Since King Arthur’s supposed existence and reign during the early 6th century, there has seldom been a king who has ruled England with nearly as much lore and history surrounding his exploits. Directed by Jones and Gilliam, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a satirical depiction of Arthurian legend in which Graham Chapman parodies the character of King Arthur of Camelot. He searches for the Holy Grail along with the Knights of the Round Table he assembles to aid him during his journey.
The film parodies the era it takes place in, from aspects as grim as the Black Plague, accusations of witchcraft, the repression of peasants and even topics as good natured as the rescue of damsels in distress and preserving one’s chastity. Throughout their ordeals the men comically skewer clichi?? s of knighthood and chivalry and life in medieval England. At the onset of his quest, King Arthur converses with a peasant named Dennis foraging in the mud.
Unlike the vast majority of uneducated and illiterate peasants of their time, Dennis has an extensive comprehension of the political systems and repression of the poor.
Dennis’s filthy and indignant character is unaware of how Arthur obtained his position as king without being voted for and divulges these opinions on an increasingly annoyed King Arthur. In their absurd exchange of beliefs Arthur relates the legend of how he became king as he recounts, “The Lady of the Lake… her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
” Arthur is then given this hysterical response, “Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. ” This scene is unique in its clever use of dialogue, especially since a peasant in Dennis’ position of poverty, manages to mock King Arthur and how he acquired the throne. During his travels across England to amass the Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur casually observes some of the atrocities besetting his people.
The Black Plague, witch trials and subjugation of the population are made into a travesty of the reality that transpired. Rather than consider the plight of a women under trial for being a witch, Arthur aids in her persecution by agreeing with the absurd suggestion that if a woman weighs as much as a duck, then she is inevitably a witch. His reactions are similar to the bubonic plague victims he encounters, as he merely passes through the city as the deceased are piled onto carts.
As they pursue the location of the Holy Grail, King Arthur and his knights encounter a variety of situations in which they must put their knighthood to the test. More often than not, their reactions to the circumstances possess none of the valour and gallantry that has come to be associated with knights. At the onset of their quest, King Arthur and his company arrive at a castle occupied by a group of humorously hostile French guards who claim they have a Holy Grail of their own.
The amusing exchange between Arthur and the French guards escalate as the insults, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries! ” are accompanied by a cow that is shot out of a catapult. The resulting battle is chaotic, but brief as both King Arthur and the knights yell words which would eventually become a recurring saying, “Run Away! Run Away! ” A backup “Trojan Rabbit” plan is devised by the wise Sir Bedevere, only that it is mistakenly not occupied and unexpectedly catapulted by the French, back at the knights.