Study Guide

King John Act 4, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 4, Scene 3

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

  • This scene opens high on the walls of the castle where Arthur is imprisoned. In fact, Arthur is at the top of the wall. Huh? What's he doing there?
  • In a soliloquy, Arthur explains that he's going to make a run for it. He figures that he's dead meat if he stays where he is; even though he might die by falling from the wall, he thinks it's worth risking it.
  • Arthur jumps—and gets knocked silly. He regains consciousness just long enough to say a brief prayer for his soul. Then he dies.
  • Just then, in walk the noblemen who were looking for Arthur: Pembroke, Salisbury, and Lord Bigot. They don't notice Arthur.
  • We find out these English noblemen are secretly in cahoots with Louis the Dauphin (the Prince of France), against King John.
  • Then the Bastard shows up. He tries to get a hearing from the noblemen, but they want nothing to do with him. They think King John is a murderer and don't want to give their loyalty to him again.
  • Then Salisbury sees Arthur's dead body. The noblemen make a big show of their grief and anger.
  • Finally, the Bastard manages to get a word in edgewise. He says that it's definitely a bad thing that all this has happened, but he points out that Arthur could have died by accident.
  • Salisbury isn't buying it—he's pretty sure Arthur was murdered by King John.
  • Salisbury and the other nobles kneel in front of Arthur's corpse and swear allegiance to it.
  • Just now, Hubert, who seems to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, walks in. Not only that, but the first words out of his mouth are: "Hey! So glad I ran into you! You can stop worrying, Arthur's alive!" Yeah, oops.
  • As you might imagine, Salisbury is pretty outraged. In fact, he pulls out his sword and threatens to stab Hubert in the guts.
  • The Bastard tries to calm Salisbury down, but he's pretty worked up. In the meantime, Hubert isn't budging an inch: he swears to defend himself.
  • When it becomes clear that Hubert and the Bastard aren't backing down, Pembroke, Salisbury, and Lord Bigot head off to join Louis the Dauphin and his army.
  • Now that they're alone, the Bastard says to Hubert, "Hey man, tell me the truth: did you do it? Because, if you did, you are definitely—and I mean definitely—going to suffer in hell for all eternity."
  • Hubert says, "It wasn't me, I swear: I had nothing to do with it."
  • The Bastard accepts Hubert's words. He tells Hubert to carry away the child's body. In the meantime, he plans to go see King John.
  • Then the Bastard plans to help the king get ready to rumble with the rebellious English lords and the French invaders.