Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur and Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur and Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Professor’s comment: This student uses a feminist approach to shift our value judgment of two works in a surprisingly thought-provoking way. After showing how female seduction in Malory’s story of King Arthur is crucial to the story as a whole, the student follows with an equally serious analysis of Monty Python’s parody of the female seduction motif in what may be the most memorable and hilarious episode of the film.

Much of the humor in Monty Python and the Holy Grail derives from the pure absurdity of its characters and situations. King Arthur roams the British countryside on an imaginary horse, evil enemies can only be appeased with offerings of shrubbery,
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For example, when Sir Mellyagaunce kidnaps the queen, Lancelot undergoes much physical hardship to rescue her, including confronting archers, crossing rough terrain, and escaping imprisonment. Another time, when Sir Mador de la Porte accuses Queen Guinevere of treason, Lancelot enters into trial by combat in the queen’s defense. Mador gravely injures him in the battle: “Sir Mador…smote [Lancelot] through the thick of the thighs, that the blood brast out fiercely. And…[Lancelot] felt himself so wounded and saw his blood.” (124–125) In addition to such physical pain, the queen often causes Lancelot great emotional distress. Once, for instance, Guinevere devastates Lancelot when she wrongly accuses him of being unfaithful to her and angrily banishes him from her court: “Right so Sir Lancelot departed [Camelot] with great heaviness that unneth him might sustain himself for great dole-making” (115).

Not only does Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere cause him a great deal of suffering, it wreaks havoc on the lives of many other men as well. For instance, their affair brings tragedy to Sir Gawain and his family. Lancelot kills Gawain’s innocent brothers, Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth, while rescuing the queen from being executed for adultery. Sir Gawain consequently instigates a blood feud against Lancelot that will eventually lead to his own death. King Arthur and his
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