The performers that made up Monty Python were all educated lads, and much of their humor relied on British viewers' own familiarity with history, literature, and politics. The troupe's feature film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is fondly remembered as a silly parody of the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table - yet many of its most irreverent jokes actually play on real historical events and centuries of literary tradition.
In sharing their favorite moments from the film, many Redditors have pointed out where Monty Python and the Holy Grail's accuracy comes into play. Vote up the ones that not only caught you by surprise, but also completely unarmed!
The Frenchman Sort Of Pronounces 'Knight' In A Period-Appropriate Fashion
From Redditor u/ComedicSans:
A lot of words used to enunciate all consonants. "Knight" didn't sound like "nait" but instead was closer to "kin-ickt."
Redditor u/babrooks213 asked:
So the French knight in Monty Python was actually pronouncing it closer to its true way, than just phonetically saying "knight"?
Redditor u/millionsofcats replied:
The "k" and the "gh" used to be pronounced, so it's closer in that it isn't leaving any consonants out.
However, something like "kin-ickt" is only a poor approximation based on current English pronunciation rules. There was no vowel between the k and the n; it was a consonant cluster [kn]. And the "gh" is a sound not present in modern English except in some people's pronunciations of the final sound in words like "Bach" and "loch."
[Editor's Note: For more information, check out this article on why English has silent letters.]9211Caught you by surprise?
French Knights Hurling Livestock Has Historical Origins
Redditor u/primal-chaos shared an image with the following caption:
The French tactic of pelting Arthur and his knights with livestock echoes the relatively modern legend of a medieval siege of the fortified southern French town of Carcassonne. Said to have been near starvation, the townspeople used the last of their food to pelt the besieging army to convince them, suffering likewise, that the town was well stocked with food and that the siege was hopeless. The tactic was successful, and the siege was lifted.
[Editor's Note: The Times Colonist mentions this in their writeup of the town. During the 8th century, Lady Carcas is said to have ended a siege on the town that lasted for years by having a fat pig launched over the wall "to convince the invaders that the food-starved city could afford to waste such an animal." The ruse was successful, and Lady Carcas rang the city's bells in triumph. The French sonne means "sound," and so the city was dubbed Carcassonne.]8014Caught you by surprise?
There Are A Bunch Of Small, Silly, But Significant References To Actual Arthurian Myths
From Redditor u/wjbc:
Dennis the Peasant gives a pretty accurate Marxist analysis of the feudal system. The trial of the witch isn't much more ridiculous than real trials for witchcraft. And everyone really was pretty dirty back then, they got that right. Also, plague.
The Black Knight who guards a ditch for no reason is an accurate portrayal of knights in general and the knights found in Arthurian literature, often they were just picking fights for no reason. And Arthurian literature can be quite bloody, with a high body count.
The French castle in England makes sense for a number of reasons. Much of Arthurian literature was French, not English. But after the Norman conquest, many Englishmen spoke French and for a long while the English kings still claimed French lands, or even the French crown.
The women who tempt Sir Galahad to lose his virginity reflect a common theme in Arthurian literature written by monks, for whom virginity was a sign of godliness. Lancelot was the nearly perfect knight, brought down in part by losing his virginity. Galahad, Lancelot's son, was the perfect knight who never lost his virginity. And knights often met women in castles who wanted to seduce them - Lancelot was seduced by Elaine of Corbenic, who tricked him into thinking she was Guinevere.
Tim the Enchanter is a version of Merlin. Tim's costume is more Celtic than Norman, and Cleese gives Tim a Scottish accent - many people think the legend of Merlin has Celtic roots. Tim sends them to confront a killer rabbit, but that's not so different from the Welsh Cath Palug, a monstrous clawing cat in French and Welsh legends.7422Caught you by surprise?
Monty Python Rejected The Idyllic View Of The Early Medieval Era
Redditor u/wifeofcookiemonster asked:
People seem to think that medieval people were very unintelligent, and that life was "nasty, brutish, and short." Why is that, and is it true or false?
Redditor u/ethelraed answered:
I think of these ideas as the Monty Python view of the Middle Ages because Monty Python and the Holy Grail both reflects these images and promulgates them. On the other hand, one doesn't want to go to the other extreme and paint Medieval Europe as one long, giant Renaissance Faire.
In the early Industrial Age there was a tendency to Romanticize the Middle Ages, and the Monty Python view is a backlash against that. Starting with short: There is a common misconception around life expectancy. An average life expectancy of 40 does not mean most people drop dead on their 41st birthday. High infant mortality brings the average down. There were plenty of people around in their 50s, 60s, and 70s in the Middle Ages. Nuns and Monks, in particular, tended to live long lives (and they were about a quarter of the population).
Brutal? Yes, the murder rate was high in the Middle Ages, the highest ever recorded, and it has been tailing off ever since. Then again, medical care for traumatic wounds was all but useless, so it is an open question to what extent people are becoming less violent, and to what extent emergency rooms have improved.
Nasty? Nasty is a subjective matter. It must have been horrible to be a rheumatic peasant with a tooth abcess. But such a person was by no means the typical person in the Middle Ages. The Gross Domestic Product of England in the High Middle Ages was bigger than some countries today. Populations were smaller. The picture of hundreds of thousands of peasants toiling away in near slavery while a handful of aristocrats lived the high life is false. There was, what in the modern American sense, a middle class. The Church was a great collector and redistributer of wealth. Wealthy London merchants typically left one-third of their estates to the Church, which ran welfare programs for the poor...5725Caught you by surprise?