A Closed-Ended Question Allows For A Wide Variety Of Responses The Abbot of Canterbury

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The Abbot of Canterbury

‘The Abbot of Canterbury’ is a ballad title taught in Intermediate classes in Pakistan. In it, the poet tells the story of the abbot who lives in the elegant style of a great prince near London. He is very famous for his hospitality. He had fifty men wearing gold chains for his order. His name and fame spread far and wide. When King John, who ruled England with great power and strength, heard this, he suspected the smell of treason. He is very remarkable because he used to spend a lot of money for little good.

The abbot was summoned to his court and told of his crime. His crime was that he gained wealth and honor that the king suspected of treason against his kingdom. The abbot replied that he had honestly acquired property and never thought of any treason against his crown. The king was not satisfied with his answer and called it a great crime deserving of great punishment. Then he put before him a condition that if he answered his three questions, he would be forgiven. His property will be confiscated until he answers the questions. This means that if he fails to answer the questions, he will be beheaded and his property will be taken.

The abbot was innocent and unknown to such difficulties. He asked his three questions. The kind told him the following three questions:

01 When I am on the throne and the crown is on my head among the nobles, what is the exact value of a denarius?

02 How long will it take me to travel around the world?

03 What am I thinking now?

The abbot heard his questions and asked that the questions come from his knowledge and wisdom and for their answers, he needed time. The king gave him a period of three weeks for finding their answers; otherwise nothing can save him from the appointed punishment.

Unfortunately, he begins his journey in search of answers. His intention is to meet with the wise and talk about the questions. He went to Oxford and Cambridge universities and talked to professors and scholars but they failed to answer the questions. Finally, he returns to face the cruel king and his punishment. On the way, he met his guardian who welcomed him and asked for happy news. The abbot told him bad news that saddened the shepherd. The shepherd asked him the three questions given by King John. He assured him that he would answer to King Juan instead of him and save him from punishment.

The guardian put on his master’s ceremonial clothes and took other necessary things. He looked like the abbot of Canterbury and went to King John to answer him. He was welcomed there and asked about the answers to three questions. The guardian replied that he had come to answer questions. In response to the first question, he said that the king’s price would be twenty-nine denarii because the prophet Christ was sold among the Jews for thirty denarii. Therefore, his value will be a penny. That answer shocked the king and he had no chance to object. He answered the second question that if the king gets up early in the morning and runs at the speed of the sun, he can complete his journey around the world in twenty-four hours. For the third question, he said that the king thought he was the abbot, but it was not so. He was the poor shepherd of the abbot.

King John was very pleased with his answers and announced for him a bribe of four nobles a weak. Apart from this, he was offered the position of abbot in place of his master, but he refused because he could not read. The king and his master forgave him.

Something about the ballad:

It is an old ballad of the south of England. It tells a story in a simple and traditional form of verse. It consists of twenty seven stanzas. Each stanza is rhymed in the same way. The first line is rhymed with the second, and the third with the fourth. The ballads of the north are well known. They are composed in a dialect but difficult to understand. It contains some beautiful poems and touching stories. They are often cruel and tragic. The ballads from the south of England are similar in form, but they are very different in spirit. The stories are usually entertaining and end happily.

This poem is anonymous because its author is unknown. It is not known who wrote the first ballads, nor is it easy to know when they were composed. Perhaps it was the product of a traveling entertainer who composed beautiful songs and poems that put beautiful stock in verse form. This ballad is a good poem because its simplicity and brutality add a certain charm to it. The story is a popular legend. King John who reigned from 1199 to 1216 was a bad man and a very bad king, but there is no historical evidence that anything like this happened. This ballad is just one of many that refer to his faults and they make it clear that the common people hate him and after his death, many things are attached to him. The early ballads are simple and artless but they give some interesting glimpses into the soul of the common people of England who lived centuries before us.

The ballad has a great place in English literature and reveals the passion of the people of its age for poetry, and how they used their problems on others.

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