The DVD version of Monty Python and The Holy Grail arrived today. For this I can thank Amazon.com and United States Postal Service. The package also contained the Star Wars Battlefront (version I) PC video game – the latter eagerly awaited by the son, the former by all of us.
I slipped the DVD into this very same laptop and watched it all the way up to the catapulting of 'la vache' at poor Arthur and his band of Grail seekers. At that point, I decided to take a break and put on Monday's Afternoon Play from BBC Radio 4. Without any mind to what was being performed, I started the play only to find that it was Steinbeck in Avalon, a play detailing John Steinbeck's efforts to revisit the Arthurian legend.
This retelling is done with a clear 20th century viewpoint – Steinbeck's – in mind, and. although not tongue-in-cheek nor played for laughs, nonetheless contains a distancing from the original story that mirrors that of the Python crew.
Deliberately so. Steinbeck strives to recast the tale in modern language. Nonetheless, much like Shakespeare, I believe such tales are best told in the language of the past – that of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gottfried von Strassbourg, or Thomas Malory. It takes an effort to re-engage with such archaisms, but it is doubly enlightening to do so.
As an aside, the play used So What? as beginning and ending music. I shall have to play the whole Miles Davis performance now. Such is the power of music.