Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

Monty Python vs. Shakespeare
Ælflæd of Duckford

I fully joined the Society finally, after a few false starts, in 1977, about the time "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" was released. It didn't come to Española, but I saw it twice the week it was in Los Alamos. The second night I took a tape recorder in so I could learn the songs and remember more lines to tell my friends. When VCR rentals became available I made a sound tape of the whole film. The year I got a VCR for Christmas it came with that one real, store-bought tape.

Lines from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" are much a part of the vocabulary of many people in the Society. "Run Away!" and "It's only a flesh wound" fall trippingly from the tongues of many "silly English k-niggits." My device has a duck because of a line from that movie. We were deciding what animal was kind of funny and easy to draw, and someone standing off to the side of the conversation said "a DUCK!" As though God or Graham Chapman had spoken, a duck rampant became the charge.

There are people who are now the age I was then (chronologically or societally) who can't quote any Monty Python sketches at all, and it hasn't seemed to have hurt their ability to become medieval people with us. When they look back to their early years in the Society they will remember quite a different movie that touched them - Kenneth Branagh's "Henry V." That's the tape they're playing on their way to events, those are the costumes they're planning, the armor they want, and best of all, those are the ideals they'll desire in themselves and respect in others.

Think of the effect on ceremonial language. Kings not yet chosen and peers-to-be will have at hand phrases such as "tomorrow shall you know Our mind at full" and "Not so, I do beseech your Majesty." "The gentler gamester is the soonest winner" is so much more uplifting than "It's only a model." "The fewer men the greater share of honor" and all the thoughts that go with it were once reserved to English or theatre majors. Now the same guys who might not have quoted anything better than RoboCop will be spouting Shakespeare. God be praised!

(This article first appeared in the August 1990 Outlandish Herald.)

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