Summary of The Proud King by William Morris - OKVIX

Summary of The Proud King by William Morris

Summary of The Proud King by William Morris

The Proud King is a poem that talks about a king named Jovinian who has pride. He was later humiliated and punished until he repented, and later on, regains his crown and palace. On this blog, you will discover the summary of The Proud King by William Morris.

This poem is made up of 119 stanzas of 849 lines. I won’t be writing the full poem here. I will try to give a short summary. So, without further ado, let’s proceed to the proud king summary, which is written by William Morris.

Summary of The Proud King

The Proud King is a narrative poem that centers on a kind who ruled over many lands. He conquered and acquired more countries through war, which he added to his kingdom and finally, became an emperor due to so many lands he had conquered and acquired.

One night, after he had been made an emperor, he lay awake and thought about himself. “Surely”, he said, “no one can be greater than I am on each or in heaven”. He fell asleep with this thought. When he woke up, the day was bright, and he looked out on the pleasant world and beckoned to his men that they would go hunting on that day.

So, they went hunting, mounting on the horses and dogs came leaping along with them. They had hunted all I’m the morning and were now in a deep wood. In the field, the sun had beat them, and they found shelter under the trees. But the proud king Jovinian wished for something more soothing.

He then saw a lake more far off and said to his men, “Bide ye here, while I bathe in the lake”. The king got down from his horse, removed his clothes and dived in the cool lake. While the king was enjoying the cool lake, swimming and diving deep, a lookalike of king Jovinian came out from the shore, dressed himself with the king’s clothes, and rode away with the horse.

So, when the proud king was satisfied with his swimming, he came to the place where he had left his clothes and horse, but they were nowhere to be found. He looked around, but he did not see anyone. He called his men, but no one answered him.

The kind made a mat, which he used to cover his nakedness, and decided to visit someone whom he made a night. When he came, the porter asked, “Who is that”? The king replied, “Open the gate”. When the porter opened the gate and recognized him, he was surprised.

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The king asked him to call the knight. The porter laughed and told the kind that the great emperor was here an hour ago. That he came and sat with the knight. The porter went ahead to call the knight. He laughed as he went to inform the Knight about the visitor.

When the knight came forth and met the king, the king told him that he is the emperor, that he made him a knight and build this castle for him. “You dog” the annoyed king said, and ask his servant to beat and drive the visitor away.

The porters, while laughing, took the opportunity to beat and drive away the proud king out of the gate. After the proud king left, he vowed to punish the knight when he sits back on his throne.

Then, he decided to go to Duke, whose house is close by, whom he has known all his life. So, he came to the gate of the Duke’s great hall, and knocked three times. On the third knock, the porter opened the gate as saw a man covered only in mat, stained and bleeding. The proud king asked the porter to go and tell the Duke that the emperor is here.

The porter went and informed Duke that a man covered with mat asked him to go and inform Duke that he was the emperor. When Duke came out, he saw a dirty man bleeding. The king asked if he knows him, that he went to the pool and when he came out, his clothes and horse were all gone.

The Duke ordered the porter to put the proud king in chains, and give him bread and water, that it is not safe to have such a man free. The Duke turned away and went to meet his friends in the hall. He explained what happened to them. “What did he say”? Asked one of the guest. “He said that he was the emperor”, replied Duke. They all burst out to laugh at him.

The proud king lay on straw and chain bound his feet. He was in shock as he feels he has been brought so low, that even his friend, Duke, could not recognize him. He struggled and lose the chain, and escaped that night.

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Not only that, but he went to his palace hoping that someone would come and open the door. After a while, a porter came and opened the door when he knocked. The porter asked, “Who are you”? The king replied “I am your master, your king, your emperor, let me pass”. The proud king tried to push the porter aside so that he can pass, but the porter was too strong, and denied him passage to the palace.

As the proud king and the porter were arguing, the noise was heard by the queen, the lookalike emperor, and the other porter. The proud king said to the queen that he is his husband, his king, and his emperor. Some porters were angry and said that the proud king should be beaten up. They, finally, throw the proud king out of the palace while they beat him up.

The proud king ran away to where he didn’t know. He wished he was dead. Later, he came to the lake, where he bathed and sat down on the shore. It was like a dream to him. He was cold, hungry, and tired. He then, knelt down and said “I am no king, I am no emperor, I am a sinful man, and I know that I am nothing. God forgive me for my pride”.

Tears rolled down his cheek as he cried. He wiped them and rose to his feet. Close to him, he saw his cloths, and a horse eating grass nearby. The king put on his clothes, he mounted on his horse, and rode to the palace. As he drew nearer to the palace gate, it became open, and the servants came forward.

One held his horse, while the other helped his to dismount from the horse. The porter bowed to him. The king, entered the palace, and again, saw the nobles in the great hall. There stood the queen also, and by her side was the man who called himself emperor. But the queen and the nobles did not look at him.

They looked at the king and came forward to meet him. The man, who was the emperor, came forward, and they greeted. He told the king that he is an angel, and since the king is proud and set himself so high, that he has been brought so low.

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The angel, further, told the king that he had watched over the kingdom, and now giving him the throne back. He finally told the king that only the humble are for to rule. After the speech, the angel disappeared.

So, the king once more, sat on the throne and ruled wisely, and humbly ever after. At the end of the poem, he died and someone else took over.

That is the end of the summary of the proud King. Next, is the theme of the proud king.


The proud king themes are:

  • Pride
  • The supremacy of God.
  • The inevitability of death


The novel revolves around king Jovinian’s pride and how it cost him all he had including his throne. The king was so proud that he boasted that no one is more powerful than him on earth, and in heaven. Due to his pride, he lost his wealth, respect, and throne.

It was a punishment for him, as God only allow humble people to rule. He was beaten when he came out to proclaim to the porter, the knights, and the queen that he is the king. Jovinian later has to let go of pride and accepted his mistake. He further asked God for forgiveness, which God later forgave him.

The supremacy of God.

In the summary of the proud king, we witnessed how God punished Jovinian. This proves that the supremacy of God is far higher than that of Jovinian. Jovinian supremacy made him maintain fear and respect for his position. The supremacy of God made him to lose his position, shamed him, and made him worthless in everyone’s eyes.

The inevitability of death

The proud king, Jovinian, thinks that his power, wealth could make him immortal. He finally succumbed to death and someone else took over the throne from him. The king left the world with none of his wealth, power, or throne. It shows that death is inevitable.


The poem is made up of 119 stanzas, and 849 lines. 117 out of the 119 stanzas have seven lines each, and maintained a rhyme scheme (ababbcc), while the last two stanzas have 19 and 11 likes each with the rhyme scheme (aabbccddeeffgghhii) and (abbccddeeff) respectively.


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