King John repents to the bishop as an attempt to keep peace with France, who has led most of his allies into revolt. Always a man of business, this John. And he dies as he lived–working on state matters.
Aside from King John’s disconnect from the spiritual life (and that “kill the kid” incident, which I think was a spur of the moment act of fear) I don’t see him as a particular villain. I was expecting to see a more notorious picture painted of him, and given the feelings about the Catholic Church when Shakespeare is writing, he seems to be a kind of fated-to-doom character.
Oh, and since I brought up the Church, the day that the war sets on in the beginning is the beginning of the Triduum (the three day solemnity/celebration of Easter) which paints a very interesting picture. You know, with all the war and marriage and death.
I was surprised that the Bastard Phillip turns out to be a legitimate servant to his king. I bring this up, because the last lines are spoken by him. “This England never did, nor never shall,/Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,/But when it first did help to wound itself” (V.vii.112-114). I’m leaving this really as food for thought. England shall not be conquered, unless it is by the mistakes she makes herself. Hmm. At the end of a history play (and my knowledge of English history is not extremely extensive prior to, well, really the Victorian era–but I’m reading this to attempt to make up for that…as well as this) these three lines left me pondering on how this is pertinent to a kind of “English understanding of being English.” Perhaps my friends across the pond may be of service?