Poem 10 The Abbot of Canterbury

Poem 10 The Abbot of Canterbury


Q:1.What do you mean when we say that a poem is anonymous?
Anonymous means “without the name of author”. One such poem in our book is “The Abbot of Canterbury”. The author of this poem is not known. 

Q:2.Does this balled tell a true story?
The story of this balled is no more than a popular legend. King John, who reigned England from 1199 to 1216, was a very unpleasant man and a thoroughly bad king, but there is no historical evidence that anything like ever happened. Common people hated him, so they attached such stories to his name after his death. 

Q:3.Who was king of England at the time of the story and when did he reign?
At the time of story, the king of England was King John. He reigned England from 1199 to 1216.

Q:4.What was an Abbot?
Abbot was the head of a monastery. There were many monasteries in England at the time of this story, when the Church in England was part the of Church of Rome. When England broke away from the Church of Rome in the reign of Henry VIII, the monasteries were suppressed. 

Q:5.How did King John rule England?
He ruled the country very unwisely and often used force. He did not have the wisdom needed for a king to reign. His reign was full of blunders, and it was seldom that he did anything right. He was the wicked and jealous man; the people of England did not like him. 

Q:6.What was reported to King John about the Abbot of Canterbury?
It was reported that the Abbot had become very rich and he had gained more popularity among people than the King. He had fifty servants who were at his beck and call. The king feared a conspiracy against his (the king’s) crown, so he summoned him to his court. 

Q:7.Why was King John hostile to the Abbot?
King John was a jealous and unwise king. He became hostile towards the Abbot because the Abbot had become more popular than King John. 

Q:8.What punishment did the king declare for the Abbot?
Being a jealous man, he decided to deal with the Abbot with an iron hand. He decided to behead him and confiscate all his land belongings; however, he gave him a slim chance to escape death by putting before him three stupid questions. If he succeeded in answering those questions, he would be spared. 

Q:9.What was the Abbot to do in order to save himself from being beheaded?
In order to save himself from being beheaded, the Abbot was to answer three questions put forth by the king. 

Q:10.What was King John’s first question?
His first question was about the worth of his. The king asked the Abbot to tell him the king’s exact value when he was in his throne, wearing his crown and attire and was among all his noble people.

Q:11.What was his second question?
In his second question, the king asked the Abbot to tell him the time needed to go around the world.

Q:12.What was his third question?
The third question put before the Abbot was to tell the king what he (the king) was thinking at that time. 

Q:13.Why did the Abbot ask the king to give him three weeks’ time?
He asked the king to give him three weeks’ time because he could not devise such answers to the questions that would please the king, and thus save him from the king’s wrath. 

Q:14.Where, on leaving the court, did the Abbot ride to?
He went to Cambridge and Oxford universities to consult the learned men there and get the answers to three questions. 

Q:15.Was his visit to Cambridge and Oxford fruitful?
No, his visit to the universities was in vain. No doctor (learned man) at the universities was able to devise the answer to even a single question. 

Q:16.What did the shepherd propose to do?
The shepherd proposed to go to the court of the king in the place of Abbot and answer the questions. For that purpose, he requested the Abbot to lend him his apparel, horses and his men. 

Q:17.Who answered the questions?
A shepherd, belonging to the Abbot’s hometown, guised himself as the Abbot and appeared before the king to answer the questions. 

Q:18.What was the answer to the first question/riddle?
The shepherd told the king that his worth was twenty-nine pence. To justify his answer he said that as Jesus Christ was sold for only thirty pence among the false Jews so his worth was twenty-nine as he was a little lesser than their Savior was. 

Q:19.What was the answer to the second question/riddle?
In response to the second question, the shepherd replied that if he rode with the sun, he would travel round the world in twenty-four hours 

Q:20.What was the answer to the third question/riddle?
In response to the third question, the shepherd said that the king was thinking that the person standing before him and answering his questions was the Abbot. However, he was wrong because it was not the Abbot but his poor shepherd who had come to ask for king’s pardon for his master (the Abbot) as well as for himself. 

Q:21.How did the king respond to the shepherd’s answers?
The king enjoyed the shepherd’s answers. He felt proud at being compared to Jesus Christ and at being able to travel at the speed of the sun. The third answer pleased him too, and he proposed to make the shepherd “the Abbot” in place of his master, but on his refusal, he not only pardoned the Abbot and the shepherd but also promised to give four nobles to the shepherd as long as he lived.



The poem The Abbot of Canterbury, included in our book, is a ballad. Ballads have crude  language because fine writing would not be suitable for the telling of this straightforward  and amusing folk story. King John ruled England from 1199 to 1219, was a very  unpleasant man and a thoroughly bad kind. 

Structure of Poem 

The Abbot of Canterbury is a ballad of unknown poet telling an ancient story consisting  of 100 lines of regular rhythm. 


There was a king of England whose name was King John. He ruled England very cruelly  and he always did the wrong thing. Once he came to know that there was an Abbot of  Canterbury who was leading life better than the king. He had one hundred servants and  each one there wore fifty gold chains and velvet coat. They were always ready to serve  the Abbot. For very minor things they used to go to the city of London. 
This way of leading life angered the king and his sent for the Abbot to explain his  position before the king. The Abbot said to him that he was spending the money so  luxuriously because he had inherited a lot of money from his fore fathers. The king  disbelieved him and charged him to be a traitor. 
The king said to Abbot that his life and properties would be confiscated by the  government if he could not answer his three questions. There was given three weeks’  time to answer those questions. 
∙ The first question was what his worth and value was when he was having such a  precious crown on his head. 
∙ The second question was how soon he could make the journey of the whole world. ∙ The third question was that he was thinking at that time when he was talking to  the Abbot of Canterbury. 
After listening three questions the Abbot was very much confuse. He confessed that he  had no mind to answer those difficult questions. He went to many universities but no  one was able to answer him. 
Then the shepherd of the Abbot offered him that he would imposter the Abbot prodded  he was given the relevant dress of the Abbot. 
In reply to the first question he said that his value was twenty-nine pence. In response to  the second question he said if he rose with the sun and rode with the same he would  complete the journey of the world in 24 hours. In response to the third question he said  that he thinking that he was talking to the Abbot by him was not the Abbot but the  shepherd. The king was very happy, he rewarded him and pardoned the Abbot.

“Multiple Choice Questions” 

1. ______________ composed the poem of The Abbot of Canterbury.  
Robert Frost P.B Shelly William Shakespeare Anonymous

2. ______________ was the king of England at the time of story.  
John Tom James None of them

3. The poem “The Abbot of Canterbury” belongs to the ______________.  
Abbot King John Bishop Pardoner

4. Abbot was ______________ by nature.  
Hospitable Wise Romantic Courteous

5. ______________ Men were entertained by Abbot in his house.  
100 50 20 30

6. The King John felt ______________ against Abbot.  
Courtesy Jealousy Hospitable None of them

7. ______________ reported to King John about the luxurious life style of Abbot.  
Common People King’s Official Queen Shepherd

8. The King asked ______________ questions to Abbot.  
2 3 1 5

9. The King gave the space of ______________ weeks to answer the riddles.  
2 3 1 4

10. Abbot went to Cambridge and ______________ University.  
Oxford Harvard Essex Dublin

11. Shepherd was going to ______________.  
Home Church Fold Market

12. ______________ gave the answers of three questions.  
Shepherd Abbot Doctor 

13. There were ______________ days left when abbot met the shepherd.  
3 2 5 7

14. ______________ Days had passed when Abbot met the shepherd.  
3 18 15 14

15. First question asked by king is about______________ 
Worth Ride the whole What he thinks 

16. Second question asked by king is about______________. 
Worth Ride the whole What he thinks 

17. Third question asked by king is about______________. 
Worth Ride the whole What he thinks 

18. ______________ is the worth of king according to shepherd. 
30 29 31 28

19. In ______________ hours king will ride the whole world. 
24 22 21 20

20. Jesus Christ was sold among the false Jews in ______________ pence. 
20 30 24 29

21. The shepherd went to the court to ______________ him. 
Pardon Forgive Fight Quarrel 

22. On third answer, king john swear the ______________.  
Mass Saint John Saint Bittle God 

23. The king offered shepherd to be the ______________. 
King Abbot Shepherd Tom 

24. Shepherd can neither write no______________. 
Memorize Read Learn Study 


Q#1 What did King John hear about the Abbot? 
Ans. The officials of the King John who rode to fair London town told that Abbot was  leading a pompous and respectable life which was far better than your way of  survival. He had a fully furnished house and he fed/entertained hundred men in  
single day. He had servant in score who wore fifty gold chain and waited the Abbot  return in velvets garments. 

Q#2 Why did King John turned against him and what did he decide after hearing  about Abbot? 
Ans. Because of his envious nature, King John turned against him. He called Abbot  and blamed on him that you are working against my crown and for that fault  you must lost your life and living. Your safety lies only in the condition if you  answer my three questions. 

Q#3 What did the Abbot say to the King after having the questions and how  many space did he take for answering? 
Ans. The Abbot asserted that these questions are very difficult questions for a person  like me who got a shallow wit. He took three weeks space to King to answer these  questions according to the splendor of the king dignity. 

Q#4 What are the three questions and what was the funniest answer of these  questions given by the shepherd? (2009/2010/2011/2015/2016) 
Ans. The questions which were asked by the King as follow: 
1. What was his (King) exact worth when he was sitting on the thrown and  crown of gold so fair on his head? 
2. How soon he may ride the whole world about? 
3. What is the king thinking at that time? 
The funniest answer which was applied by shepherd as follow. 
1. The Jews Christ was sold among the false Jews in thirty pence so your  worth is 29 pence one pence worse than He (J.C) 
2. If you ride with the sun and ride with the same so you will consume 24  hours to ride the whole world about. 
3. The third answer shepherd gave that you are thinking I am the Abbot  but I am a poor shepherd. 

Q#6 What offer did the king give to the shepherd & why did he refuse the offer? 
Ans. The King offered to the shepherd that I want to make you the Abbot in place of  the former Abbot but shepherd refused the offer because he didn’t have any  knowledge about reading or writing. 

Q#7 Who was the king of England at the time of story and when did he resign? 
Ans: King John was the ruler of England at the time story. He ruled the country  from 1199 to 1216 A .D. He was not a good ruler because he ruled with power  and unfair manners. 

Q#8 What was an abbot? 
Ans: Abbot means bishop. An abbot is the highest official of a local church. As here in this  poem Abbot of Canterbury means the bishop of Canterbury, a county of England. 

Q#9 Why was the King John hostile to the Abbot of Canterbury? (2014/2015) 
Ans: When the king heard about Abbot of Canterbury that he was leading a life far  superior than him. He felt hostility against him and called him. In his court,  and put the accusation of treason against him. 

Q#10 What had the Abbot to do in order to save himself from being beheaded? 
Ans: The abbot was asked three questions by the king. He was given a space of three  weeks to answer the questions, and warned that if he failed to give the answers  he would be beheaded.  

Q#11 Why, on leaving the court, did he ride to Oxford and Cambridge? 
Ans: The questions were obviously very difficult to answer, so the abbot went to the  Oxford & Cambridge universities & to the other intellectuals to find the solutions. 

Q#12 What was the shepherd doing when he met him?
Ans: The shepherd was going to the cattle-house when the abbot went back to his  home and met him. 

Q#13 How did the real abbot benefit from his shepherd’s bold tricks? (2017) 
Ans: The abbot succeeded in saving his life and got pardon from the king with the  timely help of his shepherd. 

Q#14 When he met the shepherd how many days had passed since the King had  given him the three riddles to answer? 
Ans: When the abbot met the shepherd he (the abbot) had wasted most of the given  time and only three days were left to give the answers of the questions. 

Q#15 What did the shepherd propose to do? 
Ans: The shepherd suggested the abbot that he (the shepherd) would go to answer  the dispute because he not only knew the answers of the queries but he also  resemble the abbot so no one in the whole London town would be able to identify  him. 

Q#16 In answering the riddle, how did the shepherd justify valuing the king at  twenty nine pence? 
Ans: The shepherd told the king that it is said that Jesus Christ was sold among the  Jews for thirty (30) pence. The value of the king should not be more or equal to the Christ. So he is e valuated as only one penny less, than his worth will be 29 pence. 

Q#17 How did he know the answer to the third riddle? 
Ans: The shepherd knew that the king must be under the impression that the Abbot  was answering the question. He used his disguise to the answer of the third  question. 

Q#18 How did King John behave on finding out that he had been deceived? 
Ans: Unexpectedly, when the king came to know that he was being deceived, he was  greatly amused & showed his joy after every answer to his question 

Q#19 What reward did the shepherd receive? 
Ans: The shepherd received a reward of a life time pension of four nobles a week. 

Q#20 Who was an abbot and why was he victimized? 
Ans: An abbot is a clergyman who is in charge of monastery. The king of England  named king John heard about him that he was leading a far better life than he.  That’s why King John felt Jealous and asked three questions to him. . 

Q#21 Why was Abbot charged by the King John? 
Ans: King Officials supplied the information about Abbot to the king. They told that  he had great reputation and wealth and was living with great pomp and show.  He kept better house and entertained the hundred men in his house. Thinking  about all these things into the mind he (Abbot) was charged by the king John.  

Q#22 How did Abbot prove himself innocent before king? 
Ans: The Abbot proved himself innocent by requesting before King John that he had  never spent anything which was not his own but spent my own money which I  earn by the fair means. He further said that you will not punish me for the  same act.  

Q#23 Where did he go after receiving his punishment? 
Ans: When he heard the punishment, he became very sad and went to the oxford  and Cambridge University and met the learned and the wise men. All the people  failed to answer them and excused to the abbot. 

Q#24 How did he come to know about abbot and how did king treat him? 
Ans: King officials supplied the information about abbot to the king John that Abbot is  leading a for better life than you. After hearing it, king felt envy and put three hard  questions to him. He alarmed him of he is not able to ask thin questions so he has to  lose his live and life.  

Q#25 What are crozier, miter rochet and cope? 
Ans: These are all parts of the ceremonial attire of a bishop or abbot. The crosier is a  staff of office like a shepherd’s cloak but often richly ornamented. The miter is a  tall cap. The rochet is gown and the cap is a cloak worn over the rocket.