Literapedia Book Notes for

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain


Characters

  • Hank Morgan (ch 1)—the feisty Connecticut Yankee who's tragic tale, composed of his personal journal, comprises most of the body of the book
  • King Arthur (ch 2)—the King of England and friend and liege to the Yankee
  • Sir Launcelot (ch 3 )—the greatest knight of the Table Round - peerless in battle
  • Clarence (Amyas le Poulet) (ch 2)—a foppish page who becomes the Yankee's right-hand man
  • Sandy (Alisande) (ch 11)—a wandering princess who helps the Yankee on his quest and eventually marries him
  • Merlin (ch 3)—the magical fraud whom the Yankee unseats with his 19th-century "magic"
  • Guenevere (ch 2)—the Queen who is apparently having an affair with Sir Launcelot
  • Sir Sagramor le Desirous (ch 9)—the hot-tempered knight who challenges the Yankee to battle and is shot
  • Sir Dinadan (ch 4)—the comedian whose moldy jokes disgust the Yankee
  • Morgan Le Fay (ch 16)—a brutal and haughty queen who hates Arthur, her kinsman
  • Sir Kay (ch 1)—the haughty knight who captures the Yankee and tells ridiculous tales of his adventures
  • Marco (ch 31)—a humble charcoal burner
  • Dowley (ch 31)—a proud self-made, well-to do blacksmith

Chapter Summaries

  • Preface - Mark Twain claims what issues are raised or settled and outlines the purpose of the book.
  • A Word of Explanation - The "author" speaks of his experience with the mysterious stranger in England and at the museum. He reads an excerpt from the Tale of King Arthur. The stranger enters and they drink and talk.
  • The Stranger's History - The stranger describes his history, occupation, and Yankee roots. Describes how he arrived and awoke in 6th century England and is captured. The rest of the book is the manuscript the stranger hands the author .
  1. Camelot - The Yankee describes the landscape and the people as he is led by the knight.
  2. King Arthur's Court - They arrive at Camelot and he attempts to talk to people. He meets Clarence, but still believes he is in a mental asylum.
  3. Knights of the Table Round - He describes the savage manners of the round table and what he sees there. The way the knights act and speak often of brutality seems barbaric. Merlin makes a boring monologue.
  4. Sir Dinadan the Humorist - Dinadan makes a racket with a practical jokes and attention shifts to the new prisoner. After a marvelous tale of his capture, he is stripped and led to the Dungeon.
  5. An Inspiration - Hank wakes up incredulous in the dungeon. The page (Clarance) comes in and informs him he will be burned. Hank remembers an imminent eclipse and decides to claim he will blot out the sun if harmed.
  6. The Eclipse - It is decided, upon hearing the threat, that the prisoner is to be burned the same day. It turns out that that is the day of the eclipse (Clarence gave the wrong date for that day), and the Yankee takes advantage of the situation, making himself the King's right-hand and ousting angering Merlin.
  7. Merlin's Tower - Busy with affairs of state, he takes the time to advertise a new miracle to the adoring crowds and blows up Merlin's old roman tower with black-powder charges.
  8. The Boss - The Yankee reflects on his greatness and speaks with contempt of the surrounding civilization. He attacks the aristocracy, the government, and the Church.
  9. The Tournament - He describes the savagery of the tournament. He reads the report written by his priest-journalist. In a misunderstanding he is challenged by Sir Sagramor le Desirous for the next great tournament years later.
  10. Beginnings of Civilization - The Yankee begins to institution all sorts of secret reforms through military and naval academies and all sorts of factories and inventions. He takes Clarance as his right-hand man.
  11. The Yankee in Search of Adventures - Alisande comes to beseech the king for help in freeing 44 ladies from the castle of 3 ogres. The Yankee laments how foolish and trusting all these people are and how many such frauds are able to prosper. The honor of the quest is given to the Yankee who must accept. He prepares and sets off after questioning the young lady.
  12. Slow Torture - His suit of armor is unwieldy and terribly uncomfortable. He rides in pain and stops to cool off. Sandy is loquacious any bothersome.
  13. Freemen - He spends a sleepless night on the cold ground full of insects. In the morning he breakfasts with freemen working on the road and makes seditious remarks on the nature of political power.
  14. "Defend Thee, Lord" - Leaving the freemen and paying well, Sandy and Hank encounter a band of knights. The Yankee blows smoke at them and they flee and surrender.
  15. Sandy's Tale - Sandy attempts to give an account of the captured knights with frequent humorous interruptions by Hank.
  16. Morgan le Fay - They encounter the brutal queen who murders her page at dinner. She almost arrests Sandy and the Yankee, but being told he is the Boss, she is immediately cowed.
  17. A Royal Banquet - Drinking and feasting, the mother of the page enters and the queen attempts to order her death, but Hank prevents it. At night, they visit a man on the rack and Hank stops the torture, hears his case, and frees him, commenting on the gruesome system of medieval justice.
  18. In the Queen's Dungeons - The Queen's dungeons are further explored and more prisoners are freed and their accounts presented, along with anti-noble commentary.
  19. Knight-Errantry as a Trade - Sandy tells more of the knights' tale and Hank discusses business matters with her for humorous effect.
  20. The Ogre's Castle - They reach a pig-sty which Sandy claims is the castle she spoke of. They buy-off the pigs and Sandy pretends they are noble ladies.
  21. The Pilgrims - Leaving the pigs at some house, they encounter pilgrims and have a good time with the group as they head for the healing fountain in the Valley of Holiness. Stopping at the inn, they are informed of the terrible calamity that has befallen the valley - the fount has run dry.
  22. The Holy Fountain - Merlin is already at the well trying to make the water flow again. Hank discovers that the well is merely leaking into a fissure. He visits with the monks and the hermits. He orders some fireworks and explosives from Camelot via telephone from an abandoned hermit cave.
  23. Restoration of the Fountain - Merlin gives up his attempts while Hank presents a fantastic fireworks display and fixes the fountain. He offers to rebuild the baths that supposedly caused the fountain to fail once before to the jubilation of the abbot and monks.
  24. A Rival Magician - He makes fun of a rival magician who claims to see what distant kings are doing. Via telephone, Hank learns that Arthur is planning to visit the newly-restored fountain and foretells the king's coming to the monks.
  25. A Competitive Examination - The officer board compares the Yankee's "West Point" graduate with a noble for command of the knew standing army. The "noblest" is selected and the Yankee speaks out once more against the aristocracy.
  26. The First Newspaper - Hank tells the king he wants to go among the people disguised and Arthur approves and asks to come along. The Yankee expounds on government expenses and the practice of the king's healing touch to those afflicted. He also buys a newspaper and presents its contents. The priests marvel at this new artifact.
  27. The Yankee and the King Travel Incognito - Hank disguises the King and they leave. He trains the king to act humble and dejected. The Yankee entertains the king with prophesies of the future. They encounter two knights whom the Yankee kills with dynamite.
  28. Drilling the King - Hank drills the king on being a broken peasant.
  29. The Smallpox Hut - They encounter a miserable hovel full of a family dead and dying from smallpox. After a heart-wrenching scene, they flee into the night.
  30. The Tragedy of the Manor-House - They encounter hanging corpses by the woods in a storm and see a riot and a fire. In their confusion they flee.
  31. Marco - Hank and King Arthur seek refuge at the house of a charcoal burner. The goings-on of the previous night are explained. The Yankee encourages Marco to speak the truth and make seditious remarks about his lord and nobility in general.
  32. Dowley's Humiliation - Hank invites several townsmen to Marco's house and buys an extravagant feast and new goods for Marco's family. The massive bill is read aloud and the Yankee pays with four dollars, putting Dowley's boasts to shame.
  33. Sixth Century Political Economy - Dowley and the Yankee discuss economics. Hank tries to explain the importance of free trade and the free market while Dowley represents the ignorance of protectionism and economic planning.
  34. The Yankee and the King Sold as Slaves - The argument gets nasty and the party gets into a fist fight. Hank and the King escape but are pursued and discovered. A noble seems to take them in, but tricks them and sells them as slaves in town.
  35. A Pitiful Incident - The king complains of his low sale-price. They enter town and view an awful hanging of a young mother exploited by the law and relentlessly pursued by the state.
  36. An Encounter in the Dark - Hank attempts to make his escape by picking his lock and jumping his dealer. He is arrested however and it turns his plan goes awry. He must now escape the police while they look for the last slave (him) to hang for the death of the slave-dealer.
  37. An Awful Predicament - Hank attempts to change his clothing and escape capture. He calls Camelot to send knights to save the king, but he is finally arrested.
  38. Sir Launcelot and Knights to the Rescue - As the slaves are being hanged, Hank and Arthur are jeered by the crowd. At the last moment, Clarence and many knights appear on bicycles in the distance.
  39. The Yankee's Fight with the Knights - Returning to Camelot, Hank must take up Sir Sagramor's challenge. Merlin attempts to help Sagramor. Hank unseats many knights, including Sir Launcelot with a lasso. Finally, he shoots Sagramor. He challenges chivalry itself and begins shooting knight after approaching knight and prevails.
  40. Three Years Later - The country is transformed and full of trains and telephones. Knights have been organized into baseball teams and are now ruthless salesman and business men. Hank has married Sandy and they now have a child named "Hello-Central."
  41. The Interdict - In Hank's absence, the entire nation is swept in political turmoil and war and the church bans his new inventions. The people return to their superstitious ways.
  42. War! - Clarence and few young disciples have organized a resistance and a place to hold out in case of war. The factories are mined and preparations are made.
  43. The Battle of the Sand Belt - In the well-supplied cave, war-preparations are made and a general challenge is issued. 30,000 knights, left alive after the war, are now unified under the Catholic Church against the Hank and his followers. 5,000 are blown up in frontal charge, and the rest are killed at night, trapped between a moat and electric fences.
  44. A Postscript by Clarence - Merlin disguised as a woman, entered the cave on the pretense to help. He cursed Hank with to sleep for 13 centuries, thereby returning him to his own century. Clarance and the boys are left facing piles and piles of putrefying corpses. They hide Hank's body in the cave and await their uncertain fate.
  • Final P.S. by Author - The author finishes reading and approaches the sleeping stranger who is in a state of delirium. His ravings are recorded and the stranger, the Yankee, Hank Morgan, dies.

Book Note Creator


Ilya Dubovoy '08