A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

A Connecticut Yankee

In King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain (1835 -

1910)

Type of Work:

Social satire

Setting

England; 6th-century, during the reign

Of King Arthur

Principal Characters

Hank Morgan, the Connecticut Yankee "Boss";
in reality a 19th-century mechanic

King Arthur, King of England

Merlin, Arthur's court magician

Sandy, Hank's sixth-century wife

Story Overveiw

Hank Morgan, born in Hartford, Connecticut,
was head superintendent at a vast arms factory. There he had the means
to create anything - guns, revolvers, cannons, boilers, engines, and all
sorts of labor-saving machinery. If there wasn't already a quick, newfangled
way to do a thing, Hank could easily invent one. Supervising more than
a thousand men had also taught Hank how to handle just about anybody -
until he found himself involved with a bully named Hercules in a "misunderstanding
conducted with crowbars," and was knocked out by a "crusher" to the side
of his head. When he came to, Hank was sitting under an oak tree. A man
decked out in polished armor appeared and thundered toward confused, groggy

Hank. After confronting him rudely, the man claimed Hank as his prisoner
and took him to his court in the land of Camelot. Hank had been captured
by Sir Kay of King Arthur's Roundtable. He was presented before a court
led by Merlin, the braggart magician who had helped Arthur in his rise
to the throne, and it was quickly decreed that Hank Morgan should die at
mid-day on June twenty-first, the year of our Lord, 528. Certainly, King

Arthur's England was not the gallant world depicted in Fairy Tales, but
a cruel, feudalistic society; and it looked as though Morgan would be a
casualty of this barbaric order. But, resourceful Yankee that he was, Hank
remembered that on June 21, A.D. 528 a total eclipse of the sun had supposedly
occurred. If indeed he was a nineteenth-century traveler lost in the days
of chivalry, he could use this knowledge to his advantage.

The appointed day came and Hank was unshackled
and taken out of his dungeon cell to be burned at the stake. While fagots
were meticulously piled around him, Hank stood calmly, his hands pointing
toward the sun. Then he solemnly warned the on] ookers that he was about
to smother the whole world in the dead blackness of midnight. At that moment,
the eclipse began. As the earth was covered in shadows, the people turned
in terror to Hank, who then extracted a promise from King Arthur: Hank
demanded to be appointed the King's perpetual minister and chief executive.

The clever Yankee supplanted Merlin as Arthur's advisor, and the magician
was cast into prison.

Though he was now the second most powerful
person in the kingdom, Hank missed the little conveniences he had left
behind in modern life, such as soap, matches and candles. The castle walls
were barren and cold; there was no looking glass and no glass in the windows;
there were no books, pens, paper or ink. And worst of all, no sugar, coffee,
tea or tobacco were anywhere to be found in the castle. If Hank's new life
was going to be bearable, he would have to invent, contrive, create, and
reorganize things - the very tasks he liked most.

Fearing interference from the church, Hank
set out in secret to improve, not only his own living standards, but also
the dreary lot of the commoners in Arthur's feudal kingdom. In a short
time he had set up telegraph and telephone services. He scoured the land
for bright young men to train as journalists and mechanics. Workmen in
his newly built factories fabricated guns, cannons, soap, and almost any
handy item imaginable. Known as "The Boss," Hank also established schools,
but he was most proud of his "West Point" - a military and naval academy.

Even though Hank was high in command, and feared as a powerful magician
besides', he was not of noble birth, and the nobility looked down on him.

This wasn't particularly bothersome to Hank, however, since he held them
in the same low regard.

Three years passed. One day, Merlin, now
released from prison and disguised as Sir Sagramor, challenged Hank to
a duel. To prepare himself for the encounter, the Yankee decided to go
on a quest. He donned a set of uncomfortable armor and off he went through
the countryside. In the wake of his journey he encountered freemen, noblemen,
and hermits. He spent many hours thinking about how to banish oppression
from the land and restore rights to Camelot's citizens, without "disobliging
anybody."

The Boss, however, also experienced numerous
comical episodes. He once turned aside a