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Heaven Take My Soul, and England Keep My Bones!

Cassell's History of England (Public Domain) / Wikimedia Commons

Although King John reigned for 17 years, until his death in 1216, England officially broke up with him in 1215, when the barons declared civil war and forced the king to sign the Magna Carta.

John soon threw out the document, declaring that he had signed under duress, but his end was in sight: war had exhausted the economy, he had lost all the territory previously gained in western France, he was excommunicated by Rome over who should be named Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was suspected (perhaps unfairly) of the murder of his nephew Arthur, who had been named heir to the throne by Richard the Lionheart.

The Victorians would go on to vilify him by placing the heretofore undated Robin Hood tales smack in the midst of John’s rule, but the Elizabethans were more even-handed—Shakespeare’s King John is a portrayal with some complexity, rather than a caricature of evil.

Shakespeare wrote King John entirely in verse—one of only two of his plays written that way, the other being Richard II. These days, the play is rarely staged, but you can see it performed by the Wichita Shakespeare Company outdoors in parks around Wichita on Fridays through Sundays, beginning September 5th.

A blanket or lawn chairs, a hopefully cool September evening, and the language of Shakespeare add up to my idea of a lovely farewell to summer.

Sanda Moore Coleman received an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University in 1991. Since then, she has been the arts and community editor for The Martha's Vineyard Times, a teaching fellow at Harvard University, and an assistant editor at Image. In 2011, she received the Maureen Egan Writers Exchange prize for fiction from Poets & Writers magazine. She has spent more than 30 years performing, reviewing, and writing for theatre.