Creative heritage of William Shakespeare in the sphere of theatrical plays can be roughly divided into three main genres, each of which correlate to a certain period of his development as a writer, namely: early historical dramas, comedies and tragedies. One of the most vivid examples of his early works is “King John”.
The given drama is the only Shakespearean play of the historic character, which is based not on the historic sources, but on another play of an anonymous writer popular in the folk theater at that time. However, the plot of the play refers to the time of the reign of King John, who, being provoked by his callous mother, took the throne, which had legally belonged to his nephew, and mercilessly forced the young boy into death by keeping him in a remote castle.
Being one of his earliest dramas, King John does not possess the refined perfection of the poet’s later works. We cannot imagine it being performed on stage nowadays, as it possesses neither the unity of action, nor the distinct and clear development of the storyline. Moreover, a gloomy atmosphere, which is not generally characteristic of Shakespeare’s works, and an excessive attention, paid to the political matters of that time, make it difficult even for the reader to keep in line with the plot.
However, the talent of Shakespeare is fully demonstrated in the characters he created: greedy, cruel, longing for authority and power John and wise, kind and gentle Arthur make an ideal manifestation of the classical villain and hero antagonism. To make the effect more dramatic, Shakespeare made twelve-year-old Arthur even younger, than he was in reality, which resulted in the creation of a wonderful image of a courageous child, full of dignity, who opposes the totally corrupted adult.
Despite numerous artistic drawbacks, King John represents an interesting period in the creative activity of William Shakespeare showing the fully developed vivid characters and outlining a key theme of power and betrayal, which will be further developed in his later works.