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Poem by William Shakespeare - The Hollow Crown: Questions and Answers | 11th English : UNIT 6 : Poem: The Hollow Crown

Chapter: 11th English : UNIT 6 : Poem: The Hollow Crown

The Hollow Crown: Questions and Answers

English Poem: The Hollow Crown by William Shakespeare. (English Book back answers and solution for Exercise questions)

·            Pick out the phrase that suggests that King Richard was sorrowful.

Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth

·            Why does the king suggest that it is now time for his will to be executed?

The king suggests it is now time for his will, because he thinks he is going to die.

·            What is the only thing we bequeath to our descendants?

We bequeath only our deposed bodies to our descendants.

·            What are the vanquished men left with?

They are left with nothing.

·            What does the ‘small model’ refer to here?

The “small model” refers to the human body.

·            What does a monarch’s crown symbolize?

A monarch’s crown symbolizes the King’s power and authority over the whole country.

·            What mocks the ruler’s power and pomp?

Death mocks the king’s power and pomp.

A. Fill in the blanks using the words given in the box to complete the summary of the poem:

King Richard the second had surrendered to his (a) rebellious cousin, Bollingbroke. He experienced deep distress at the horror of his circumstances. In that desperate situation, he speaks of (b) graves, (c) worms, (d) epitaphs and other things connected with death. He spoke of how people leave nothing behind and can call nothing their own, except for the small patch of (e) barren, where they will be buried. King Richard yielded to dejection and talked of all the different ways in which defeated kings suffer how some had been deposed, (f) slain in war, (g) poisoned by their wives and so forth. He attributed this loss of lives to (h) death, who he personified as the jester who watches over the shoulder of every ruler, who mocks kings by allowing them to think their human flesh, was like (i) impregnable brass. However, Death penetrates through the castle walls, silently and unnoticed like a sharp (j) pin, thus bidding (k) farewell to him and all his pride forever. Finally, Richard appealed to his soldiers not to mock his mere flesh and blood by showing (l) reverence and respect to him. He added that he too needed bread to live, felt want, tasted (m) grief and needed (n) friends. He concluded thus, urging his men not to call him a (o) kings as he was only human, just like the rest of them. 

















B. The words used by Shakespeare find a place in present day conversations also. Here are a few examples of how these poetic, standardized English words could be used by common people in their regular speech.


a. Fill in the blanks with appropriate words from the box and complete the statements suitably:

bequeath antics monarchise impregnable hollow

1. Shravan never keeps his promises. His friends know that his words are hollow.

2. The  spectators  died  laughing  at  the antics of the clown.

3. The business woman wished to bequeath all her riches to an orphanage, after her death.

4. The fortress was impregnable and could not be conquered by the enemies.

5. Alexander the Great, wished to conquer many lands and monarchies the entire world.


b. Complete the passage given below, with suitable words from the box:


Lima, a (a)vain and (b) conceited woman, kept (c) scoffing at her colleagues and went on taxing them with hard labour. Though they were (d) ceremonious to her, she being their head, they were offended and filled with (e) sorrow. It so happened, that Lima was (f) deposed from her high position due to a serious blunder she had committed. Lima, having lost all her (g) pomp and glory, realized how arrogant she had been. She gave up her pride and with (h) reverence sought an apology from everyone. She thus turned over a new leaf and bid (i) farewell to them.

farewell, ceremonious, deposed, reverence, vain, pomp, conceited, sorrow, scoffing


C. From your understanding of the poem, answer the following questions briefly in a sentence or two:

1.        What do the three words, ‘graves, worms and epitaphs’, refer to?

The words “graves, worms and epitaphs”- refer to our death.

2.        What does the executor mentioned in the poem do?

The “executor” has 2 meanings,

i. a lawyer who writes out a will which is authoritative 

ii. a person who cuts of the heads of criminals who are given death punishment. Both meanings are acceptable in this context.

3.        Who is Bolingbroke? Is he a friend or foe?

Bolingbroke is King Richard’s cousin, but due to political reasons he becomes an enemy to King Richard.

4.        Are all deposed kings slain by the deposer?

No. not all of the deposed kings are slain by the deposers, only a few.

5.        What does the crown of rulers stand for?

The crown of the ruler stands for the ruler’s high power and authority over the whole country. But here Shakespeare says death sits within the hollow crown.

6.        What hides within the crown and laughs at the king’s grandeur?

Death hides within the crown and laughs at the grandeur of the king.

7.        What does ‘flesh’ mean here?

The human flesh that covers the body.

8.        What are the various functions and objects given up by a defeated king?

The deposed king throws away respect, form and ceremonious duty.

9.        How does the king establish that he and his subjects are equal in the end?

The king proves that he is like other men, by saying that he also lives by bread like other men. He feels want, he iongs for friends, experiences happiness and sorrow. So, by all these, a king is also equal to other men.

10.   Bring out King Richard’s feelings when he was defeated.

Despair and a sense of resignation are the feelings of King Richard when he was defeated.


D. Explain the following lines with reference to the context in about 5 to 8 lines:


i. “Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke’s,

And nothing can we call our own but death;”

Context : The above given lines are taken from William Shakespeare’s play king Richard II. The passage is named “Hollow Crown”

Explanation: King Richard II was defeated by his cousin Bolingbroke. Therefore Richard says that his lands and all properties are taken by Bolingbroke. Now nothing is his, except his own death.

Comment : This passage shows the desperate, hopeless state of mind of king Richard.


ii. “All murdered – for within the hollow crown

That rounds the mortal temples of a king

Keeps Death his court, …”

Context : The above given lines are taken from William Shakespeare’s play king Richard 11. The passage is named “Hollow Crown”

Explanation : King Richard II thinks of all the kings who have been murdered by the deposer or poisoned by their wives or killed in war. Now he realizes that within the hollow- crown that sits on the kings head, Death keeps his court (his followers and agents).

Comment : This passage shows the understanding of King Richard on the crown.


iii. “Comes at the last, and with a little pin Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!”

Context : The above given lines are taken from William Shakespeare’s play King Richard II. The passage is named “Hollow Crown”

Explanation : Death sits within the hollow crown of the king. It allows a short time to monarchise and show his power and authority. But at the end, Death bores the head of the king with a pin and the king’s life is over. There is death.

Comment : Here Shakespeare uses imagery. The king’s head is imagined to be a castle wall. Death pricks the wall and the king dies - Farewell king.


iv.“How can you say to me, I am a king?”

Context : The above given lines are taken from William Shakespeare’s play king Richard II. The passage is named “Hollow Crown”

Explanation: King Richard is in a desperate mood. Now he realises that he is also a human like all others. He lives by bread. He has his own needs and desires. He wants to have friends. He experiences happiness and unhappiness like all other men. Therefore he asks his followers “Why do you call me king?”. I am a human being like you.

Comment : This passage very clearly shows that a king is not different from all of us. I le is also a man with all our wants, needs and feelings.


E. Speaking Activity


Working with your partner, discuss the following adages and share your views with the class. You may need to give your ideas and justify your point of view. Remember to take turns while making your presentation/short speech.


a. War begets war.

The word “beget” means “gives birth to a baby.” • Here it means “war leads to war”. If all countries remain peaceful, there will not be any war. Only when one country wages with another country, the trouble starts. Some countries support the first country and join the war. Some other countries back the second country and join the war. As a result many battles take place in several parts of the world. This is how World War I and World War II started and went on for years. In September 1939 Germany attacked Poland. Then the U.K. and France joined declared war on Germany. In course of time many other countries joined Germany on one side and the UK and France on the other side. Thus the war went on six years 1939-45. Thus “war begets war” is a true statement.

b. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

The line “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is taken from Shakespeare’s play Henry the Fourth, Part 2. The line means that a person who is in a position of power and responsibility always faces problems and his mind is never at easy.

This statement is perfectly true. The Headmaster of a school or the Principal of a college, or the Manager of a Bank or the chief Minister of a state or the Prime Minister of a country   all such people face many problems. They are also criticized by others, for their plans and decisions. Therefore the statement “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” is fully justified.


F. Poetic Devices



When human traits are given to non-human or inanimate objects



When a question is asked not for the sake of getting an answer, but to express a point more emphatically



When two unlike objects or things having some common qualities are compared


Rhetorical Question

When a question is formed to make a point rather than to elicit an answer


Internal Rhyme

When rhyming words are used within a single line


a. Read the poem once again carefully and identify the figure of speech that has been used in each of the following lines from the poem:


i. “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;

Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth’’. - Metaphor

ii. “And yet not so – for what can we bequeath

Save our deposed bodies to the ground?” - Interrogation

iii. “Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,…” - Personification

iv. “How can you say to me, I am a king?” - Rhetorical Question

v. “Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,…” - Personification

vi. “Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!” - Personification


b. Pick out the alliteration from the following lines:

i. “Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke’s,…” - lands-Iives

ii. “And tell sad stories of the death of kings:” - sad-stories 

iii. “Comes at the last, and with a little pin…” - last-little


G. Based on your reading of King Richard’s speech, answer the following questions in about 100 - 150 words each. You may add your own ideas if required to present and justify your point of view.

1.        What are the causes for King Richard’s grief?

King Richard II had a few followers who misguided him. The king became unpopular because of his misrule. Therefore his cousin Boling broke (Son of the younger brother of Richard’s father) dethroned Richard, and declared himself King Henry IV. After that King Richard II was sent to prison. His circumstances during the last part of his life shooed him to deep distress. In this passage, Richard expresses his grief. He thinks of his will. But he has no property to bequeath to the next generation. Death is his only future. “Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke’s. The loss of kingdom, his title and his properties is the cause of Richard’s grief. He is dishonoured, disgraced in the eyes of the people of England.

2.        How are eternal truths and wisdom brought to the reader here?

The eternal truth is brought out in this passage. Death is common to all people the king or the common man. Richard says Death sits within the hollow crown that sits on the head of the king. Death allows the king a little scene where the king shows all his power and authority. He thinks that this life is “brass impregnable” - undefeatable. But at the end Death bores through the head of the king with a little pin and farewell king. Thus this passage expresses shortness of human life and permanence of Death. Nobody can escape Death.

3.        Death has been cited in many ways in this monologue. Identify the poetic devices used in those references.

Death has been cited in many ways in this passage. King Richard.II speaks of worms, graves, epitaphs and other things connected with death. “Death keeps his court - so, Death is a king. “And there the antic sits’. —“antic” means clown. Richard pictures death both as king and as clown. The clown mocks at the king’s pomp and power. “And with a little pin bores his castle wall and farewell king”. Here Death behaves like an executioner who cuts off the head of a criminal condemned to death. Thus, king Richard pictures death as, i) a king ii) a clown iii) an executioner

4.        Who does the future generations remember easily - the victor or the vanquished? Give reasons. Also, cite relevant references from King Richard’s speech.

“Who does the future generations remember easily—the victor or the vanquished?”— This is a tough question. The simple answer is: Future generations remember both the victor and the vanquished. They are the two sides of the same coin.

The question may be: “Why does the future generations sympathise with?”

The future generations sympathise with the vanquished. In the case of Richard and Bolingbroke, the situation is complex. Richard was noted for his misrule and he was very unpopular through the whole of England. Therefore, Bolingbroke was right in dethroning Richard. But to dethrone a king was considered a sinful act in the Middle ages. Therefore it was natural that people sympathised with Richard after his deposition and death. The future generations remember both the victor and the vanquished.

H. Parallel Poem

John Magee holds a special place in the hearts of pilots the world over. An American, he joined the Canadian Air Force before the U.S. entered World War II and was killed in flight over Lincolnshire, England. He was 19 years old. He wrote the most famous air force war poem ever written, High Flight. He wrote the poem in the cockpit while flying at 30,000 feet and mailed it to his parents upon landing.


High Flight

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.


Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.


Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

(Also read the poem Ozymandias by P.B.Shelley.)

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