Magna Carta Assembly
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Tues 3 Feb 2015 the only 4 known copies of Magna Carta 1215 will be brought together for the first time, at the British Library – seen by 1215 people who have won their tickets in a public ballot.
This 800th anniversary (and my attendance at the above!) was the event which prompted this script. It covers such questions as:
1. What was the Magna Carta?
2. Why was it granted?
3. What was its significance re: principles of democracy liberty and human rights?
4. What was it’s overall significance
Plus taking a close look at the principle character – namely … King John – not one of our most popular kings!
And of course, how could I resist including a certain ‘Robin Hood’ and his merry men?
As always, a mixture of educational fact accompanied by generous helping of irreverent fun!
Cast of 30 – easily adaptable up or down
Duration: From 15 to 20 minutes, not including music suggestions.
(Additional inclusion of King John poem adding another five minutes, approximately, for extra performance time)
Also available off the website - an assembly on the history of democracy.
(Exit Noble 9, returning with King John)
John: Ah, my lords! What was so urgent that you had to drag me out to this cold, damp island of Runnymede?
Noble 7: Why, sir. We would ask you to read this document and then sign it (shows place on last page) right here.
John: (Takes document and reads through it) Hmm. Now let me see.
(Flicks through pages)
Ooh. Looks a little lengthy! Maybe I should take it away to have a proper read.
(John starts to walk away but is stopped by Noble)
Noble 1: Not so fast! It’s 4,000 words long!
Noble 2: Containing 63 promises!
Noble 3: Make sure you read it carefully, now, here! Don’t you go wandering off anywhere
John: Hmm. Very well then. Now, let’s see ..
“No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land”.
Hmm. Sounds reasonable.
Ooh. Here’s a bit more:
“to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, right or justice”
(John directs next comments to the audience)
John: (Aside) Course, I haven’t the faintest idea what any of this means! But if it keeps this lot off my back, then so be it! Call it, buying me a little time!
(John turns back to address barons)
John: So. Where do I sign?
Noble 4: Wait a minute! That was rather quick! I mean, there’s speed reading and there’s speed reading!
Noble 5: Yeah! Are you sure you understand what this is all about?
John: Well, of course! What do you take me for?
Noble 6: (Aside) Better not answer that one!
Noble 7: So. Just to make sure you understand what you’re signing. You realise you’re guaranteeing the rights of the Church?
John: Er em. Of course.
Noble 7: You don’t sound very sure. This means you will let the Church appoint whom they want, without interference from you?
Noble 8: That you won’t abuse your position of power?
John: Perish the thought!
Servant 3: And that you’ll uphold the people’s right under the Common Law?
John: Of course!
Servant 4: And not lock anyone away without telling the rest of us?
John: Me? Lock anyone away? Just what do you think I’m capable of?
Servant 3 & 4: (Together) Don’t ask!
Noble 9: That you won’t tax us relentlessly to finance such things as your wars?
John: Oh most definitely not!
Noble 1: And you won’t try and rob us whenever we inherit estates and titles?
John: Well, really! I think ‘rob’ is a tad harsh!
Noble 2: You think so?
Noble 3: May we remind you
John: (Aside) Uh oh! Here we go!
Noble 4: It was you that lost Plantagenet lands in Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Touraine – all in the space of one year!
Noble 5: It was you that fell out with church – the Pope actually excommunicated you!
Noble 6: It was you that murdered your nephew and rival Arthur of Brittany
Noble 7: It was you that killed anyone that you thought was a threat – including that visionary, Peter of Wakefield.
John: A loony!
Noble 7: But a very influential one. Did you really think hanging him and his son would increase your popularity?
Noble 8: It was you that murdered hostages – remember those 28 Welshmen, all sons of nobility?
John: Well, I did hear that two of your lot were plotting to murder me!
Noble 9: And the taking of our wives and daughters? How do you explain that?
John: Hmm. Doesn’t sound too good, does it?
Noble 1: You can say that again!
John: But I meant well ….
Noble 2: Oh please! You’ll be telling us how sweet, kind and considerate you were, next!
John: Bravo! You took the words right out of my mouth!
Noble 3: Nah! We know better!
Noble 4: Violent! You ruled by terror
Noble 5: Cruel in the extreme!
Noble 6: Unscrupulous!
Noble 7: Totally lacking any conscience!
John: You sure you haven’t left anything out?
Noble 8: Untrustworthy!
Noble 9: Cold-blooded!
Narrator: OK. Enough! I think we get the picture! Can anybody find anything good to say about this man?
(Long silence as everyone shakes their heads)
Narrator: Oh dear! Not one of England’s most popular monarchs, then?
(Everyone shakes their heads)
Noble 1: So. Time we did something about this. Right?
(Everyone nods and then shouts in unison)
Whole cast: (Together) Sign the Charter!
John: (Testily) OK! OK! I can’t remember saying I wouldn’t! I mean, I’m actually quite a decent fellow once you get to know me ..
Whole cast: (Together) Sign it!
(John signs the Magna Carta and hands it back to Noble 7)
John: There! See how reasonable I am? Now let’s back to our lives again! Some of us have better things to do than standing around, in boggy fields, signing bits of paper!
(Exit Group 3 plus John)
Narrator: Hallelujah! I thought that was going to turn nasty! What a relief to get things sorted!
Music 6 Music from Disney’s Robin Hood (Oo-De-Lally)
(Enter Group 1)
Narrator: Oh no! Not you lot again! We’ve dealt with the serious stuff – that is, historical facts! What could you possibly have to add to that?
Robin Hood: Oh! Just the small matter of telling everyone what really happened!
Narrator: Now, wait a minute! You say ‘what really happened’? …. (laughing) As if you, cartoon characters, would know?
Maid Marion: So, tell us. What really happened? Once that Magna Carta was signed?
Narrator: (Feebly) Er em….Everyone lived happily ever after?
Little John: Huh! And who is dealing in fairy tale endings, now?
Sheriff of Nottingham: You didn’t really think ‘Good King John’ would honour his word?
Sir Hiss: Of coursssssssssssse, not!
John: And can I just point out, neither did those barons! I wasn’t the only ‘baddie’ in town!