Postmodern Criticism of Monty Python’s King Arthur Skit
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Monty Python’s King Arthur skit is full of structuralism dogma breaking moments. This analysis focuses on the first scene of the movie. The scene utilizes pre-conceived notions of movie structure, the publics’ awareness about leaders and prominent figures and the acknowledgement of the existence of life among cast extras to create a satirical adaptation of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail.
As the scene begins we hear the hooves of a horse coming from beyond the mist around the castle. The viewer, exposed to several scenes that reflect this setting in previous movies, expects to see someone riding a horse about to emerge, instead it is King Arthur and his servant that appear; both lacking horses. “Out of the mist walks King Arthur followed by a servant who is banging two coconuts together” (499). King Arthur makes a stop sign and the servant is seen halting as if he were a horse. The viewer realizes that the servant holding the coconut halves was pretending to be an actual horse. “Servant makes noises of horse halting with a flourish” (499). This obvious break from traditional script writing and prop use highlights the general expectation for viewers to assume what is about to occur and in which manner. In this excerpt the viewer expects to be shown a horse because he is fooled into thinking there would be one present. In reality it was just a man clapping two coconut halves to imitate the sound of hooves.
Right after this scene, a soldier guarding a castle’s battlements comes into view. Here the soldier and King Arthur have a conversation where King Arthur introduces himself to a non-believing soldier:
SOLDIER: Halt! Who goes there?
ARTHUR: It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot.
King of al...
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...he discussion by providing his own two cents and setting the first soldier off into a rant about termites. “What do you mean ‘generically’? There’s the ‘plodding termite,’ the ‘yellow Angolan termite,’ I mean you just can’t say...” (501).
In hindsight we observed how the first scene of Monty Python’s King Arthur skit lends itself to postmodern criticism. The script shows ways in which people build up events based on pre-conceived notions such as hoof sounds mimicked by coconut halves. The script highlights the awareness of the ordinary people in Arthurian times; the soldier’s disbelief at the revelation of Arthur’s identity. The script also reminds the viewers that the extras seen in movies represent actual people in that era. Monty Python and the Holy Grail present a movie filled with realistic albeit radical view of life as it probably was in the time of Camelot.