A play by Creator/WilliamShakespeare, thought to have been created somewhere between 1596 and 1598. It follows the life of UsefulNotes/KingJohnOfEngland, in his war against his rival, Phillip II of France, to his eventual death at the hands of a treacherous monk.

Though today one of Shakespeare's more obscure plays, and generally considered one of his lesser works by those who ''do'' know of it, ''King John'' was one of his most popular plays in the nineteenth century. It has been staged on Broadway four times - but not once in the last century.

It is one of Shakespeare's two plays to be written entirely in blank verse; the other is ''Theatre/RichardII''.

!!This play provides examples of:

* AnachronismStew: Several instances in the play, notably when King John makes a reference to England's cannons, which were not actually fielded until well over a hundred years after John's death.
* [[AntiHero Anti-Hero]]: John; see the anti-hero [[AntiHero trope page]] for more info.
* ChildrenAreInnocent: Arthur Plantagenet, stated to be about 8 years old. (In reality, he would have been about 16.)
* ChuckCunninghamSyndrome: After Act 3, Phillip is never seen or referenced again.
* ColdBloodedTorture: Subverted when Arthur convinces Hubert not to go through with torture or execution.
* DecoyProtagonist: The real hero is UsefulNotes/RichardTheLionheart's bastard Falconbridge.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler:Constance]] is implied to have committed suicide offstage. Whether or not [[spoiler:Arthur's]] death was also deliberate on his part is left ambiguous.
* DroppedABridgeOnHim: Queen Elinor, until this point an important supporting character, is sent off to take charge of assets in France, and it is mentioned later that she died.
* EyeScream: The plan to execute Arthur Plantagenet is, for reasons never fully established in the play, paired with a plan to (spoiler-text for the faint-hearted) [[spoiler:poke his eyes out with hot irons]]. Yeah.
* HaveAGayOldTime: A character is called a cracker, centuries before it became a racial epithet.
* HeroicBastard: The eponymous Phillip The Bastard, a prime example of this trope.
* HistoricalHeroUpgrade: John gets a very slight one as he is presented as England's champion against the Catholic church's meddling.
* KillTheCutie: [[spoiler: Arthur's]] death definitely qualifies.
* MamaBear: Two, actually: Queen Elinor, mother to King John, and Constance, mother to Arthur Plantagent.
* NotTheFallThatKillsYou: Subverted, [[spoiler: In his somewhat suicidal attempt to escape from the castle, Arthur is killed when he falls from the wall.]]
* OffWithHisHead: [[spoiler: Austria is beheaded by The Bastard for his part in killing King Richard I, The Bastard's father.]]
* TheOphelia: Subverted. Similar to Ophelia (but preceding her, as ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' wouldn't be written yet for another year or two), Constance suffers the loss of her family, in this case, her little son, Arthur, and everyone around her says she is mad. But Constance herself sharply rebukes that she is still completely sane, that if she was mad, she wouldn't feel each grief as keenly as she does.
* PopculturalOsmosis: The phrase "gild the lily" -- a misquote of a line from this play -- is far, far, ''far'' more popular than the play itself, which today is one of Shakespeare's most obscure.
* TooGoodForThisSinfulEarth: Arthur Plantagenet, a young boy of eight in the play; actually 16 during the historical events.
* TwiceToldTale: ''The Life and Death of King John'' tracks very closely to a play that is believed to have been published slightly earlier: ''The Troublesome Reign of King John''. Shakespeare appears to have set out to write a much-improved version of that play, in which he succeeded by making John an [[AntiHero anti-hero]], removing the comfortable moral framework of the precursor, and removing a romantic subplot.
* UncannyFamilyResemblance: Philip "The Bastard" Faulconbridge is identified as a probable biological heir to King Richard Lionheart, before he even begins to describe how Richard is probably his father.