killed, he is despondent, until Pandolf points out that he can now claim the English throne through his wife. The Dauphin goes to war and subverts many of the English lords. However, John submits to Rome, and Pandolf returns to the Dauphin to make peace, only to find that the Dauphin refuses to stop. He swears to continue even after he hears that his supplies have been shipwrecked and the English lords returned to John, but in the final scene, Salisbury reports that Pandolf has at last persuaded the Dauphin to make peace.


The Dauphin's Messenger arrives to tell the Dauphin that Count Melun has revealed the Dauphin's plans to kill the English lords after the battle, and that they have therefore returned to John's side.


After the first, inconclusive battle between John and Philip, the English Herald appears before the gates of Anger to announce that England has won and that therefore John is king.


The Earl of Essex appears only in the first scene and it is possible that Shakespeare meant to combine his role with that of Lord Bigot, who appears later. In the scene, Essex is brought news of the Falconbridge case by the Sheriff, and asks John if he wishes to hear the case.


Although there are an unspecified number of Executioners in the speech headings, only one speaks and Hubert never directly address more than one. The Executioner first worries whether or not the warrant authorizes the blinding of Arthur and then admits that he is pleased to be dismissed.


After the first, inconclusive battle between John and Philip, the French Herald appears before the gates of Anger to announce that France has won and that therefore Arthur is king.


A "ghost character." Geoffrey was the second son of Henry II and the father of Arthur. Because he was older than his brother John, the order of succession is questionable.


Gurney is an attendant on Lady Falconbridge. He enters with her, but is dismissed almost immediately by the Bastard so the latter can question his mother about his parentage.


Hubert is a follower of King John and when Arthur is captured, John gives him over to Hubert for execution. Apparently that order is changed, since Hubert arrives with a warrant to blind Arthur. He gives in to the pleas of Arthur and promises to hide him. He returns to John and announces that the dead is done, but when John regrets his decision and blames Hubert, Hubert reveals that Arthur is still alive. He returns to the castle where Arthur was kept, only to find that the boy has tried to escape and fallen to his death. He is called a murderer by Pembroke, Salisbury and Bigot, but is defended by the Bastard, who believes him. During the battles against the Dauphin, Hubert meets with John, bringing him news of the battle, and then seeks out the Bastard to tell him John has been poisoned by a monk and seems likely to die.


King John is the king of England, but at the beginning of the play his right to the crown is challenged in favor of Arthur, only child of John's dead elder brother Geoffrey. After dismissing the Chatillon, John encounters the Falconbridges and discovers that the eldest is actually the bastard son of Richard I. He knights the Bastard, giving him the name of Richard Plantagenet after the Bastard rejects the name of Falconbridge. John travels to France and appears before the gates of Angers, where he meets Philip, Austria and the Dauphin, who all support Arthur. After the Citizen refuses to open the gates until the claim to the throne is settled, England and France fight an inconclusive battle. John is then swayed by the Citizen's suggestion that the Dauphin marry Blanche, despite the Bastard's disgust. Immediately after the wedding, Cardinal Pandolf arrives and chastises John for not allowing the Pope's choice of Archbishop of Canterbury to stand. John, in anachronistic language, defends the right of the monarch to have control over the church and rejects the Pope's authority, at which point he is excommunicated. First the Dauphin and then, reluctantly, Philip, turn against John and another battle breaks out. John is victorious and captures Arthur, whom he gives over to Hubert with orders for his death. He then returns to England, where he has a second coronation ceremony, despite his lords' objections. Hubert enters and declares that Arthur is dead, but when the lords turn against John for his cruelty, John wishes the deed undone. Hubert tells him Arthur is indeed alive. John then receives a prophecy that he will give up his crown on Ascension Day. This proves to be true when John submits to the Pope and gives his crown to Pandolf as a sign of that submission, then receiving it back again. The Dauphin's invasion is quelled, but John is unable to celebrate because he has been poisoned by a monk. He dies without realizing that England has won and peace reestablished.


King Philip is the king of France and supports the right of Arthur to the English throne. He appears before the gates of Angers and demands that the citizens support Arthur and that John step down. After the first, inconclusive battle, he agrees to the plan to marry the Dauphin and Blanche and thus create peace. When Pandolf arrives and excommunicates John, Philip resists turning against him for quite a while, but eventually does and agrees with his son that John must be attacked. He last appears bemoaning the turn of the battle against him, and trying to calm Constance in her mad grief for her son. In the second half of the play, the Dauphin takes over the action and becomes John's foil.


Lady Falconbridge, the mother of both the Bastard and Robert, enters after their meeting with John. She at first refuses to admit that she was unfaithful to her husband, but when the Bastard states that he has denied his parentage, she admits he is Richard I's son.


Count Melun is apparently the liaison between the Dauphin and the rebellious English lords, since they speak of meeting with him. He is present when the lords swear to support the Dauphin and when Pandolf brings word of John's reconciliation with the church, but does not speak. In the battle that follows, he is given a mortal wound and because he is dying he tells the English lords that the Dauphin plans to have them killed after the battle, causing them to return to John.


The Messenger appears twice. The first time is immediately after John's second coronation, and he brings news that the Dauphin has drawn up a great power and is ready to invade France. When John asks how an army could have been mustered without intelligence from Eleanor, the Messenger reports that she died on April first, news that shakes John badly. The Messenger also reports that Constance died three days previously, although he admits this may be a rumor. He returns during the war with the news that the Dauphin's supplies were wrecked and the French are not fighting well.


A "ghost character." An unnamed Monk who was John's food taster poisons him. According to Hubert, the Monk was so determined to kill John that he tasted the poisoned food himself and therefore died.


Cardinal Pandolf is sent by Pope Innocent, who is incensed that John will not support his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. Pandolf first tries reason, and then threatens John with excommunication, a threat which is carried out when John refuses to back down. The excommunication destroys the newly created peace between England and France as first the Dauphin and then Philip turn against John and declare war. After Arthur is taken prisoner, Pandolf advises the despondent Dauphin to be happy, since Arthur's death will open the way for his claim to the throne through his marriage to Blanche. John finally submits to the Pope, giving his crown to Pandolf and receiving it back again. Pandolf then promises that he can stop the French invasion, but when he appeals to the Dauphin to cease, the Dauphin arrogantly asserts the rights of royalty and refuses. However, Salisbury reports in the last scene that he has been able to bring the Dauphin to a peace after he suffers several losses.


The Earl of Pembroke seems to exist mainly to fill out the number of lords. He is listed as present in the first two scenes, but is silent, and does not reappear until the English lords turn against John. After John's second coronation, Pembroke protests, along with others, that there was no need for such an action, claiming that when workmen attempt to improve a work they often mar it. He then asks for Arthur to be set free, and when Hubert arrives, reveals that he knows Hubert has a warrant to kill Arthur. He leaves with the others to seek out Arthur's body, and in the next scene mourns Arthur's death and threatens Hubert. With the others, he rebels against John, and then returns when Melun reveals the Dauphin's plans to kill the English after the battle.


Peter of Pomfret is a prophet who is brought before John by the Bastard because of the many followers he has. He prophecies that John will give up his crown on the next Ascension Day. On hearing this, John promptly has Hubert execute him


Philip is the given name of the Bastard, but this name is almost never used.


A "ghost character." Pope Innocent, incensed that John will not support his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury, sends Cardinal Pandolf to threaten him with excommunication, a threat which is carried out when John refuses to back down.


Prince Henry appears in the final scene with his father as John dies of poison. He mourns his father's passing and gives orders for the burial.


Queen Eleanor is the mother of John and grandmother of Arthur. She supports John completely as king of England. When the Falconbridges arrive, she recognizes the Bastard's resemblance to Richard I and asks if he will deny his connection to the Falconbridge family and instead serve her. In front of Angers, Eleanor taunts Constance for being disloyal and even suggests that Arthur is a bastard. She is apparently threatened during the battle between France and England, and is rescued by the Bastard. The Messenger who delivers the report of a French army ready to invade also reports that Eleanor has died.


A "ghost character." Richard I, also called Coeur-de-lion, was the previous king of England and the elder brother of John. He is also revealed to have been the father of Philip the Bastard. He is mentioned in connection with Austria, who is (unhistorically) presented as his killer as well as his jailor, and who wears a lion's skin, apparently to signify this deed.


After Philip the Bastard is acknowledged as the son of Richard I and agrees to serve John and Eleanor, John dubs him Sir Richard Plantagenet. However, this name is never used in speech headings, and only rarely by other characters.


Robert is the younger son of Lady Falconbridge, and appears before King John to force the disinheritance of his elder brother Philip, because he is a bastard. From descriptions by the Bastard, he is a thin, weak looking man, and the image of his father. Robert eventually gains the land when the Bastard throws in his lot with John and Eleanor.


A "ghost character." The elder Robert Falconbridge was a friend of Richard I, and was sent by him on an embassy to Germany, during which time the Philip (the Bastard) was born. Robert, who is described as the image of his father, recounts how his father repudiated Philip on his deathbed.


The Earl of Salisbury is present in the first scene, but does not speak, and is not listed as one of those who appears with John before the gates of Angers. When John orders someone to inform Constance of the marriage of the Dauphin and Blanche, it is apparently Salisbury, because in the next scene she appears with him, complaining bitterly about the news he has brought. He next appears as one of the lords at John second coronation, protesting with the others that the action was unnecessary. He emerges as the leading lord after Arthur is declared dead; he is the first to declare that he is leaving John and, in the next scene, is the one who has made contact with Melun. When they find the body of Arthur, Salisbury is not convinced that Hubert is innocent and leaves. When the lords join the Dauphin, Salisbury speaks at length justifying his apparent treason, and when Melun reveals that the Dauphin plans to kill the English lords after the battle, Salisbury is the one who decides they should return to the English. In the final scene he is restored to John's side and delivers the news that Pandolf has brought the Dauphin to peace.


A non-speaking character. The Sheriff appears in the first scene and speaks privately with Essex, presumably to tell him about the Falconbridge brothers since they enter next. However, he does not speak out loud.


A "ghost character." John's refusal to accept Stephan Langton as the Pope's choice for Archbishop of Canterbury causes the Pope to send Cardinal Pandolf to John demanding his submission.