Home  »  Volume V: English THE DRAMA TO 1642 Part One  »  § 7. Kynge Johan

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

IV. Early English Tragedy

§ 7. Kynge Johan

In Bale’s Kynge Johan, historical facts and characters are adapted to religious, or, rather, controversial, ends with elaborate ingenuity; but the spirit and method of the drama remain those of the moral play. The character of the king alone maintains, throughout, a well defined personality. It is not until nearly the end of the first of the two acts that Sedition assumes the name of Stephen Langton, Usurped Power becomes the pope, Private Wealth becomes Pandulphus and Dissimulation Raymundus. Later, Dissimulation gives his name as “Simon of Swynsett,” and, obviously, is Raymundus no longer. After the king’s death, the action—if, indeed, there can be said to be any—is carried on entirely by abstractions. In spite of some interesting features, Kynge Johan belongs substantially to an earlier type than the group of plays just considered, and is, indeed, probably of earlier date.