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Undiscovered Shakespeare: The Life and Death of King John

February 10, 2022 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm  |  Virtual Event


Join Santa Cruz Shakespeare, UCSC Shakespeare Workshop, and The Humanities Institute, as we launch Undiscovered Shakespeare: King John, the third installment of our annual virtual Shakespeare program. Over the course of three sessions (February 10, 17, and 24), we will immerse ourselves in another rarely performed play and reflect on it both as a point of departure for Shakespeare’s career and as a mirror for the times in which we live.

Session 1: February 10th, 2022 6:30pm-8:30pm
We begin with a dramatic reading of The Life and Death of King John, before turning to a presentation by Jesse Lander, Associate Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, and an open discussion with Professor Lander, director Charles Pasternak, and the cast of the production.

Subsequent sessions are held on Feb 17 and Feb 24, 2022. Register for all three sessions here.


King John, Full Play Synopsis:
France threatens England with war, claiming that King John has usurped the throne from its rightful claimant, his nephew Arthur. Armies from both France and England seek support from the town of Angers which proposes that John’s niece marry the dauphin of France to solve the issue. The parties agree, but the wedding and proposed peace are interrupted by the arrival of an emissary of the Pope who, angry at John for his treatment of the church in France, rekindles the war. France invades England and John plots to have Arthur murdered. When Arthur falls from a wall and dies, the English lords, convinced that John is responsible, abandon his cause and join France. John tries to reconcile with the Church to forestall his defeat by the French, but the Dauphin refuses to back down. The English lords, however, learning that the French mean to kill them after the victory, change sides again. France sues for peace, but the news comes too late to John, who dies, poisoned by a monk.

Undiscovered Shakespeare is a public arts and humanities series co-produced by Santa Cruz Shakespeare, UCSC Shakespeare Workshop, and The Humanities Institute. It brings professional actors and scholars together with the public for a staged reading and discussion of works by Shakespeare that are rarely produced. King John is one of only two plays by Shakespeare written entirely in verse (along with Richard II). In it, Shakespeare explores the use of political rhetoric to cloak self-serving ambitions during the reign of the king that saw the birth of the Magna Carta.


Sean KeilenSean Keilen is Professor of Literature and former Provost of Porter College at UC Santa Cruz, where he directs Shakespeare Workshop, a research center of The Humanities Institute that uses Shakespeare’s writing to bring the campus and the community together in conversation about topics of shared concern. He studies Shakespeare and the history of criticism, and is the author or editor of books and essays about early British literature and the classical tradition in England. He was educated at Williams College, Cambridge, and Stanford University.


February 10, 2022
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm