Article Title

Memory, Composition, and the Relationship of King John to The Troublesome Raigne of King John


Beatrice Groves


This article looks at the question of the relationship between Shakespeare’s King John and the anonymous Troublesome Raigne of King John. This has been a contentious subject ever since Honigmann argued that the latter might be a bad quarto of Shakespeare’s play rather than, as had usually been thought, its source. This dispute over the status of the two texts centers on the interaction of memory with composition. One of the playwrights, as he writes his play, is remembering an earlier play; the other is not. This article explores various aspects of the relationship between the texts in which the study of memory might be illuminating. It will argue that the traditional interpretation is correct, and that it is The Troublesome Raigne rather than King John which is the earlier play, and that it is Shakespeare’s text, rather than the anonymous play, which shows signs of narrative and verbal recall. New evidence is given for this interpretation in a reading of an episode shared by the two plays—the discomforting of Austria before the gates of Angiers—which is only plausibly explained as a piece of comic business invented by the author of The Troublesome Raigne and revised by Shakespeare.

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