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King John Characters

King John is the youngest of Elinor’s three sons and the last one living; he takes the throne despite the fact that the second of the three brothers left an heir. 

Sly, slippery, and deeply insecure, John is keenly aware of how uncertain his claim to the throne is. He depends a great deal on his mother, following her advice on everything. Though John acts the part of a King well, there is a distinct weakness to him; he relies on others to do things for him, be it Elinor, the Bastard, or Hubert. He refuses to accept the authority of the Pope until he can no longer afford not to, and pillages the monasteries and abbeys of England to pay for his wars. When things go wrong, he tries to plead that he is not at fault; he does not directly order Arthur’s death, but speaks highly suggestively to Hubert until the latter confirms that he has understood the King’s wishes. Once he has Hubert’s agreement, John does however put the order in writing. He loses whatever respect his noblemen had for him when he has himself crowned a second time to reaffirm his title after defeating Arthur’s supporters; the news of the French invasion and of his mother’s death disconcert him greatly, and he suddenly finds his position very shaky. He grows depressed after submitting to Pandulph, and gives over the command of his armies to the Bastard. He is poisoned by a monk, and dies after suffering from a high fever. He is a deeply ambiguous figure, as all the other characters are aware.


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