The Winning of Knighthood
Reading Comprehension Activity

Author: Howard Pyle

Chapter III passage: Howard Pyle wrote The Story of King Arthur and His Knights in 1903. It tells the story of the legendary King Arthur of Britain. In the passage below, young Arthur is a squire for his relative Sir Kay. Along with Kay’s father, Sir Ector, Kay and Arthur go to a great tournament in London. While there, the new high king is to be determined. To be the high king, someone must pull a sword that has been placed in a stone and anvil by Merlin the magician. All the greatest knights and nobles are allowed to try, but none can move the sword. Merlin insists that Arthur have a chance to pull the sword out.

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Passage

This passage tells the story of the legendary King Arthur of Britain. Young Arthur is a squire for his relative Sir Kay. Along with Kay’s father, Sir Ector, Kay and Arthur go to a great tournament in London. While there, the new high king is to be determined. To be the high king, someone must pull a sword that has been placed in a stone and anvil by Merlin the magician. All the greatest knights and nobles are allowed to try, but none can move the sword. Merlin insists that Arthur have a chance to pull the sword out.

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Thereupon Arthur went to the cube of marble stone and he laid his hands upon the haft of the sword that was thrust into the anvil. And he bent his body and drew very strongly and, lo! the sword came forth with great ease and very smoothly. And when he had got the sword into his hands, he swung it about his head so that it flashed like lightning. And after he had swung it thus thrice about his head, he set the point thereof against the face of the anvil and bore upon it very strongly, and, behold! the sword slid very smoothly back again into that place where it had aforetime stood; and when it was there, midway deep, it stood fast where it was. And thus did Arthur successfully accomplish that marvellous miracle of the sword in the eyes of all the world.

Now when the people who were congregated at that place beheld this miracle performed before their faces, they lifted up their voices all together, and shouted so vehemently and with so huge a tumult of outcry that it was as though the whole earth rocked and trembled with the sound of their shouting.

And whiles they so shouted Arthur took hold of the sword again and drew it forth and swung it again, and again drave it back into the anvil. And when he had done that he drew it forth a third time and did the same thing as before. Thus it was that all those who were there beheld that miracle performed three times over.

And all the kings and dukes who were there were filled with great amazement, and they wist not what to think or to say when they beheld one who was little more than a boy perform that undertaking in which the best of them had failed.  And some of them, seeing that miracle, were willing to acknowledge Arthur because of it, but others would not acknowledge him. These withdrew themselves and stood aloof; and as they stood thus apart, they said among themselves: “What is this and who can accredit such a thing that a beardless boy should be set before us all and should be made King and overlord of this great realm for to govern us. Nay! Nay! we will have none of him for our King.”

Now when the Archbishop perceived the discontent of these kings and dukes, he said to them, “How now, Messires! Are ye not satisfied?” And the Archbishop said, “What of that? Hath he not performed the miracle that ye yourselves assayed and failed to perform?”

But these high and mighty lords would not be satisfied, but with angry and averted faces they went away from that place, filled with wrath and indignation.

But others of these kings and dukes came and saluted Arthur and paid him court, giving him joy of that which he had achieved; and the chiefest of those who came thus unto him in friendliness was King Leodegrance of Cameliard. And all the multitude acknowledged him and crowded around that place shouting so that it sounded like to the noise of thunder.

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