A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



An unnamed narrator (plausibly Twain) visiting England meets a strange old man. The old man offers the narrator a written account of his life story, and the narrator begins reading immediately.

The man is Hank Morgan, an American from Connecticut, where he worked as superintendent of an arms factory. One day he is knocked unconscious in a fight and wakes up in a different place and time: 6th-century England. A knight—Sir Kay—captures him, but Hank thinks the knight escaped from an insane asylum. In Camelot, Hank is sentenced to death. To save himself, Hank declares he is a magician and will blot out the sun if the death sentence is carried out. He is counting on a historical record of a solar eclipse which occurred at this time. The eclipse occurs just in time to convince King Arthur of his immense magical powers. Hank is declared second-most-powerful man in the kingdom, much to the chagrin of Merlin.

"The Boss"

Hank Morgan creates a title all his own: "The Boss." Hank recruits young men and begins training them in 19th-century ideas and technologies. His right-hand man is Clarence, a young page who befriended Hank when he first arrived. Hank develops a patent office, schools, newspapers, advertising, telegraph and telephone lines, and more. He is pleased with the developments. One day he accidentally insults Sir Sagramor, and Sir Sagramor challenges him to a duel, scheduled after Sir Sagramor's planned quest for the Holy Grail.

Sir Sagramor sets off on his quest, and Hank receives his own quest when a young woman arrives at Camelot asking for help. Hank and the young woman, who he calls Sandy, travel together to rescue a group of princesses who have been captured by ogres. Along the way they meet King Arthur's half-sister, the enchantress Queen Morgan le Fay. The quest turns out differently than Hank expects: the "princesses" are a group of pigs, and the "ogres" are the pig-keepers. Hank buys the pigs, and Sandy congratulates him on "defeating" the ogres. She insists the princesses are disguised by an enchantment, and she honors Hank for freeing them.

Exploring 6th-Century England

On the way back to Camelot, Hank Morgan learns a holy fountain in the Valley of Holiness has run dry. He goes there to see if he can help. Merlin has been trying—and failing—to bring back the water. Hank uses his "magic" to fix it: the "magic" of basic engineering, along with some special effects to make a showy presentation.

King Arthur and the court travel to the Valley of Holiness to see Hank's latest miracle. Hank wants to travel anonymously through the country to learn more about how the country really is, and the king decides to accompany him. Hank works hard to keep the king safe and teach him to act like a peasant.

Hank and the king travel the country. They accidentally find a house where the inhabitants are infected with smallpox. Hank has been exposed to the disease, but the king has not. In spite of that, he risks his life to help the dying family members. The next day, the king and Hank arrange to stay with a peasant man named Marco and his wife. Hank invites several other commoners to dine at Marco's house, promising Marco to pay for all the expenses. He not only does so, but also buys many nice things for Marco and his wife. The dinner is a great success at first, but Hank begins to show off and he makes enemies of the other dinner guests. The king decides he should contribute to the conversation by talking about farming, since Hank has claimed he is a farmer. He makes so many ridiculous mistakes in his conversation, however, that the guests decide he is mad. Hank and the king have to flee from an angry mob.


Hank Morgan and the king are saved from the mob when they unexpectedly run into a nobleman. The nobleman does not really trust them, though, and he sells them into slavery. Hank brings a better price as a slave than the king does, which makes the king unhappy. The king's regal bearing and arrogant manner earn him several whippings, too, but he refuses to kowtow to the slave trader, a refusal which Hank admires.

They end up in London and Hank manages to escape, although he cannot free the king. The same night, the slaves rise up and murder the slave trader and they are all condemned to death. Hank manages to get word to Clarence to send Sir Launcelot and the others for help, but then he is captured and also sentenced to death. The execution will take place immediately and Hank is devastated, knowing knights on horseback can never arrive in time. The knights do arrive just in time to save the king—they ride bicycles all the way from Camelot.

Back in Camelot again, Hank knows he must face his duel with Sir Sagramor. He makes Sir Sagramor look ridiculous during the fight by using a lasso to pull the knight off his horse repeatedly. Other knights try, but Hank unhorses all of them. When Merlin steals his lasso, though, Hank must find another solution. He shoots Sir Sagramor with a revolver. A large number of knights attack him simultaneously—at his request—and Hank just keeps shooting them until they give up. He admits to the reader that he had almost run out of bullets, so his victory is largely because of luck.

Three Years Later

Hank Morgan has turned Arthurian England into a model of the 19th century. Knights have become businessmen, steamships and railway lines exist, schools are bustling, and the power of the Church is waning. Hank has married Sandy and they have a baby whom Sandy named Hello-Central, after a phrase she has heard Hank repeat in his sleep (when he was dreaming of an old girlfriend). When the baby gets sick, Hank and Sandy take a trip to give her fresh air. The baby recovers and Hank begins to get concerned because he has not heard from Camelot. He travels back to Camelot and discovers chaos has sprung up while he was gone.

After Sir Launcelot ruins them in a business deal, some of the other knights team up to tell King Arthur about Launcelot and Queen Guenever's affair—something everyone knew about, but no one discussed. This revelation leads to civil war in England and Arthur's eventual death from battle wounds. The Church declares the Interdict as a punishment. The Interdict was a tool the medieval Catholic Church used to control kings and populations. Declaring an Interdict allowed the Church to forbid certain people—or whole populations—from receiving the blessings of the Church until the Church leaders believed the people had learned their lesson. By the time Hank returns, his technological advances have been destroyed and he is a wanted man. He retaliates, with the help of Clarence and a small handpicked group of his trained helpers. They declare the monarchy is over and invite the people to seize power, but the people don't. They are too scared and too poorly educated, so the Church and the nobles take power again. Hank and his boys retreat to a cave and create multiple lines of defense around the cave entrance. Their defenses work and a large number of dead pile up around their cave.

The Ending

Although almost the entire book is narrated by Hank Morgan, the second to last chapter is narrated by Clarence. Clarence describes how "The Boss" was seriously injured when he went to check for wounded survivors of an attack on their fortress cave. An "old woman" appears and offers to tend to Hank's wounds. In fact, it is Merlin in disguise, and he claims to have put Hank into an eternal sleep. Clarence can find no way to break Merlin's spell, so he accepts it and leaves Hank in the cave as a form of burial.

The final chapter returns to the unnamed narrator, who has been reading the old man's narrative throughout this book. The old man, who is clearly Hank, has been sleeping, but the unnamed narrator hears him begin to call out, looking for Sandy and his daughter and greatly relieved to be reunited with them again. The old man dies peacefully and the book ends.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 Hank Morgan wakes up in the 6th century.

Rising Action

2 Sir Kay brings Hank to Camelot.

3 Hank "proves" he is a magician.

4 Sir Sagramor challenges Hank.

5 Hank goes on a quest with Sandy.

6 Hank fixes the well in the Valley of Holiness.

7 Hank and King Arthur are captured by slavers.

8 Hank and the king are saved from execution.


9 Hank defeats Sir Sagramor and the other knights.

Falling Action

10 The Interdict is declared.

11 Hank and his boys go to war.


12 Hank is sent back to his own time.

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