Study Guide

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Appearances


MAN: Who's that there?

DEAD COLLECTOR: I don't know, must be a king.

MAN: Why?

DEAD COLLECTOR: He hasn't got s*** all over 'im.

The whole aesthetic of this scene, and maybe the conception of the entire scene itself, seems to be based on this punch line. As if the Terrys just thought about creating the grossest, dirtiest, most repugnant scene and then have Arthur "ride" through at the end, distinguishing his kingship from the dirty life of peasants. The peasants know at a glance that he's a king.

WITCH: I'm not a witch, I'm not a witch!

BEDEVERE: But you are dressed as one!

WITCH: They dressed me up like this!

CROWD: We didn't! We didn't!

WITCH: And this isn't my nose. It's a false one.

BEDEVERE: [lifts up the false nose] Well?

Here's a pretty straightforward take on the idea that people tend to create their own realities via false appearances. Even the wise Bedevere, who sees under the false nose, accepts the premise.

ARTHUR: Camelot!

GALAHAD: Camelot!

LANCELOT: Camelot!

PATSY: It's only a model!


In five short lines of dialogue, all you need to know about the importance of political "spin," keeping up appearances, and the importance of maintaining mystery.

[Arthur and company come to a castle where they are greeted by a Frenchman. He's wearing a tall helmet and some gauntlets that extend out when he holds the wall with his hands. He's got a ridiculously long moustache that curls up at the ends.]

Sometimes there is a lot of meaning behind the way things appear, and sometimes appearances are just plain silly. The French guard is not only yelling ridiculous insults, but the way he's dressed, along with his mannerisms and the crazy moustache, make him even more ridiculous.

[Herbert's Father orders two guards to make sure Herbert doesn't escape from his imminent wedding. The guards aren't very bright. They're both dressed in their soldier gear but are also brandishing some lovely wedding decorations.]

The soldiers guarding Herbert are wearing lacy ribbons and flowers on the helmets and weapons. The get-up fits perfectly with their characters—they're just smiling away at Herbert as he shoots his arrow out the window. Like the rest of the wedding guests, they're just happy and innocent and unsuspecting even though they're supposed to be intimidating guards.

TIM: Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide, it's a killer!

GALAHAD: Get stuffed!

TIM: It'll do you a trick, mate!

GALAHAD: Oh, yeah?

ROBIN: You mangy Scot git!

TIM: I'm warning you!

ROBIN: What's he do, nibble your bum?

TIM: He's got huge, sharp—he can leap about—look at the bones!

ARTHUR: Go on, Boris. Chop his head off!

BORIS: Right! Silly little Peter. One rabbit stew comin' right up!

TIM: Look!

[The rabbit attacks. Boris dies. Robin soils his armor a second time]

Aww, it's such a cute little rabbit. Surely Tim's just crazy and it's really just a harmless bunny. But we should know by now that appearances are meant to deceive in this film. Remember the wooden Trojan rabbit that Bedevere had them construct? Another demonstration that something can be more (or less) than it appears.

[Tim creates numerous explosions and then teleports himself with a blast of fire and smoke. Then he summons more fire, just for good measure].

ARTHUR: What manner of man are you that can summon up fire without flint or tinder?

TIM: I... am an enchanter.

ARTHUR: By what name are you known?

TIM: There are some who call me... Tim.

ARTHUR: Greetings, Tim the Enchanter.

TIM: Greetings, King Arthur!

ARTHUR: You know my name?

TIM: I do. [a constant stream of flame spurts forth from within his staff] You seek the Holy Grail!

ARTHUR: That is our quest. You know much that is hidden, O Tim.

TIM: Quite.
[He shoots a fiery projectile from his staff that explodes in flames when it strikes a tree]

Tim tries very hard to create a certain kind of impression. He randomly and needlessly plays around with his magical fire and even dramatically pauses before saying his name… which is Tim. We get the feeling he's compensating by trying to keep up appearances that he's an evil and all-powerful enchanter. He even has the horns on his hood and bones on his tunic. He's decided to dress to impress.

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