Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36-45

Chapter 36 An Encounter in the Dark

The slave gang arrives in London, which Hank describes as nothing more than "a big village." Hank spots a wire stretching between two rooftops and plans to somehow get to the telephone or telegraph office that must be waiting there. Their owner offers to sell both Arthur and Hank for twenty-two dollars. The buy asks for a day to consider, and Hank plans to make his move. He intends to pick his lock using a pin he has stolen from the buyer's cloak, free the king, and beat the master when he comes to check on the slaves while they sleep. When they hear the master approaching, however, Hank has only managed to get himself free. Arthur urges him to leave and fetch the master back.

Hank goes out into the dark and scuffles with his adversary. Before long, lanterns come and the two are taken into custody by the night watchmen of the town. The light of the jail reveals that Hank has fought with the wrong man.

Chapter 37 An Awful Predicament

Hank nervously awaits to find out what has happened to Arthur and the other slaves on account of his mistake. He learns from a man in the street that upon finding that he had lost a slave, the master was wild with anger and began to beat the others. They resisted and killed him.

By morning, all the slaves had been recaptured and the troupe was sentenced to hang as soon as they found the missing slave‹Hank. Hank changes his clothes and hurries to his telegraph office where he contacts Clarence and tells him to send Launcelot and 500 knights to London right away.

Hank decides to keep changing his disguises throughout the day until he can work himself to some finery, and thus the immunity of being a gentleman. His plan is foiled by one of the slaves sent to find him. As soon as he is caught, the courts decide to hang the whole lot of slaves by mid-afternoon that day. There was no way Launcelot would arrive in time to rescue them.


Hank manages to escape and get word to Camelot, but then proceeds to put himself (and the rest of the slaves) in danger by going out into the London streets. The reason he is doing this, of course, is to continue changing costumes until he can procure velvets and finery for his coming great rescue and 'effect.' The episode reveals Hank's willingness to take risks for "show" while increasing the tension of the eventual last minute rescue. But when Hank despairs that the knights won't be able to rescue him‹the savior of England and the bearer of civilization‹rather than showing concern for the rest of his comrades, it is an even clearer indication of a self-centeredness that runs in his character.

Chapter 38 Launcelot and the Knights to the Rescue

Arthur and Hank declare that they are the King and the Boss respectively, all to the crowd's derision and amusement. The spectacle cuts short when the sheriffs arrive to carry out the sentence, and all of the slaves are lined up at the gallows to be hanged one by one. When King Arthur is brought to the noose, Hank springs to his rescue, keeping his eye on a grand sight‹Launcelot and 500 knights streaming in on bicycles.

The rescue is as grand and theatrical as Hank could have wished, and Clarence comes up to them himself and explains that he had made "the boys" practice for a long time and "was hungry for a chance to show off."


The description of the knights, while delightfully humorous for all of its contrasts, also serves as a foretaste of things to come. In WWI, the British bicycle troops were the first mechanized fighters‹a description of them can be found in Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. While Hank's description is glorious and heroic: "the plumes streamed, how the sun flamed and flashed"‹the later historical episode is a somber and grim part of war. Twain, too, will extend this idea of a new warfare to its insane end in the Battle of the Sand-Belt, when Hank will harness technology for more destructive purposes than a showy rescue.

Chapter 39 The Yankee's Fight With the Knights

A couple of days after they return to Camelot, Hank spies an ad placed in the paper. It is Sir Sagramore le Desirous's challenge to meet him in armed combat. He had returned from seeking (and failing to find) the Holy Grail and was ready to take on the Boss. There was no talk in all of the kingdom except on the coming fight. It would be no ordinary combat, but a battle between two magicians, two orders. On the one hand, Merlin was preparing enchantments over Sir Sagramore's armor, even creating a gossamer web that was supposed to render its wearer invisible to his opponent. On the other hand, Hank was the Boss, and expected to employ some great magic against Merlin's. When the day of the tournament came, Hank came out to the field dressed in gymnast tights and "blue silk puffings." His intention was to shame and break knight errantry as an institution this day.

Each time Sir Sagramore charged him, he shifted lightly out of the way, until the knight grew angry and began to chase him. Finally, Hank draws out a lasso and ropes Sir Sagramore right out of his saddle. His novel weapon causes a sensation as knight after knight challenges him and is lassoed off the field. Eventually the invincible Launcelot goes to meet him and is lassoed as well. Hank is sure he has defeated knight errantry when he hears the bugle sound for one more challenger.

Hank looks down and sees that his lasso is gone; Merlin has stolen it. Arthur and the court look on tensely as Hank waits upon the field unarmed. Despite Arthur's request to let Hank obtain a weapon, Sir Sagramore stands upon the rule that the knights may only use the weapons they themselves have brought. The crowd yells for Hank to run, but he waits until Sir Sagramore is fifteen paces away before pulling out a Colt revolver and shooting him in the heart.

Hank challenges all the knights to come at him at once, and believes his bluff will intimidate the entire assembly into yielding him the victory. He miscalculates however, and hundreds of knights stream towards him. He draws two revolvers and starts shooting, hoping they will give up before he fires his last shot. After nine men, the crowd surrenders and Hank remains, victorious over all the knights of Arthur's land.


The Yankee's fight starts with "gymnast's tights" and a lariat but ends with guns, with wit and humor followed by deadly force. After shooting nine knights, Hank declares, "The march of civilization has begun,"; it is an omen that his march has started with bloodshed when he earlier declared that it would be a gentle "illumination." His use of physical power to consolidate his political position is reminiscent of the patterns used by so many tyrants throughout history. We also know that this is no accident; Hank has been contemplating this moment for years. The guns are not the store-bought answers to an immediate need, they are carefully crafted results of the factories and plans the Yankee established when he first came on the scene. Instead of regret that this solution had to include violence, Hank feels "immensely satisfied" with "the magic of science."

Chapter 40 Three Years Later

Having humiliated the order of the Round Table, Hank decides to reveal his activities of the past years. He unveils the very next day all of his schools, factories, mines and workshops to the world. To keep the knights at bay, he engraves his challenge anew: he promises that given fifty assistants, he will take on the world's chivalry en masse and destroy it.

The next three years are ones of rapid modernization. Slavery is abolished, schools and factories spring up everywhere. Hank employs the knights and nobility as train conductors and missionaries to spread the use of new inventions and goods, and is at work with two of his most ambitious projects: the replacement of the Catholic church with Protestant sects and the establishment of a republic after Arthur's death.

In the meanwhile, Hank has married Sandy, a move made more out of a sense of propriety than affection. Sandy was bound by chivalric honor to stay with Hank until some challenger wrested her away from him; Hank decided that the best thing to do was marry her. He falls in love with her and they have a child, Hello-Central. Sandy heard Hank whisper the words in his sleep, and thinking it was the name of some lost loved one, she named their daughter in its honor. Hello-Central falls ill and Hank and Lancelot nurse her out of danger. The King's doctors advise Hank to take his family to the sea to give the child a needed rest in the sea air. He leaves for the French coast, and after a month, sends his ship back to England for fresh supplies.


Hank decides to expose "the nineteenth century to the inspection of the sixth" the day after his fight with the knights. He had declared in the beginning that this is precisely what he had not wanted to do‹"floodlight" in one sweep the old order with the new‹until England was ready. The fact that makes England "ready" however, is a totalitarian threat of destruction that Hank engraves in public squares. He and fifty men will destroy the "chivalry of the earth" if he is challenged. The project appears to be successful though, if only in economic and industrial terms. We are not specifically told that human life has vastly improved, we merely assume that they have.

The uneasiness that Hank's new dictatorial power incites is assuaged by the fact that the Yankee has developed human relationships and for the first time, shows affection to someone in Arthur's England. Sandy's presence as Hank's adored wife shows that he can love; his affection towards his child, Lancelot and Arthur soften his outline. He is a goodhearted Yankee again, planning baseball games and involving his friends in his projects, not a dominating technocrat ready to pounce on any opposition in his way. In a generic sense, Yankee is truly a mirror of conflicting images of America‹of wholesome democracy and economic, military and political domination.

Chapter 41 The Interdict

After bringing Hello-Central out of another lapse of illness, Hank realizes that his ship has not returned. He sails to England immediately, leaving his family behind in France. When he lands, he finds the cities dark and deserted, without activity. Hank bewilderedly wanders through the town until he spies the church bell tied in black‹it was the Interdict.

Hank disguises himself as one of his servants and travels to Camelot. The courts are deserted and all of the electric lights are off. He goes and finds Clarence in his quarters.

Chapter 42 War!

Clarence explains that while Hank was gone, Launcelot's affair with Guenevere was exposed, starting a war between him and Arthur's men. While Arthur was away sieging Launcelot's castle, his nephew Mordred usurped the throne and tried to marry Guenevere. A great battle ensued to regain the throne, and both Mordred and Arthur are killed. The wars have wiped out many of the knights and devasted the land. Finally, the Chuch lays down its hand and imposes an interdict that is to remain in effect until Hank, too, is dead. The remaining clans loyal to the church are gathering their forces to destroy Hank and everything he has built. Hank's own doctors and the officers of his ships were agents of the Church; they tricked him into leaving before the civil wars.

Clarence also tells Hank that there are only sixty faithful men on Hank's side: the rest deserted out of fear of the Church. Clarence has fitted an electric plant in a cave with supplies and equipment for a siege. He encourages Hank to take the offensive and declare a republic.


The civil wars and King Arthur's death follow an orthodox retelling of Malory. In this version, though, the sad roll of events is touched off by a contribution of Hank's new economy: the conflict starts when Launcelot completes a shady stock deal that affects the King's nephew. Somehow, Hank's civilizing solutions could not prevent the disaster and even throws a sinister light on modern business intrigue.

In fact, Hank returns to find that his civilization has failed to impress many people at all: he has but sixty faithful boys left in his service. These boys are faithful to him because they have been trained from the beginning; in another time and context, one might say that they have been indoctrinated to the purposes of the leader. In any case, the values of the old system prove to be more compelling and powerful than the Yankee's industrial system.

The Church has awakened and rallied its forces to become something more powerful than Hank's technology and Arthur's charisma combined. For Hank, it is the vague, looming specter of the institutional machine. For better or for worse, the conflict is an age-old one for many rulers and dictators have feared religious institutions as enemies, rivals for power, and bastions of opposition.

More important however, is Hank's response. Clarence has made provision for a total war, replete with guns, bombs, electricity and destructive expertise that has grown out of the Yankee's factories and systems. Once the decision to fight a war is made, Hank dives in with the relish of a boy at play: delights at the mines that explode on a "Church committee," the ":torpedoes and gatlings" ready to go.

The civilization that Hank created contained the means of its own destruction, not only in its weapons but more literally. Clarence tells Hank that he re-routed the wires that detonate bombs placed beneath all of the factories, schools and works in the kingdom. The switch had been located in Hank's bedroom. Twain's uncanny prescience predicted the capacity for total destruction that has plagued much of this last century.

Chapter 43 The Battle of the Sand Belt

Hank and Clarence retreat to Merlin's Cave and send word to all their factories and great works to stop operations and vacate. They have fitted each one with secret mines to destroy the civilization should it prove necessary. Hank spends the week writing up the manuscript of his adventures and gathering information on the coming war.

The Church has united all the nobles and gentry against them, and it seems that the clamor for a republic has been stifled completely. Hank's boys are afraid that the whole country is turned against them and that there is no hope‹but Hank assures them that only the nobility will fight and that afterwards, the republic will be theirs. They steel themselves for the siege. The next morning the Church's knights charge the cave and Hank sets off the bombs to destroy his civilization and to create a great ditch between the cave and the outside. Thousands of men are blasted into the embankment.

Hank sends out men to divert a mountain brook south of their lines for use in an emergency. They have laid out electric fences all around the cave and wait for the men to try and cross their lines in the night. The next dawn, Hank and Clarence crawl out to watch as the knights come. They touch the fences and are immediately killed, one upon another, until a great pile of burned bodies fill the spaces between the fences. Hank fired rockets and in the glare, saw that he had half of the army trapped between his fences. Before they could rally and surge forward, he turned on all of his electric wires, electrocuting eleven thousand men at once.

The remaining ten thousand of the army were pressing forward into the ditch. Hank fired three revolver shots‹the signal to open the floodgates and let the stream water flood the ditch. Hank's boys opened fire and sent the rest of the army to drown over the embankment. Within a short while the battle was over: they were masters of England.


A horribly modern war is the disturbing climax of Hank's adventure. So extreme and gruesome, it comes as a complete surprise to many first time readers, but its seeds were already latent in Hank's origins. He was, after all, the superintendent of an arms factory. Electricity, technology, expertise, once harnessed for human benefit are now harnessed for its destruction.

Hank fights with the dangerous belief that wiping out a single class of people, in this case, the Church's nobility, will solve the problems of the country and usher in a peaceful republic. In essence, he is advocating for genocide and achieves it in the battle.

Even more macabre is the Yankee's apparent enjoyment of the killing. He throws the switch that kills eleven thousand men at once and exclaims, "There was a groan you could hear!" The chapter is glutted with the dehumanized language that he often uses during his bogus miracles: bodies and horses "acres deep," a "homogenous protoplasm" of the dead and dying. The situation has become so out of hand that Hank has literally buried himself in death.

Chapter 44 A Postscript By Clarence

The manuscript at this point is in Clarence's hand, and he finishes the story. As they inspected the thousands of dead and dying glutting the embankment and the lines, Hank was stabbed by a vengeful knight. The wound was not serious, but Hank was bedridden in the cave while he recovered. Merlin, disguised as an old woman, came to nurse Hank's wounds and cook for the remaining crew.

The stench and disease bred by the thousands of corpses surrounding the cave claimed some of Hank's boys and Clarence lay ill. New enemy camps were forming against them and Clarence realizes that they are doomed if they stay and vulnerable if they leave.

Clarence catches the old hag‹Merlin stooping over Hank in the night. He declares that they will all die in this cave‹everyone except Hank, who will be put in an enchanted sleep for thirteen hundred years. Reeling with laughter, Merlin accidentally touches one of the charged wires and dies with a cackle on his face.

When Hank doesn't wake, Clarence and the remaining boys lay him in the recesses of the cave where no one will find him. Clarence then finishes the manuscript with a promise that if any man escapes, he will return to write the fact on the manuscript, and hide it with The Boss, their "dear good chief . . . be he alive or dead."


The ultimate and end result of Hank's industrial civilization is total destruction‹of people and eventually, itself and its creators. The thousands of dead create a miasmic plague that will eventually destroy all of Hank's boys in its wake.

The Yankee's long-standing rivalry with Merlin emerges again as Merlin puts him in a 1300 year sleep, and laughing the last laugh, fries himself on one of Hank's electric wires. In this act, the legend is subverted. It is not Arthur, the lion-hearted King of England who is "the once and future king," but Hank, who becomes "the once and future boss," returning to the nineteenth century where it is the steel in locomotives, not swords and armor that dominates the landscape.

Chapter 45 Final P.S. by M.T.

The scene returns to modern England, where Mark Twain has just finished reading Hank Morgan's manuscript. He walks into Hank's room and watches him as he sleeps and dreams fitful dreams about Sandy, Hello-Central and Clarence. Hank opens his eyes and looking up at Mark Twain, imagines he sees Sandy. He begins to mutter and exclaim about the battle of the sand belt and all the things he has seen. After awhile, he falls silent, sinking into death. At his last rasp he exclaims, "A bugle? . . . It is the king! The drawbridge‹there! Man the battlements‹turn out the . ." and then expires. Mark Twain finishes the story by saying that Hank was getting up his last 'effect' but never finished it.


Hank, the father of destruction is ironically the only one who survives the cave. But in his return to modernity, to the environment he cherishes and exemplifies, he has lost the elements of society he loved most‹people, human relationships and family. He is "plagued by the torture of hideous dreams," tortured dreams of democracy and violence, of his family and horrible battle. In the end, Hank Morgan dies longing for a piece of what he had set out to destroy: he longs for a bit of the chivalric beauty and heroism that Arthur represents; in his final dream he is far away from the civilization that ruined him, loyally manning the battlements for the king.