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King John is generally viewed as one of Shakespeare's weaker efforts.

The English contingent arrives; Eleanor trades insults with Constance, Arthur's mother.Charles Kemble's 1823 production made a serious effort at historical accuracy, inaugurating the 19th century tradition of striving for historical accuracy in Shakespearean production.Other successful productions of the play were staged by William Charles Macready (1842) and Charles Kean (1846). Mantell's 1915 production (the last production to be staged on Broadway) and Peter Brook's 1945 staging, featuring Paul Scofield as the Bastard.Each army dispatches a herald claiming victory, but Angiers' citizens continue to refuse to recognize either claimant because neither army has proven victorious.The Bastard proposes that England and France unite to punish the rebellious citizens of Angiers, at which point they propose an alternative: Philip's son, Louis the Dauphin, should marry John's niece Blanche, a scheme that gives John a stronger claim to the throne, while Louis gains territory for France.War breaks out with substantial losses on each side, including Louis' reinforcements, who are drowned during the sea crossing. The Bastard plans the final assault on Louis' forces, until he is told that Pandolf has arrived with a peace treaty.

Many English nobles return to John's side after a dying French nobleman, Melun, warns them that Louis plans to kill them after his victory. The English nobles swear allegiance to John's son Prince Henry, and the Bastard reflects that this episode has taught that internal bickering could be as perilous to England's fortunes as foreign invasion.John refuses to recant, whereupon he is excommunicated.Pandolf pledges his support for Louis, though Philip is hesitant, having just established family ties with John.John attempts to make a deal with Pandolf, swearing allegiance to the Pope in exchange for Pandolf's negotiating with the French on his behalf.John orders the Bastard, one of his few remaining loyal subjects, to lead the English army against France.Hubert has a furious argument with John, during which he reveals that Arthur is still alive.