War is the inevitable result when the King of France demands that John relinquish his crown in favour of his nephew, the young Prince Arthur. Excommunication, attempted atrocity, rebellion and assassination all contribute to a political and personal turmoil that finds devastating expression in an anguished mother’s grief for her son.

King John of England is visited by an ambassador from King Philip II of France, who demands that John relinquish his throne in favour of his young nephew Arthur, the son of John’s deceased elder brother, Geoffrey, and Constance, the Duchess of Brittany. Defying this challenge to the legitimacy of his rule, John declares war on France. Meanwhile, John is asked to resolve an inheritance dispute between two brothers, Robert Faulconbridge and his sibling, Philip, whom Robert believes to be the bastard son of John’s predecessor, King Richard I (commonly known as “Coeur-de-lion” or “Lionheart”). John offers Philip, “the Bastard,” a knighthood if he will give up his claim to the Faulconbridge estate and follow him instead to the wars in France – a proposal that Philip readily accepts. Every war, however, takes unexpected turns, and as it turns out, France is not the only enemy with whom John will have to contend.

“Masterfully orchestrated and performed” – Toronto Star

“Deliciously contemporary” – The Globe and Mail

The Stratford Festival has been a shining star of Canadian theatre since July 13, 1953, when Alec Guinness, in the title role of Richard III, emoted the lines, “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York”.