Vaughan’s Vocabulary

Don Vaughan provides infrequently used words to strengthen your

I have been studying Act I of “The Life and Death of King John” in which guests come to the palace.

First, Chatillon, an ambassador from France, refers to John’s kingship as “the borrowed majesty” and reports that King Philip is working on behalf of King John’s deceased brother Geffrey’s son. Contending that young Arthur Plantagenet has a lawful claim to “this fair island” and other territories, Philip asks John to abdicate.

After Chatillon’s exeunt, Robert Falconbridge and his illegitimate brother Philip enter with “the strangest controversy” as the text says. Philip explains that he is the elder son of the late Robert Falconbridge. The other brother argues that he (Robert) is the legitimate heir. Philip explains that they had the same mother, but different fathers.

It is inferred from the text that while the senior Falconbridge was away, Coeur-de-lion and Falconbridge’s wife had an affair. The younger son recounts that on Falconbridge’s deathbed he bequeathed his lands to him and told him that his mother’s son was not his. Each is selfishly seeking the king’s imprimatur.

1. abdicate (AB-duh-kate)

A. to renounce or relinquish power, especially in a formal manner

B. to transfer land and other property to someone

C. to reconsider

D. to assist financially, especially to kin

2. imprimatur (im-pre-MAH-ter)

A. approval

B. sympathy

C. empathy

D. friendship

Let’s see how you’re doing. Abdicate is A and imprimatur is A.

3. Coeur-de-lion is

A. Andre Gretry.

B. Richard the Lionhearted.

C. Prince Henry.

D. Philip of Macedon.

E. Curtis of Lyons.

I couldn’t resist including the name Andre Gretry, the Belgian composer, who wrote the opera Richard Coeur-de-lion in the latter sixteenth century. B is the answer.

4. Based on the opening paragraphs, which one is a theme in this Shakespeare work?

A. brotherly love

B. unconditional love

C. hereditary legitimacy

D. Be true in your marriage

E. eleemosynary actions

As “The Spark Notes” website points out, hereditary legitimacy is a concern in this history play.

Last week’s mystery word was diffidence, which is found in Act I of King John.

This week’s mystery word to solve is what King John calls the elder brother Philip. You can use this word for someone who is wildly or heedlessly impulsive.

Don R. Vaughan, Ph.D., of Eupora is a speech and theater professor at East Mississippi Community College, Golden Triangle. Contact him at