King John and The Abbot of Canterbury - Four Levels | The Flax-Golden Tales

Anonymous, England (before 1695)

King John and The Abbot of Canterbury - Four Levels | The Flax-Golden Tales

King John and The Abbot of Canterbury

Literal Comprehension: Once the king of England was quite jealous and suspicious of the prosperity of the Abbot of Canterbury. So he thought that the abbot might make a conspiracy against his throne. The king decided to get rid of him. So he called the abbot and asked three nonsense questions on the condition that he would behead him if he failed to answer the questions within fifteen days. The questions were: What is the exact price/value of the king with his crown of gold on his head among the noblemen? How quickly he may ride the whole world about? What does the king think at the moment? It made him too sad. He tried his best to find the answer by consulting the professors visiting the university but couldn’t. Finally, his own shepherd promised him to help him. So one day, in order to answer the questions raised by the king, the shepherd changed himself as the abbot and went to the palace. One by one he answered that the value of the king was twenty-nine pence less than the savior, for the second he responded that it takes a whole day if he rose and ran in the speed of sun that rotates around the earth and for the last, he responded that the king might be thinking that he was the abbot of Canterbury but he was wrong because he was a simple shepherd to abbot.. Finally, the disguised shepherd i.e. the abbot exposed all the truths. The king pardoned them and withdrew all his charges.

Interpretation: From the moral point of view, the poem is much impressive. Through the poem, the poet proves that bookish and formal education is not so much effective and useful to solve the practical problems. On the one hand, it has a great lesson that people and their knowledge shouldn’t be judged on the ground of their profession and appearance. Thus the text has taught a great lesson that makes it clear that much is learned through their daily life activities than from the universities. So the so-called ignorant ones in terms of getting formal education aren’t to be ignored and evaluated.

Critical Thinking: The poem seems to be much humorous and satirical. So far it imparts the idea of human knowledge and wisdom, it is appropriate but in whatever way King Abbot and the Shepherd are presented, they don’t seem believable and convincing. Since the king fails to recognize the shepherd changed as abbot. Similarly, the shepherd is presented in such a way that doesn’t fit him to be more than that it mocks the formal education. It is too difficult to accept.

Assimilation: Reading this poem, I am too much impressed with the fact that only formal education doesn’t make people capable, rather they may learn many things from the practical experiences too. Having seen in my village, I come to know that many old people are capable of doing various things which other educated men don’t know. So people can learn many things from their practical knowledge and experience.

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