Study Guide

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Rules and Order

Rules and Order

OLD MAN: I'm getting better.

NOT AS OLD MAN: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.

DEAD COLLECTOR: Well, I can't take him like that, it's against regulations.

Regulations? This dude is literally collecting a pile of dead people on a cart in an incredibly muddy village street, and he's talking about regulations as if he's running a modern clinic. Oh, and then he clubs the guy anyway after making sure no one's looking. So much for regulations.

BEDEVERE: There are ways of telling if she's a witch.

CROWD: [Simultaneously] What are they? Tell us! Do they hurt!?

BEDEVERE: What do you do with witches?

CROWD: Burn!

The wise Bedevere knows how to put on a fair trial. He's the one who brings order to the unruly crowd that dressed a woman as a witch just so they could watch her burn. However, Bedevere's standard witch trial procedure is a bit… peculiar. He proceeds to engage the people in an extended logical argument about witches. As we can tell from the first question, his string of logic is going to be anything but sensible.

ARTHUR: We will find you a shrubbery.

KNIGHT WHO SAYS NI: You must return here with a shrubbery or else you will never pass through this wood… alive.

ARTHUR: Oh Knights of Ni, you are just and fair, and we will return with a shrubbery—

KNIGHT WHO SAYS NI: One that looks nice.

ARTHUR: Of course.

KNIGHT WHO SAYS NI: And not too expensive.

The Knights Who Say Ni are quite particular. Not only do they want a shrubbery, but it must be a) nice looking and b) cost-effective. This is a parody on the typical fantasy quest trope where a traveler meets an obstacle and must retrieve an item—the orders of the quest are absurd and the item itself is, um, not what you'd expect. The whole premise is crazy, and the specific rules for the shrub just make it crazier.

BROTHER MAYNARD [Reading from the fictional "Book of Armaments" in the Bible]:Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.

A perfect example of order mocked and turned upside down. Especially since Arthur proves totally incapable of following this rule.

BRIDGEKEEPER: Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three ere the other side he see.

LANCELOT: Ask me the questions Bridgekeeper, I am not afraid.

BRIDGEKEEPER: What is your name?

LANCELOT: My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.

BRIDGEKEEPER: What is your quest?

LANCELOT: To seek the Holy Grail

BRIDGEKEEPER: What is your favorite color?

LANCELOT: Blue.

BRIDGEKEEPER: All right, off you go.

The Bridgekeeper has a very strange set of questions. It would seem that his questions, instead of being a test, are a mere formality: a little icebreaker. This is a parody of the riddles of the Sphinx, but instead of answering a riddle, the knights are subjected to the whimsical questions of the old man. The motif of the questions, and the formal verse in which they're offered, is a nod to a very traditional story line

ARTHUR [on the verge of attacking the castle]: Charge!

[Sound of police siren]

HISTORIAN'S WIFE [pointing at Arthur]: That's the one! I'm sure of it!

POLICEMAN [arresting Arthur]: Come on, come on. Put 'em in the van. Put a blanket over that one.

POLICEMAN (to cameraman): All right, sonny. That's enough.

The policemen who show up and abruptly shut down the movie serve as a juxtaposition of the lawlessness of medieval England and the rules and order of modern police procedure. Lancelot slays countless wedding guests and gets away scot-free… while one historian dies and a manhunt ensues. However, the fact that the movie just ends is itself a denial of any sort of rules that are supposed to govern a normal story. Many sketches in Monty Python's Flying Circus ended just this way; with the cast arrested for not having proper punch lines or being not funny enough.

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