Study Guide

King John Act 3, Scene 4

By William Shakespeare

Act 3, Scene 4

Read the full text of King John Act 3 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • At the beginning of this scene, King Philip, Louis, and Pandolf walk out onto the stage.
  • King Philip is ticked off because his entire naval fleet has just been destroyed by a crazy storm.
  • Brain Snack: This is a not-so-subtle shout-out to the Spanish Armada. You know, that giant naval fleet that tried to attack England in 1588 (less than a decade before Shakespeare wrote this play) but got scattered by strong winds. More on Shakespeare's political shout-outs in "Themes: Memory and the Past."
  • Pandolf tells King Philip to cheer up.
  • King Philip thinks Pandolf is nuts. "Can't you see that everything's going bad for us? We lost the battle, we lost the city of Angers, and Arthur's been taken prisoner!"
  • Louis the Dauphin (a.k.a. the prince of France) agrees with his dad. Things aren't looking so great for the French.
  • Just when things couldn't get any more depressing, in walks the most depressing sight of all: Constance, frantic and tearing out her hair because she's lost her little boy, Arthur.
  • Ignoring everyone who tries to calm her down, Constance calls on Death to come for her. (That's how grief-stricken she is.)
  • Constance offers to kiss Death's "detestable bones" and imagines placing her "eyeballs" in the skull of Death's corpse. (Yikes! Has she been reading about "Yorick's Skull" in Hamlet, or what?)
  • Brain Snack: Some critics think Constance's famous speech was inspired by the death of Shakespeare's 11 year-old-son, Hamnet (1585-1596) (source). But that's debatable, especially since the play may have been written as early as 1594.
  • Pandolf tells Constance she's crazy.
  • Constance lights up Pandolf for being insensitive and then threatens to kill herself.
  • King Philip tells her that she loves her grief just as much as she loves her child.
  • Constance replies that her grief is all she has left. Then she lets her hair down and says she's going crazy with grief.
  • When Constance leaves the room, King Philip worries that she'll hurt herself, so he runs after her.
  • That leaves Louis and Pandolf onstage. Louis is pretty bummed, but Pandolf tells him not to worry, because King John is definitely going to kill Arthur. Then, thanks to Louis's marriage to Blanche, Louis will be next in line to the English throne.
  • Louis is worried that King John will come after him next, but Pandolf tells him not to worry, because 1) the English people aren't going to tolerate a guy who runs around snuffing out little kids, and 2) the English people aren't going to like the fact that King John has got the Bastard running around robbing all the churches.
  • Pandolf encourages Louis to slap together some forces and invade England.
  • Then Pandolf and Louis run off to get permission from Louis's dad to invade England.