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.

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