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King John: Q & A

"Bell, book, and candle shall not drive me back/When gold and silver becks me to come on" (3.3.14-5). To what does "Bell, book, and candle" refer?

"Bell, book, and candle" refers to a Roman Catholic ceremony in which a person is excommunicated. In the ritual dating back to the eighth century, the bishop recites: "We separate him, together with his accomplices and abettors, from the precious body and blood of the Lord and from the society of all Christians; we exclude him from our holy mother the church in heaven and on earth; we declare him excommunicate and anathema; we judge him damned, with the devil and his angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire until he shall recover himself from the toils of the devil and return to amendment and to penitence." After passing sentence the bishop rings a bell, closes the book, and extinguishes a candle. Thus, Shakespeare's Bastard will follow his greed in spite of even the most severe punishment.

Does King John contain any prose?

No. King John and Richard II are the only two Shakespeare plays containing no prose.

How to cite this article:

Mabillard, Amanda. King John Q & A. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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