King Arthur revisited - Maxicours

King Arthur revisited

  • Découvrir un aspect de la notion « Fictions et réalités ».
  • Découvrir les Monty Python et leur film Holy Grail (Sacré Graal en français) qui revisite le mythe arthurien du Saint Graal.
Points clés
  • Le mythe du roi Arthur est une histoire britannique très connue dans le monde entier, grâce au cycle arthurien datant du Moyen Âge. Le roi Arthur est notamment connu pour sa quête du Saint Graal.
  • Les Monty Python, une troupe d'humoristes britanniques, reprennent, dans leur film Monty Python : Sacré Graal ! de 1975, cette quête du Saint Graal, mais d’une manière quelque peu décalée et humoristique.
1. The Arthurian legends and … Holy Grail

King Arthur has always been one of the most (if not the most) popular kings of England. When we think of him, we of course think of Excalibur, Merlin, the Lady of the Lake, Lancelot, and so on.
What wonderful stories! And we like him and his myth because we do not know if he really existed or if his feats were part of the traditional folklore.

King Arthur also owes his celebrity to his quest for the Holy Grail (the cup containing Jesus’s blood after he was crucified) in the Middle Ages (late 5th century AD). His quest for the Grail, surrounded by the most valiant knights (Percival, Robin, Bedevere, Galahad, Lancelot, etc.) of the kingdom, is a story that everybody loves, whether young or old.

So many plays, operas, films have been made about King Arthur that we cannot see him as a minor figure of the British history. Among the films which were made, here is one you must absolutely watch: Holy Grail by and with the Monty Python.
But before watching it, make sure you know the story of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, because the Pythons’ revisited story, even though the main episodes for the quest are retraced in the movie, is not serious at all! It is just one of the Monty Python’s numerous parodies!

2. Who are the Monty Python?

The Monty Python are a group of friends who meet at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. They are John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam.

From the start in the 1960s, they had a very clear idea about what they wanted to do with the television: comedy and parody.
And it worked so well that they got lots of awards. Holy Grail was declared second comedy of all time in the USA in 1975!

Watch The Ministry of Silly Walks, Philosophy Football or Olympic Games and you will understand what we mean.

3. Why such a success?

As suggested in the title, the film deals with the Arthurian stories (Excalibur, Merlin, etc.), freely reinterpreted by the Monty Python.
After recruiting his knights, including Sir Lancelot (John Cleese), Sir Robin (Eric Idle), Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones) and Sir Galahad (Michael Palin), King Arthur (Graham Chapman) embarks on a mission from God (Graham Chapman): He orders them to seek and find the Holy Grail. But the journey is going to be perilous… and hilarious, our heroes doing their "best" to spoil everything.

We can say that the film is based on a series of sketches in which you will meet:

  • Patsy, King Arthur’s servant, using two empty halves of coconuts to imitate the sound of horses’ hooves,
  • French soldiers who claim to have the Grail and who insult the Knights,
  • a Trojan rabbit… with nobody inside (cf. the Trojan horse, the subterfuge used by the Greeks to enter the city of Troy during the Trojan war),
  • the knights who say “Ni”,
  • a black knight who wants to keep fighting in spite of the fact that he has had both his arms and legs cut off by King Arthur,
  • Tim the enchanter telling the knights that the Grail is hidden in a cave guarded by a killer rabbit,
  • a three-headed giant,
  • and so on.

But the story also takes place in the 20th century. Indeed, whereas a historian is making a documentary about the Arthurian legends, he is killed by a knight, and a police investigation starts.

You can say this movie is totally crazy, it surely is, but it is so funny!
What makes it even more absurd is that the Monty Python play different parts each. For example, Eric Idle is both Sir Robin the-not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Lancelot, a dead collector, a witch-hunting villager and so many more…

Hilarious, but if you do not believe it, watch it!

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