This has already been much more enjoyable than anticipated, in large part due to the character Philip the Bastard.
Act I, Scene 1
Chantillon, an emissary from France, comes to tell John that he isn’t really King and that he should just give up the throne to his nephew Arthur. In a shocking turn of events, John refuses to give up the throne. So now France and England are at war.
Eleanor, John’s mother, quickly blames this turn of events on Arthur’s mother, Constance. If it wasn’t for Constance, they might have reached a peace with diplomacy rather than fighting. Eleanor urges John to stay strong in his fight for the throne.
The sheriff enters to inform the King that he needs to settle an odd country matter. Philip and Robert Faulconbridge enter and explain that there is a dispute over their father’s inheritance. Robert asserts that, even though he is younger, he is the rightful heir because Philip is not his father’s son. Eleanor is shocked that he would disparage his mother in that way. Philip assumes that Robert is only making this assertion because he wants the lands. Philip can’t say for certain that he is a Faulconbridge, but he is certain that he is just as well begot as Robert.
John and Eleanor find Philip very amusing and notice that he has a striking resemblance to Richard Lionheart, John’s brother. When John asks who is Philip’s father, Robert claims Richard Lionheart was Philip’s father. John shrugs this off saying that having a wife that fools around is the risk all husband’s take and their father seemed to treat Philip as legitimate.
Eleanor like Philip and asks him to abandon all claims to the Faulconbridge estates and be her knight in France. He quickly agrees. This is quite a positive turn of events for him and Robert gets his land…yayyyy for him.
After everyone leaves, Philip reflects on his good fortune. That’s when his mother enters to defend her good name. Philip tells her it’s too late and it all worked out for the best and asks her who his father is. She confirms that it is Richard Lionheart. He thanks her for choosing such a great man to cheat on her husband with.
Act II, Scene 1
Louis, the Dauphin of France, welcomes the Duke of Austria to the gates of Angiers where they plan to fight for Arthur’s right to the English crown. The Duke is the man that killed Richard Lionheart, but now, to make up for what he did, he’s going to defend Arthur. Arthur and Constance are very grateful. The Duke swears to fight well to defend Arthur. Constance hopes it isn’t necessary.
Conveniently, Chantillon shows up at exactly that moment. Unfortunately, he was caught up so he arrives only moments before the English forces. Surprise!
King John marches up and asks King Philip why they can’t have peace. King Philip explains that they fight for the sake of England. King John questions under whose authority Philip claims Arthur to be the rightful King of England. King Philip claims to have God on his side, which is just silly because clearly God is on John’s side.
Eleanor questions who Philip claims usurped the throne. Constance says John. They both release some pent-up in-law drama where they insult each other and both their sons. They even try to pull Arthur into it.
The Duke of Austria pleads with them all to stop bickering. Philip the Bastard uses this opportunity to challenge the Duke of Austria into a battle of wits. Philip definitely has the upper hand.
King Philip calls for an end to the bickering and tells his son to decide what they should do. Louis asks John to give up. Shockingly, John refuses. John asks Arthur to yield to him and he will treat him well. Eleanor, too, tries to call Arthur over to their side. Constance scoffs at this idea and Arthur tells her to stop as he starts to cry.
Eleanor and Constance get into a shouting match over making Arthur cry, until King Philip puts a stop to it.
They decide to see what the people of Angiers have to say about who is king. Angiers has opted not to take sides. They are loyal to the King of England and will let everyone else figure out who that is.
King John and King Philip fight it out and Philip the Bastard taunts the Duke of Austria some more. In the end, both sides claim to be the victor. Angiers is still not having any of this nonsense, so the two Kings decide to take Angiers together and sort out this whole Arthur or John deal later. This seems like a terrible idea to Angiers, so they suggest a compromise: Louis of France will marry John’s niece, Blanche, and put an end to the whole affair. John even throws in most of the British territories in France as Blanche’s dowry. He won’t give up Angiers though. They all agree that this is a good plan and peace is achieved. John even gives Arthur lordship over Angiers and a bunch of other titles.
Philip the Bastard remarks on how silly this whole thing is.