King Arthurs Britain, a vastly different Britain than we know today, is revealed through many timeless classics in literature. Two of these pieces of literature are Thomas Malorys seriously toned Le Morte DArthur and Mark Twains satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court. These works show distinctly different visions of the Arthurian legend. King Arthurs Britain in Twains A Connecticut Yankee and Malorys Morte DArthur may be compared through the unique portrayal of living conditions, chivalry, knightly adventures and the role of magic and mystery.
Living conditions in the Arthurian Legend are presented in distinctly different manners between A Connecticut Yankee and Le Morte DArthur. While the quality of life for the poor is consistently harsh for both novels, some differences do exist. The poor in A Connecticut Yankee are portrayed as a battered and oppressed race, while the poor of Le Morte DArthur are shown as existing more happily in the idyllic Camelot. Next, the upper class lifestyle is unanimously shown to be considerably more comfortable than that of the poorer peasants. Fancy clothing, lavish feasts, and comfortable mansions are all apart of the upper class world in the sixth century. Although the upper class had it easy, the high society in A Connecticut Yankee had another level of comfort from the nineteenth century technologies of the Yankee. The new innovations introduced by the Yankee created a differentiation between the rich societies of the two novels.
Chivalry and the knightly adventure also have some similarities and differences in the two pieces of literature. In Le Morte DArthur and in A Connecticut Yankee, the ignoble knights show a lack of adherence to the code of chivalry. Differences between the chivalrous codes of the knights come in their respect for women. In A Connecticut Yankee, there is a generally high respect for women, but in Morte DArthur, the knights sometimes do not honor women and treat them as frail damsels in distress. Knightly adventures are drastically different between the novels. In Le Morte DArthur, the knightly adventures are shown as valiant pursuits of adventure, while in A Connecticut Yankee, the are shown as blind pursuits of transient fame.
Magic and mystery are shown to be different between the novels through the character of Merlin. Merlin in Le Morte DArthur is shown to be a wise, sage minister of occult powers. In A Connecticut Yankee, Merlin is proved to be a foolish old man with no more powers than a normal person. In general, magic in Morte DArthur is also shown to be a power for the chosen few, which is in contrast to the idea in A Connecticut Yankee stating that magic is for the one who is the smartest and the most intellectually developed. Mystery is similar to magic in that there is no real mystery to the reader in A Connecticut Yankee because the Yankee proves all of it through science. Mystery is consistently present in the magic of Morte DArthur because the society is of homogeneous intelligence and development.
In conclusion, comparing and contrasting two amazingly different pieces of literature on the Arthurian legend reveals that although the plot and characters may be unlike; most of the essential ideas of the legend are similar. Whether the writing has a serious factual tone, or a satirical humorous one, these novels are considered legends in their own time.