For a play so little known today; King John has a surprisingly distinguished history. King John has the honour of being the earliest known example of a film based on a Shakespeare play. Good old King John makes his first appearance on film in an 1899 short, silent adaptation that recreates his death scene at the end of the play. Clearly, someone thought King John worth of a great deal of effort, film, and time. A piece of that kind was no easy feat in the early days of film; and they went to great trouble to get good old John on the big screen. Interesting, isn’t it? How the piece they chose first of all- as far as they knew quite possibly the only piece- to be filmed was from a play so forgotten that I could hardly find anyone who has read it now.
This early fascination with the play seems shot-lived however; as the only other film versions on the play are a 1989 television movie and the 2015 filmed Stratford production. It is this production I eagerly await to see on Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps the same production will cause a resurgence in Kin John popularity? Are we not all looking for another lesser-known Shakespeare play to celebrate, after all?
What, I wonder, has dropped King John so far out of our esteem in more modern times? Have we outgrown the grand histories of Kings? Or perhaps have we merely forgotten how little we have actually outgrown them? Our world is an ever-changing battle ground for competing media; we are pulled in many directions. Often we feel the need to stand and fight for something we believe to be worth saving, usually to the discontent of a power higher than our own. Does it not sound at all familiar to the story of an English king fighting for what he believes is the true course of the crown?
Check back in on Thursday for the fourth and final leg of our adventure with King John.