A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court can help.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Left alone, the seriousness of Hank’s situation begins to sink in, and his blood runs cold. But his optimistic nature ultimately wins out. He becomes certain that the eclipse won’t just save his life—it’ll make him the greatest man in the kingdom. Thus, he’s shocked when the guards who open the door inform him that the stake is ready for his execution.
Despite his democratic idealism, when presented with the opportunity, Hank wants power and influence. And he’s  even willing to use distinctly undemocratic means like lying and pretending to be a wizard to get it.  
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
In answer to Hank’s protests that the execution was supposed to be the next day, the guards reply that it’s been moved forward. As they lead Hank into the courtyard, Clarence proudly explains that he’s responsible for the shift. To help Hank escape bondage without permanent damage to the sun, Clarence got the execution moved. He’s certain that dimming the sun just a little bit, without truly hurting it will convince the king to release Hank.
Hank’s plan depends on the timing of the eclipse—although he cannot control nature. Even though Hank is advanced by medieval standards, he is still just a man. Ironically, Hank’s predicament comes directly from the success of his own lie about being a wizard, which galvanized Clarence into action.
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
The terror of the 4,000 people who have gathered to watch the execution is palpable. They sit as still and silent as stones. Executioners tie Hank to the stake and pile logs around his legs. Then a monk raises his face to heaven and begins to pray in Latin.
The fear and desperation in the gathered crowd shows how simply the medieval people accept Hank’s claims of magical power. But the power to induce fear won’t do Hank any good unless he can follow through on his threat.
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Suddenly, the monk falls silent. Hank follows his gaze and sees the beginning of the solar eclipse. Merlin shouts for Hank to be burned, but King Arthur stays the execution. Taking advantage of the moment, Hank stretches his arms toward the sun and orders everyone to freeze. The king begs him to spare the sun. Since he must let nature run its course, Hank stalls for time. He first confirms the date again with the monk, who says it’s the 21st of June. Earlier, when Clarence gave Hank the date, he was mistaken. 
Luckily for Hank, Clarence has gotten the dates wrong, and the eclipse begins just in the nick of time. Luckier still, Hank’s flair for the dramatic enables him to stall, since his magical “effect” depends on the eclipse’s timing. Any power that Hank gains over the medieval citizenry rests on his ability to make them believe that he controls events. Any loss to this aura of power will compromise the basis of his authority.
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Get the entire A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court PDF
Hank tells King Arthur that he’s going to blot out the sun entirely, and he will restore it only if the king appoints him chief minister and executive. Arthur agrees and sends servants to fetch new clothes for him. This buys a little more time, but not quite enough. Hank must wait out the eclipse with the bluff that he’s allowing the darkness to make sure the king won’t go back on his word. As the sun begins to reappear, Hank pretends to dissolve the curse. The crowd’s cheers break the tension.
Hank plays the eclipse for all it’s worth; by the time the sun begins to reappear, he has earned his freedom and is well on his way to achieving his imperialistic ambitions to create a nineteenth-century outpost in the sixth century as the second most powerful man in the kingdom. His new clothes mark his changed status; no longer a monster or a prisoner, he is now marked as a man of power and influence.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Quotes