King John and The Abbot of Canterbury || Four Levels of Interpretation

Level: B.A/ B.B.S || Lesson 34 King John and The Abbot of Canterbury (Anonymous, England)

Words Meaning

Anonymous = name not given

Ancient = primitive

Anon = soon

Merry = happy

With main and might = using all one’s force

Concerning = relating

Renown = fame

Fortnight = period of 15 days

Abbot = father, in Cristian religion or head of Church

Fold = enclosure

Struck off = separated

Penny = small unit of currency

Apparel = dress

Shallow = not clothing

Gallant = brave

Pence = unit of currency

Savior = Jesus Christ

Nobles = old gold coins in England

Jest = joke

Pardon = forgiveness

Liegemen = true citizens

Devise = plan

Might = power

Cathedral = church

Summary

The writer of this poem isn’t known. According to the story, King John was the king of England. He was cruel and unjust. He was jealous of the Abbot of Canterbury. Because Abbot had become more popular than the king among people. King had heard that the Abbot had more than a hundred attendants and was presented fifty gold coins everyday. Once the king called Abbot to his palace. The king accuses Abbot for making conspiracy to dethrone him. The king asks to Abbot three absurd questions:

  • What was his worth?
  • How long would it take him to ride around the earth?
  • And what was he thinking then?

The king warned him that if the answer were not correct the Abbot would be beheaded. To answer these questions, Abbot demanded a period of fortnight. The Abbot went to Oxford and Cambridge Universities for answer but nobody could answer the king’s questions. Abbot felt sad and went to the cathedral and put this question to his Shepherds. One of his Shepherds said that he could answer these questions. The Shepherd disguised himself as the Abbot and went to the king. The King questioned him. The Shepherd said that the worth of the king was 29 piece, it would take king 24 hours to ride around the world and the king was thinking that the Shepherd was the Abbot of Canterbury. The Shepherd gave very clever answers and pleased the king. Then the king wanted to make the Abbot Canterbury but he refused to become the Abbot.

Summarize the poem “on the vanity of Earthly Greatness”

Four Levels of Interpretation

  1. Literal Comprehension

The writer of this poem isn’t known. According to the story, King John was the king of England. He was cruel and unjust. He was jealous of the Abbot of Canterbury. Because Abbot had become more popular than the king among people. King had heard that the Abbot had more than a hundred attendants and was presented fifty gold coins everyday. Once the king called Abbot to his palace. The king accuses Abbot for making conspiracy to dethrone him. The king asks to Abbot three absurd questions:

  • What was his worth?
  • How long would it take him to ride around the earth?
  • And what was he thinking then?

The king warned him that if the answer were not correct the Abbot would be beheaded. To answer these questions, Abbot demanded a period of fortnight. The Abbot went to Oxford and Cambridge Universities for answer but nobody could answer the king’s questions. Abbot felt sad and went to the cathedral and put this question to his Shepherds. One of his Shepherds said that he could answer these questions. The Shepherd disguised himself as the Abbot and went to the king. The King questioned him. The Shepherd said that the worth of the king was 29 piece, it would take king 24 hours to ride around the world and the king was thinking that the Shepherd was the Abbot of Canterbury. The Shepherd gave very clever answers and pleased the king. Then the king wanted to make the Abbot Canterbury but he refused to become the Abbot.

  1. Interpretation

This story that how the great leader or the kings also become jealous of other’s fame or reputation. Here, Abbot earns name and fame and the king envies. Similarly, the writer also tries to show that sometimes uneducated people or common people also suggest good suggestion. We can also learn something from common people or ignorant person as Abbot’s life was saved by a Shepherd and fooled the king. He thinks wisely and rightly.

  1. Critical Thinking

This story is quite humorous as well as it is satirical. The language is also easy to understand. In reality we see great people also envy for other’s success but it is difficult to believe in king’s questions. These questions are really absurd. He might not have asked these questions to wise Abbot. Next the writer shows Abbot’s inability to answer the questions but an ignorant Shepherd answers the question. It is also difficult to go in front of the king for a Shepherd. There is use of conversational language.

  1. Assimilation

When I read this story, I remembered one of my villagers. He was rich from the past and he is still rich in our village. But he becomes jealous if someone from that villages does progress. Then he starts to mock at theses people.

Possible Questions

  1. How does the poem, “The Canterbury Tales” depict the corrupt nature of the king John?
  2. What does the poem aim to give the message to the reader?
  3. King John and the Abbot of the Canterbury recount a conflict between the king and the:
  4. Describe the conflict.
  5. Explain the reason for this conflict.
  6. How it is resolved.
  7. Describe a similar conflict you have had.

 Read more:

Magic of Words | Concrete cat | summary Grade XI

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