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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court

I was lost. There was no help for me. I was dazed, stupefied; I had no command over myself, I only wandered purposely about, like one out of his mind; so the soldiers took hold of me, and pulled me along with them, out of the cell and along the maze of underground corridors, and finally into the fierce glare of daylight and the upper world. As we stepped into the vast enclosed court of the castle I got a shock; for the first thing I saw was the stake, standing in the center, and near it the piled fagots and a monk. On all four sides of the court the seated multitudes rose rank above rank, forming sloping terraces that were rich with color. The king and the queen sat in their thrones, the most conspicuous figures there, of course.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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This document was downloaded from Lit2Go, a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format published by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology. For more information, including classroom activities, readability data, and original sources, please visit -connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court/3049/chapter-6-the-eclipse/.

Throughout the centuries, people have looked to the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as the standard for a harmonious society. In the stories that have been passed down, knights were bold and chivalrous, fighting real and supernatural foes for the honor of themselves and the ladies they pledged themselves to. The king wisely watched over his subjects with an eye toward justice. In 1889, Mark Twain published the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court to debunk the myths. The book has a man of Twain's era magically transported back to Camelot, the court of King Arthur. What he encounters is not a mystical time of dragons and sorcery, but a time of ignorance and suffering, when anyone who claims to have witnessed a supernatural event is believed by all. The King's court is balanced atop an unjust social system that ignores the rights of the working people and confers divine rights upon nobles who, having been born to wealth and power, have no idea of justice. The book's protagonist makes himself more powerful than the legendary magician Merlin by performing tricks that are simple for a man with contemporary knowledge. In addition, the protagonist sets about making wide-reaching social reforms, only to find that enlightenment ultimately does not work with superstitious, naïve people.

In the legend that Hank reads in the book's introduction, Sir Launcelot presents prisoners to the ladies of the court on behalf of Sir Kay. Later, Sir Launcelot leads the army of five hundred knights who storm London by bicycle to save Hank and the king from being hanged. As in the traditional stories, Sir Launcelot is in love with King Arthur's wife, Guenever, and she is in love with him.

Unlike the way Merlin the magician is presented in legends, the Merlin here is a braggart and a fool. His reputation is based on the way that he takes tales of ordinary events and adds details that make it look as if his supernatural powers were involved. When, in the third chapter, Merlin tells the story of how Arthur came to be king (with Merlin's help), Hank Morgan is charmed, but everyone in court, who has heard the story numerous times before, falls asleep. Merlin soon gets on Hank's bad side by insisting that he (Hank) be executed. When Hank has a chance to impress people with his own brand of sorcery, he does it by first bettering Merlin and then destroying his tower. Later, when Hank is facing one knight after another in a duel and besting them with his lasso, Merlin steals it from him and then tells King Arthur a lie about the lasso being good for only a set number of uses before it would vanish back to where it came from.

The first legends of King Arthur have been traced to Welsh sources in the seventh century. These sources linked King Arthur to Celtic mythology, which explains the story's legendary, supernatural elements, such as Arthur earning his throne when the Lady in the Lake gives him the enchanted sword Excalibur. For hundreds of years after that, the stories about the king and his court expanded, and the characters and locations that are currently associated with the story, including Camelot, the Round Table, Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, Merlin, and the rest, were added. At the same time, a romantic tradition grew up around the characters in the 041b061a72


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