ge_title -->

King John and Abbot of Canterbury – Four Levels of Interactions | Flax Golden Tales

King John and Abbot of Canterbury four levelsKing John and Abbot of Canterbury – Four Levels of Interactions | Flax-Golden Tales

King John and Abbot of Canterbury – Anonymous, England (before 1695)

Literal Comprehension

King John heard that the Abbot of Canterbury had kept his house better and he had high popularity. That’s why he had a doubt that the Abbot was making a treason against his crown. He asked the abbot three questions and said that if he couldn’t reply in two weeks time his head would be cut off. The three questions were, “What was the worth of the king?”How quickly might he ride around the world? What did he think at the moment?  The Abbot went to Oxford and Cambridge but he couldn’t get the correct answer.

He returned to his house in sadness. When his shepherd came to know about his problem, he went to London disguising himself as the Abbot. At the king’s first question, he answered that the king was worth of 29 pence, one penny less than Christ. Then at the second question, he answered that it would take him 24 hours to go around the world if he would start his journey with the sun at sunrise. After then at the third question, the shepherd answered that the king thought he was the Abbot but in fact, he was Abbot’s shepherd. The king was quite pleased and pardoned both the shepherded and the Abbot.


The poet is trying to show us that sometimes practical knowledge of uneducated people is more useful and far better than educated people to solve the problems. In the poem, the Abbot went to Cambridge and Oxford to get the correct answer but no one could help him. But at last, an illiterate shepherd helped him. The poet is also trying to show that practical knowledge is as significant as theoretical knowledge. The poet proves that only the bookish and formal knowledge can also solve the problem. Here we also see the jealousy of human beings. The king was jealous for the Abbot’s better housekeeping and high popularity.

Critical Thinking

Although the poem is very interesting to read, there are still some points in the poem with which I don’t agree. The king is jealous of Abbot’s property and popularity. How can the king be jealous of his people? Can we believe that the scholars of Cambridge and Oxford were unable to reply so ordinary questions? How can an illiterate shepherd answer to so philosophical questions? How can be so simple answers of those philosophical questions? Is it possible to ride around the earth in 24 hours? Is it possible to declare the price of human beings?


Before reading the poem, I used to think that theoretical knowledge is much more significant than practical knowledge. Only the bookish and formal knowledge is important. An educated man is superior and an uneducated man is inferior. But after reading the poem, I came to understand that practical and theoretical both knowledge is equally important. Even the uneducated person can solve the great problems which are not solved by the scholars of Cambridge and Oxford.

Related Articles

The Scientific Inquiry: Invention and Test – Four Levels of Interactions | Flax-Golden Tales

Then and Now: Finding My Voice – Four Levels of Interactions | Flax-Golden Tales

Leave a Comment