Study Guide

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Foolishness and Folly

By Mark Twain

Foolishness and Folly

If we pick up nothing else from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, we're sure to understand that Arthur and his noble knights are a gang of rampaging idiots. In fact, everyone in England except Hank himself is either a moron or taking advantage of morons. Their foolishness may be Twain's way of depantsing all those epic heroes of old, but it might also be a subtle jab at humanity in general, suggesting that we're no better today than they were back then. And against foolishness, there is no hope. Even Hank's great advances don't make permanent change when up against it.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Why are the medieval characters so foolish in the book? How is Merlin different from the others? How is he the same?
  2. At which points in the book does Hank—a.k.a. the smart one—act stupidly? How does his stupidity in those cases differ from the other characters' stupidity?
  3. What does the characters' foolishness say about Arthurian literature in general?
  4. Why is Clarence different from other Arthurian characters, as far as brains goes?

Chew on This

The Arthurians are foolish because of the time they live in, and because they belong to the epic genre that Twain is trying to send up.

The Arthurians' foolishness is a reflection of all of us, regardless of the time in which we live.

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