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Free Study Guide for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 17 "A ROYAL BANQUET"

Summary

Later in the day, Le Fay hosts a lavish banquet that is attended by numerous people. There is a continuous flow of food and drink, so that all the guests gorge themselves. An old lady enters and begins cursing Le Fay for killing her grandson (presumably the clumsy orderly). The queen is infuriated and orders the lady to be taken to the stake. Sandy intervenes on behalf of the Boss and asks her to revoke her punishment. Though the queen pardons the old lady, she feels insulted. To appease her injured heart, the Boss tells her to execute the musicians instead.

Later, Morgan Le Fay takes them to the dungeons to show them a prisoner who is going to be executed. The Boss witnesses the prisoner undergoing torture. After talking to the prisoner and hearing about his sorry plight, he requests that the queen set the prisoner free. He also offers the man a job in his factory, and sends him off to Camelot for training.

Notes

Mark Twain satirizes the hypocrisy of the nobility when he presents the queen offering her prayers so soon after committing a vicious crime. Twain expresses his belief that the church is partly responsible for the immorality of royalty.

The Boss himself becomes the victim of Twain's criticism when he asks the queen to execute the musicians instead of the old lady. By living with uncivilized barbarians, the Boss unconsciously imbibes the quality of unjust and random cruelty. But there is a method to this madness, so to speak. Twain himself is voicing his opinion that creators of bad "art" ought to be killed. It is a subject that comes up frequently in Twain's humor.


Finally, Twain satirizes the unjust laws of England and the inhumanity of royalty-subjects dealt with at length in The Prince and the Pauper. For centuries, subjects were severely punished for petty crimes. Morgan Le Fay kills a man for falling on her knee by mistake. The queen is unable to tolerate a little lapse in propriety. In this chapter, the queen again orders a woman to be burnt alive because the old lady raises her voice against the Queen. And another unlucky prisoner is subjected to torture and condemned to die for killing a deer to feed his hungry family. The laws of the land in medieval times are totally insensitive to the needs of the poor and the punishments are inhumane. As well, the laws are biased. The queen may commit terrible crimes in daylight for no reason and go unpunished. Her subjects, on the other hand, are liable to lose their lives if they commit even a trivial mistake.

CHAPTER 18 "IN THE QUEEN'S DUNGEONS"

Summary

Before leaving the castle, The Boss asks for permission to view Le Fay's dungeons. There he finds numerous prisoners punished for nameless crimes, some of which have even been forgotten. The Queen is unaware of the number of prisoners in her dungeon, as well as the causes and terms of their imprisonment. The Boss asks permission from Le Fay to first release a couple who have been imprisoned since their wedding day; he then frees forty-seven other prisoners. In all, only one prisoner is left behind (one who killed a friend of Le Fay). The Boss offers the capable prisoners jobs in his factories.

Notes

This chapter again exposes the inhumanity of royalty and also clergy. Both the queen and the priest are against the idea of releasing their prisoners, even though neither remembers why the prisoners are there.

Another theory Twain emphasizes in the chapter is the belief that all human beings are same, immaterial of their birth. In the queen's dungeon, one of the prisoners is undergoing trial because he has publicly said that he "believe(s) that if you were to strip the nation naked and send a stranger through the crowd, (you) couldn't tell the King from a quack doctor, nor a duke from a hotel clerk."

CHAPTER 19 "KNIGHT ERRANTRY AS A TRADE"

Summary

As they resume their journey, Sandy continues with the story she had begun before reaching Le Fay's. She concludes her story by saying that the Knights whom the Boss had defeated in the woods were the same knights who had earlier yielded to another powerful knight. The Boss is amused to hear her story and talks of Knight- errantry as a trade.

Notes

The chapter has nothing much to offer except to focus on Sandy's fertile imagination. She continues relating the story she had earlier left abruptly. Her story sounds like a fairy tale. In fact, one of the episodes she relates is to be found in Le Morte d' Arthur. And to add spice to her story, she insists that the knights of the story were the same ones the Boss had captured during their journey. The contradiction between her story and facts amuses the Boss. When he points this out and inquires her age, she is silent.

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