Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

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Tamilnadu Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Warm up

(a) Work with a partner take this short quiz to find out how well informed you are about history.

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown (from Richard II)

Question 1.
Name a few wars and battles you have read about.
World War I, Indo-Pak War. Battle of Panipet War of Roses.

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Question 2.
What is the difference between a war and a battle?
A war is a long drawn affair. The conflict may continue even for years. Battles are small segments of a big war.

Question 3.
Why do rulers wage wars and battles?
Rulers are greedy. They want to expand their kingdoms. So, they wage wars and battles.

Question 4.
Is the outcome of a war always fair?
No, the outcome of war is not always fair.

Question 5.
Do you think rulers understand the true meaning of life – in defeat or in victory?
No, rulers involve a large number of people whose lives or deaths don’t matter for them. So, rulers usually don’t understand the true meaning of life.

Question 6.
Can you name a few kings and leaders who have fallen from glory to disgrace?
Chandragupta Maurya / Rajputs and Nelson Mandela

(b) The Historical Background:

The poem is an extract from William Shakespeare’s play King Richard the Second. The play is based on true events that occurred towards the end of the 14th century. Richard II was crowned the King of England in the year 1367. He continued to be the British Monarch until 1399, when he was deposed by his cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, who crowned himself King Henry the Fourth in the same year. Shakespeare’s play is a dramatic rendition of the last two years of King Richard IPs life.

In this brief span of time, he was ousted from his royal position and sent to prison, where he died in captivity. The following extract is set in the Coast of Wales. King Richard and some of his followers awaited the arrival of the Welsh army [after facing defeat at the hands of his cousin, Bolingbroke], of about 10000 warriors. But to their shock and surprise, they received the message that the army was not coming to their rescue. His followers tried to boost their King’s courage against the news, only in vain. When Richard came face to face with the reality of his terrible fate, he spoke the following verse, famously known as the “Hollow Crown” speech in theatrical circles. In it, King Richard is reminded of the power of Death that overshadows everything else, including the power of rulers, and renders them as powerless as any commoner at a moment’s notice.

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English The Hollow Crown Textual Questions

First, listen to a reading of the complete poem. Then, read silently and try to answer the questions briefly, based on your understanding. You may refer to the glossary given at the end of the monologue to help you.

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.
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills.
And yet not so – for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives, and all, are

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown (from Richard II)

And nothing can we call our own but death;
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been depos’d, some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed,
Some poisoned by their wives, some sleeping kill’d,

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown (from Richard II)

All murdered – for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable; and, humour’d thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence; throw away respect,
Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty;
For you have but mistook me all this while.
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends – subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

Question 1.
Pick out the phrase that suggests that King Riehard was sorrowful.
The phrase “Talk of graves of worms and epitaphs” suggests that King Richard was sorrowful.

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Question 2.
Why does the King suggest that it is now time for his will to be executed?
The King knows pretty well that he will be executed very soon by Bolingbroke. So, he wants his will to be executed.

Question 3.
What is the only thing we bequeath to our descendants?
We bequeath only immovable property to our descendants.

Question 4.
What are the vanquished men left with?
The vanquished men are left with sorrow and thoughts about death.

Question 5.
What does the ‘small model’ refer to here?
The perishable human body stands as a ‘small model’ of the barren earth.

Question 6.
What does a monarch’s crown symbolize?
Monarch’s crown symbolizes “empty power” because real power is vested with death

Question 7.
What mocks the ruler’s power and pomp?
Death mocks the ruler’s power and pomp.

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

barren-earth friends graves slain
rebellious rebellious worms grief
impregnable epitaphs death farewell
reverence king pin

King Richard the second had surrendered to his (a) _______ cousin, Bolingbroke. He experienced deep distress at the horror of his circumstances. In that desperate situation, he speaks of (b) _______ , (c) _______ , (d) 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) _______ where they will be buried. King Richard yielded to dejection and talked of all the different ways in which defeated kings suffer and how some had been deposed, (f) _______ in war, (g) _______ by their wives and so forth. He attributed this loss of lives to (h) _______ , 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) _______ brass. However, Death penetrates through the castle walls, silentlyand unnoticed like a sharp (j) _______ thus bidding (k) _______ to him and all his pride forever. Finally, Richard appealed to his soldiers not to mock his mere flesh and blood by showing (l) and respect to him. He added that he too needed bread to live, felt want, tasted (m) _______ and needed (n) _______ . He concluded thus, urging his men not to call him a (o) _______ as he was only human, just like the rest of them.
(a) rebellious
(b) graves
(c) epitaphs
(d) worms
(e) barren earth
(f) slain
(g) poisoned
(h) death
(i) impregnable
(j) Pin
(k) farewell
(l) reverence
(m) grief
(n) friends
(o) king

B. The words used by Shakespeare find a place in the 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, monarchize, impregnable, hollow]

  1. Shravan never keeps his promises. His friends know that his words are ______
  2. The spectators died laughing at the ______ of the clown.
  3. The businesswoman wished to ______ all her riches to an orphanage, after her death.
  4. The fortress was ______ and could not be conquered by the enemies.
  5.  Alexander the Great, wished to conquer many lands and ______ the entire world.


  1. hollow
  2. antics
  3. bequeath
  4. impregnable
  5. monarchise

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

farewell ceremonious deposed
reverence vain pomp
conceited sorrow scoffing

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

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

Question 1.
What do the three words,‘graves, worms, and epitaphs’,refer to?
The three words graves, worms, and epitaphs’ refer to the deep sorrow of King Richard II who was captured by rebellious cousins Bolling broke.

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Question 2.
What does the executor mentioned in the poem do?
An executor is one who implements the contents of a will.

Question 3.
Who is Bolingbroke? Is he a friend or foe?
Boling broke is king Richard II’s rebellious cousin. He is a foe.

Question 4.
Are all deposed kings slain by the deposer?
No, some, of the deposed kings are jailed and some are slain.

Question 5.
What does the crown of rulers stand for?
‘The crown of rulers stands for jester.

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

Question 7.
What does ‘flesh mean here?
Flesh means body’s flesh. It stands for all perishable things.

Question 8.
What are the various functions and objects given up by a defeated king?
A defeated king abdicates his crown. He parts with his scepter too. He hands over his right to rule the kingdom to the victorious king. He gives up the right to levy taxes on subjects. Fie also gives up his right and listens to the woes of ordinary subjects and solve them.

Question 9.
How does the king establish that he and his subjects are equal in the end?
In the end, King Richard II pathetically explains that he is also an ordinary mortal with desires, need for friends and the compulsion to taste grief. Even a king has a cup of misery in his life.

Question 10.
Bring out King Richard’s feelings when he was defeated.
King Richard started feeling distressed about his impending death. He uses the words graves, epitaphs, and worms. He realizes his possessions will be reduced to a patch of land. He recalls how kings get slain in battlefield or poisoned to death by their own spouses. The king feels he is also an ordinary mortal deceived by the jester’s‘ death’. He also needs to taste grief and needs the support of friends during distress.

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

Question (i)
“Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death;”
These lines are taken from the Poem – “The Hollow Crown”, Poet – “William Shakespeare”.
Here the poet talks about the disowning of kind Richard II
Richard said that they have lost their lands, their lives, and all things by Boling Broke. They have nothing except their death.

Question (ii)
“All murdered – for within the hollow crown ‘
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court, …”
Reference: These lines are from the poem “The Hollow Crown” by William Shakespeare. The poem is an excerpt from the play “Richard II”.
Context: The defeated king thinks about death which is looming large. He remembers how other kings had met with their death. He says these words while sharing his understanding of the power of death who rules men who wear the crowns.
Explanation: A king wears a crown as a symbol of his power over the country he rules. But the empty space within the crown houses death. In the empty space, death conducts his court and gives his verdict when it is time.
Comment: The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Question (iii)
“Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!”
Here the poet talks about the temporary license to ‘Monarchise’
Richard said that the crown is empty in the middle and this shows the power of the ruler is not permanent. Anytime it may be lost.

Question (iv)
“How can you say to me, I am a king? ”
Reference: This lines is from the poem “The Hollow Crown” by William Shakespeare. The poem is an excerpt from the play “Richard II”.
Context: King Richard says these words to his loyal nobels when he talks about the power of death over monarchs.
Explanation: British subjects usually believe that a king is born with a divine right to rule. People respect his crown as a symbol of great power. After he is deposed from power, Henry II realizes the bitter truth that he is no way different from ordinary subjects. He also has wants, need for friends and the compulsion to taste grief. Nobody can escape death.
Comment: Death – the only thing inevitable in life.

Speaking Activity

E. 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.

Question (a)
War begets war.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “If you are indictive and take an eye for an eye, the whole world will be blind”. Today most lethal weapons of mass destruction are being piled up in China, USA and North Korea, Russia and Iran. The leaders of these countries claim that balance of power is required in North and South. But weapons of mass destruction will not create conditions of peace. Peace has to be created by dialogues between countries. War always begets war.

Question (b)
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Whoever is heading an organization, a team, of players, a country does have heavy responsibility. The leadership may give the person a social recognition but in day to day life, the responsibilities of a leader are really heavy. A captain of the army during Kargil war, found one of his soldiers wounded. The Kargil war was heading to a victory for India. The captain did not allow his junior officers to go and bring the wounded soldier. He went and received the bullets. Yet he pulled the wounded soldier to safety. He brought the wounded soldier to the bunk. While returning also he was shot many times. He dropped down dead. He had saved the wounded soldier and the subordinate officer at the cost of his life. Sometimes, there is a coldwar, people try to usurp power by secret dealings.

Aurangzeb killed many of his brothers to ascend to the throne. While in power, kings are really worried about the conspiracy being cooked by relatives to overthrow him. King’s wife poisons king to death. Kings heading battles get killed too. So, we should never be jealous of people in power. Each post or power carries its own stress and unresolved conflicts, occasionally resulting in depression too. Being the head of an army, or that of a country is not always a matter of pride or glory. The grandeur conceals pain, anxiety and ever fear of impending death.

F. Poetic Devices

(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:

  1. “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”.
  2. (“And yet not so – for what can we bequeath Save our deposed bodies to the ground?”
  3. “Keeps Death his court, and there the antic sits,..
  4. “How can you say to me, I am a king?”
  5. “Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,…”
  6. “Bores through his castle wall, and farewell


  1. Personification (Earth)
  2. Metaphor
  3. Personification
  4. Interrogation
  5. Personification
  6. Personification

(b) Pick out the words in alliteration from the following lines:

Question (i)
“Our lands, our lives, and all, are Bolingbroke’s,…”
lands, fives

Question (ii)
“And tell sad stories of the death of kings:”
sad, stories

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Question (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.

Question 1.
What are the causes for King Richard’s grief?
King Richard II was a popular king. He had many nobles at the service. His rebellious cousin
Bolingbroke attacks him with 10,000 men on his side. He sends message to the Welsh King for . sending his army to defeat Bolingbroke. But to his shock, Welsh army is not sent. He realizes with alarm the terrible fate he would suffer in the hands of his foe and his most impending death in captivity. King Richard is reminded of the power of death that overshadows everything else. Death scoffs at the power of rulers. Losing the battle, non-receipt of Welsh army and the prospect being jailed and killed worries Richard II.

He realizes that in the hollow crown death had reigned him. Infact, death, a jester had misled him to believe that he was monarchising England. He can now own only a patch of barren land. He is not an impregnable castle of brass anymore. He is an ordinary mortal. He too needs friends and needs to taste grief and face death.

“Life and death are illusions. We are in a constant state of transformation.”

Question 2.
How are the eternal truths and wisdom brought to the reader here?
Human’s glorious life gets reduced to graves, epitaphs and worms. Men is left with nothing but his mortal remains to gift to the earth. The earth only serves as a paste and cover to the dead bodies. Great kings too have had inglorious death. Duncan was killed in bed. Hamlet was poisoned to death. Macbeth was slain in the war. The death gives freedom to monarchs from monarchising the country.

The king realizes with a shudder that Death has occupied a prominent position right inside the crown. He scoffs at the pomp and show of the temporal kings. Even the most powerful monarch who feels as strong as a brass castle is brought down by just a pin prick of death. Death is a great leveller who makes kings believe that they are also ordinary mortals with wants, need for friends and the need to taste grief.

“Life is a brief intermission between Birth and Death. Enjoy it.”

Question 3.
Death has been cited to in many ways in this monologue. Identify the poetic devices used in those references.
bequeath deposed bodies – Metaphor
small model of barren earth-Metaphor
hollow crown – Metaphor
antics – Personification
Dust our paper – Metaphor
scoffing his state grinning at his pomp – Personification

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown

Question 4.
Who does the future generations remember easily – the victor or the vanquished? Give reasons. Also, cite relevant references from King Richard’s speech.
Unusually future generations remember victors. But there are rare instances of just rulers falling due to the conspiracy and greed of an aggressor. On such occasions, future generations remember the vanquished. A Shiva devotee king was very generous. His enemies entered his kingdom under the guise of Shiva devotees in saffron clothes and slew the king and captured his kingdom. Alexander, King Richard was a just ruler. He was loved by his subjects and loyal nobles. He was defeated by his rebellious cousin simply because he wanted to be a king. When Richard was thinking about the welfare of his subjects, Bolingbroke was secretly raising an army to dethrone him.

People who are mad after power resort to unjust means. So, British subjects respected and loved the vanquished but were helpless and defeated Porus who had fought so valiantly and wanted to be treated with respect befitting a king. Alexander himself respected him and returned his kingdom and sealed a life time friendship with him. From King Richard’s speech one understands that he was good at heart but in the strategy of war, he was not good. Like a crooked end of a straight walking stick, a ruler has to have some secret deals with neighbouring countries to be protected during crisis. Bolingbroke turned out to be a more assertive and Shrewd king. But people would remember a just and noble person more even if defeated.

“Nobility of spirit has more to do with Simplicity than Ostentation, Wisdom than Wealth, Commitment rather than Ambition.

The Hollow Crown About the Poet

Samacheer Kalvi 11th English Solutions Poem Chapter 6 The Hollow Crown (from Richard II)

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), an English poet and playwright is widely regarded as the greatest writer in English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. He wrote about 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses. He was often called England’s National Poet and nicknamed the Bard of Avon. The first publishing of Shakespeare’s works is the ‘The First Folio’. Playwright Ben Johnson wrote a preface to this book including the quote ‘(Shakespeare) is not of an age, but for all time.’ His plays have been translated into every major living language and are constantly studied and performed throughout the world.

The Hollow Crown Summary

King Richard II surrenders to his rebellious cousin Bolingbroke. The King talks to the few loyal friends on the nature of temporal power and how death over takes everything and everybody. Under critical circumstances, King Richard II talk about graves, epitaphs and worms. Shakespeare portrays the fleeting nature of human glory. He explains how even monarchs leave nothing behind to call as their own except a small patch of land into which they will get buried. The dejected King talks on various ways Kings get killed. Some are slain in the battle field.

Some are poisoned to death by their own spouses. The Kings who believed their bodies to be forts or impregnable brass are shattered by just a pinprick. The whole castle wall, the human body, is gone. Death like a jester waits for the King. In fact, he only allows the King to act as if he is ruling and in control of everything. In fact, death is in supreme command. He chides his loyal friends who still believe that he is a monarch. He tells them that he is an ordinary mortal just like them with basic wants and the need to taste grief. He is humbled and realizes he can no more be called a King as he is powerless before the impending death.

The Hollow Crown Glossary

antic – someone who attention through silly or funny acts (here a court jester)
bequeath – pass on something to the next generation by means Of a will
ceremonious – being very formal
deposed – removed from office or power
epitaph – short pieces of writing inscribed on tombstones in memory of the dead
executors – persons who put someone’s terms of will into effect
grinning – smiling wildly
impregnable – impossible to pass through
monarchize – rule , carry out the duties functions of a ruler
scoffing – expressing mockery
slain – kill

critical – serious
humble – modest
jester – clown
monarch – king
portrays – describes
spouse – wife
temporal – temporary

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