A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Merlin’s tale puts everyone but Hank to sleep. Sir Dinadan wakes them up with a practical joke, then he regales the crowd with a string of bad jokes that everyone but Hank (who’s heard them all before) and Clarence (who calls them “rotten”) appreciate.
Dinadan’s tired, unfunny jokes—which the medieval audience nevertheless enjoys— confirm Hank’s opinion that the medieval psyche is childish and inferior to his own. By agreeing, Clarence shows an aptitude for Hank’s (supposedly) more advanced values.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Next, it’s Sir Kay’s turn to explain how he defeated Hank. Kay claims he found Hank in a barbarian land, defeated the magical properties of his strange clothes (which is just a mechanic’s uniform) with prayer, and killed his 13 companions before taking him prisoner. He identifies Hank as a “prodigious giant” and a “man-devouring ogre,” although everyone can see with their own eyes that he is just a man.  Kay concludes by setting noon on the 21st as the date for Hank’s execution. 
Hank finds the audience’s acceptance of Kay’s story a discredit to their intelligence because it suggests a willingness to believe what they are told rather than what they can see with their own eyes. But ironically, Hank does see himself as a superhuman in this time and place, and he will capitalize on the audience’s fear of him to attain power.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Quotes
As the lords and ladies make off-color comments about Hank and his outfit, Merlin calms the crowd’s fear over the magical properties of Hank’s clothes with the “commonsense hint” that they strip him naked, much to Hank’s embarrassment, before they lead him to the dungeon.
Hank possesses no inherent advantage until he figures out how to leverage his 19th-century knowledge. Being stripped emphasizes his vulnerability and initiates his personal and professional rivalry with Merlin as a representative of the old order.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Quotes