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Study Guide: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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Like most stories involving time travel and historical transcendence, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court takes liberties with geography and history. The novel makes use of both geographical and historical settings, framed in one time and place and taking place primarily in another. Geographically, the novel opens and closes in and around Warwick Castle, England. The Castle is a tourist spot, and the narrator Mark Twain presumably meets the principal character, Hank Morgan, while sightseeing. Hank Morgan shares his story with the narrator in Warwick Castle and a hotel room. The exterior frame of the novel (made up of the first and last chapters) takes place over a period of a day and a half. Historically, this exterior frame is set in nineteenth century England.

The bulk of the novel, however, takes place in the historic Camelot of the sixth century and in and around both the English countryside and Europe, where Hank Morgan claims to have lived in the past. Camelot is an ancient city with fortified castles, cozy inns, and verdant pastoral landscapes. The people are primal in inventions, having few of the luxuries of nineteenth century England. Camelot makes up the court of the historic King Arthur, where chivalrous knights, damsels in distress, and poor subjects at the mercy of the King and the Church dwell. The Orthodox Catholic Church makes up the laws of the land and has established the “Divine right of Kings”. The royalty live in luxury, while the common man struggles to make ends meet. The protagonist of the novel, Hank Morgan, finds himself constantly comparing this primal time and country to the recently industrialized and technologically advanced one of the nineteenth century. The novel is basically a juxtaposition of the old and the new, the pure and the developed. Hank Morgan spends most of the novel trying to transform Camelot into an advanced civilization, then spends the last moments of his life wishing he could return to the purer time in the past.


Major Characters

Hank Morgan
The “Yankee” stranger who meets Mark Twain at Warwick Castle and proceeds to tell his fantastic tale of having lived in Camelot, the court of King Arthur in sixth century England. Morgan both tells his tale and produces a manuscript to explain how he, a modern man of nineteenth century England, came to live in the past and then was magically and unfortunately returned to the present. In Camelot, he is known as The Boss.

In Camelot, he is The Boss’s right-hand man. Clarence is an enterprising young boy of the sixth century who befriends Hank Morgan and learns all the inventions and technologies of the future.

King Arthur
The famous king of Britain and the ruler of Camelot becomes the companion of The Boss on many adventures.

Mark Twain
The tourist-turned-narrator who meets Hank Morgan in Warwick Castle and is given the manuscript of his adventures in Camelot. While he is only a character in the first and last chapters, he is nonetheless the narrator and the framing device for much of the novel’s structure and theme.

Minor Characters

The magician of Camelot who holds sway over all the people, including the King, until The Boss arrives and threatens his status.

The informal name of Demoiselle Alisande la Carteloise. She accompanies The Boss on his errand to rescue the princesses from the clutches of three ogres. Later, she marries him and has his child.

Sir Kay the Seneschal
The knight who first spots Hank Morgan in Camelot and brings him to the court of King Arthur.

Sir Launcelot
The most chivalrous and prominent of the Knights of the Round Table, he is defeated by The Boss in a duel. Later, he instigates a war with the Knights and the King.

Sir Dinaden
The official joker of the court. His jokes are stale and crude. Later, when he publishes the same jokes in a book, The Boss finds them intolerable and has him hanged.

Sir Sagramour Desirous
The knight who goes in search of the Holy Grail. Before he leaves, he challenges The Boss to a duel to be fought on his return.

Morgan Le Fay
The charming sister of Arthur and wife of King Orien. She is an autocratic ruler of her kingdom reputed for her cruelty.

A charcoal burner. He plays the part of a good host when King Arthur and The Boss seek asylum in his house. However, after observing the eccentric behavior of his guests, he fears them and seeks the help of the villagers in capturing them.

The boastful blacksmith whom The Boss befriends in the market place.

Grip, An Earl
He pretends to rescue The Boss and the King from the angry villagers but sells them as slaves later.

Sir Mordred
King Arthur’s nephew. He fights on his uncle’s behalf and invites the wrath of the Church.

Sir Meliagraunce
He fights a duel with The Boss and gets wounded. Later, when The Boss tries to help, Meliagruance stabs him.

The infant daughter of The Boss and Sandy.

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