Stories from medieval times tell of knights and princes, kings and damsels in distress. Myths of King Arthur, the most famous of all medieval stories, and other medieval tales are still reincarnated in our media. These tales fascinate us because they uphold ideals like chivalry that have since faded from society.
One of the most popular modes for these medieval stories is through satirical works. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is a more well-known example, as is “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” These works show medieval times in a humorous lens, making fun of the lack of education and luxury.
Satire makes fun of problems in society that aren’t apparent and brings them to the light within humor. Krista Carlson, a sophomore English major, commented that satire “has layers” and further explained, “It engages more of your brain.” However, with medieval satire, problems are much more overtly displayed. The poor health conditions and other problems of the day are blatantly displayed to humorous advantage.
“Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and “Galavant” feature fourth wall breaks for comedic effect, where characters are aware they are a work of fiction and speak directly to the audience. Carlson explained why she thinks people enjoy fourth wall breaks, saying, “The audience enjoys being brought into the movie.”
“Galavant” is a musical made in the mold of “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” The main character, Galavant, is a hero full of love and light and strength. He’s a traditional hero following in the footsteps of King Arthur and Robin Hood, battling with the evil King Richard for the hand of his beloved Madalena. Ideals such as heroism, true love and chivalry, that while dead today, are very much alive in this musical adventure.
The songs also display the tongue-in-cheek humor that drives the show to full advantage.
A poor chef sings to his lady love saying “If I could share my life with you / Just think how happy we'd be / We'd share a hovel built for two / Complete with vermin for three / We could while away each hopeless day / Comparing open sores / Yes, life would blow / But much less though / If I could share mine with yours” (season 1, episode 5).
Sid, Gal’s faithful squire, sings a song of revolt, shouting proudly, “Some they'll slash. Some they'll hack. Some they'll bludgeon blue and black. Some they'll mangle top to bottom. Some they’ll mangle front to back. And we'll all realize, as they’re gouging out our eyes. That tomorrow we'll regret it, but today we rise” (season 2, episode 6).
These medieval satires satisfy our desire for humor while making the jokes less personal because they’re not about our time or way of life. Satire has the potential to make us uncomfortable because they discuss issues we don’t want to think about. When the issues are not relevant to our society, we’re able to relax and enjoy the humor of the work.
“Galavant” wasn’t expected to succeed on any level. The characters in the series realized they were lucky to get a second season. Hopefully, medieval satires will continue to be popular due to the relaxed intellectual humor they contain and the lofty ideals of chivalry and love.
Sara Roberts is a junior studying business administration