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

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Hank Morgan starts preparing the King for their tour. He cuts Arthur’s hair so that he can travel in disguise. As well, he dresses the King in the clothes of a Freeman. Though the King now looks like a commoner, he does not behave like one. Morgan thus has a tough time training the King and guiding him. During the course of their travel, they talk about the future. Morgan predicts events thirteen hundred centuries later and impresses the King.

Traveling as commoners is a difficult task, since the King is unused to being treated as an inferior, and since the knights, unaware of his royal presence, treat him precisely that way. One time, The Boss manages to get between the King and a Knight. Another, he decides he must persuade the King to try harder to act like a common man. He instructs the King in how to talk, how to walk, how to act. It is difficult, however, because the King cannot comprehend the mindset of the lower classes. The Boss tries to teach the King about the lives of his subjects, but the King never quite gets it.


Though the King is dressed as a commoner in this scene, he finds it difficult to behave as one. Even with hours of instruction and correction, the King is unable to think or act like anything but royalty. In this respect King Arthur resembles the prince in Twain’s novel The Prince and the Pauper. In the earlier novel, the character Edward Tudor dresses like a pauper but expects to be treated like a King. In this novel, however, the King comes to fully understand the plight of the poor.

Mark Twain has rightly been called a Comic Realist and this chapter justifies that claim. Twain shows how the King behaves regally even after wearing the clothes of a freeman. Born and brought up in the lap of luxury, the King finds it hard to adjust to the hard life of a common traveler. Also, having been praised and extolled by his subjects for long, Arthur gets infuriated when some of the knights misbehave and treat him as they normally would treat the common man. Consequently, when an errant knave passes by, the King misses the power afforded by carrying a sword, since he would like to strike the offending knight. The King’s behavior is comical, endearing. Twain succeeds in presenting a realistic portrayal of the chivalrous King trapped in the clothes of a peasant.

When Morgan asks the King to present a more humble attitude, the King does “his honest best, but lord it was not great thing. He looked as humble as the leaning tower at Pisa.” After Morgan becomes exhausted from correcting the King, he notes, “If you have ever seen an active, heedless, enterprising child going diligently out of one mischief and into another all day long, and an anxious mother at its heels all the while, and just saving it by a hair from drowning itself or breaking its neck with each new experience, you’ve seen the King and me.”



After the bitter experience with the knights, Morgan decides to groom the King in country manners before introducing him to the villagers. Accordingly, he teaches Arthur the art of talking, walking and behaving in the countryside. The King is a patient student and learns the rules of the game fast. Yet Morgan is not happy with the results because the King is unable to project the image of a peasant; his royal bearing keeps popping up.


The chapter is devoted to the lessons Morgan teaches the King before presenting him to the villagers. He corrects the posture, expression, and attitude of His Majesty in order to appear realistically like a peasant. Arthur imitates the Boss correctly but he is unable to project the essence of a freeman. This is because the King fails to understand the nature and feelings of the peasants. Unaware of the conditions of the poor villages, he lacks insight. Through this chapter, Twain conveys as he did in The Prince and the Pauper that experience alone will enable a man to understand his subjects thoroughly. King Arthur, like the Prince, can appear like a common man only after experiencing the plight of the lower classes.

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