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Hubert enters with executioners, and he tells them to hide themselves and be ready. Hubert calls in Arthur, who speaks of his woe at being a young gentleman and wishes he were a simple shepherd. Hubert becomes upset, touched by Arthur's innocence, and begins to feel merciful toward the boy. He presents Arthur with a paper that says that Hubert has been instructed to put out Arthur's eyes. Arthur asks him if he must do it, considering what friends they have become. Hubert says he has sworn to do it and must.
Hubert calls out the executioners, and Arthur is frightened, but he tells Hubert he needn't employ such scary men, for he will submit to the punishment without struggle. Hubert sends away the executioners and tells Arthur to prepare himself. Arthur begs Hubert to spare him, pointing out that even the fire refuses to help Hubert by not growing hot enough to heat the iron. Finally Hubert relents and says he won't hurt Arthur, but he reminds Arthur that he had promised he would, so John must not find out that Arthur is still alive.
John enters his court with Pembroke and Salisbury, and he ascends the throne. He speaks of his second coronation, which he has just ordered for the apparent purpose of making his lords swear allegiance again. Pembroke and Salisbury think it was a wasteful and ridiculous ceremony. John says he still thinks it was a worthwhile action, and promises them he'll do what they advise hereafter.
They ask that Arthur be released, as it would please the people and because Arthur poses little threat to his rule. John agrees, and as Hubert enters, he takes him aside. Pembroke and Salisbury confer about how they heard Hubert had been hired to assassinate Arthur, and they fear the worst. John returns and explains that Arthur has just died. Salisbury and Pembroke are displeased, and suggest foul play contributed to Arthur's death. The lords announce their intention to attend to Arthur's burial, and they depart.
John comments that he now sees his reign will not become more solid through the death of others; his nobles are now furious, and that weakens his power. A messenger enters and reports the approach of a huge French army. John wonders why his mother didn't report that the French were mobilizing. The messenger explains that Eleanor has recently died, as has Arthur's mother Constance. John is extremely upset to hear the news.
The Bastard, accompanied by a citizen, enters to report the results of his expedition to the monasteries. He collected money, but as he traveled among the people, he heard all kinds of rumors. The citizen with him had predicted that John would give up his crown by the time of the next national holiday. John orders the citizen hung on that same day, and sends him away with Hubert.
I'm reading all of Shakespeare by his 450th anniversary and recently blogged on King John:
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