. . . so said “Dennis the peasant” in Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie.
[many thanks to the “anonymous fan” who transcribed the script from which the following is excerpted] . . .
ARTHUR: We’re all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes–
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.
DENNIS: That’s what it’s all about if only people would–
ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste.
Throughout Dennis the Peasant’s ensuing harangue, King Arthur becomes more and more visibly agitated–until he can stand it no longer and picks up the dirty peasant by the scruff of the neck, leading to the quotation in our title. Here’s Dennis’s understanding of his village’s social structure (and as we’ll see, in one sense it’s not far from the truth):
ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?
WOMAN: We don’t have a lord.
DENNIS: I told you. We’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,–
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: –but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more–
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh — who does he think he is?
ARTHUR: I am your king!
WOMAN: Well, I didn’t vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don’t vote for kings.
What was medieval social structure really like? What’s all this we hear about the “feudal system”? These were questions I looked at in a three-part lecture (feudalism, crusades, sacraments) to Bethel undergraduates yesterday: Continue reading