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Ovidian Delight V

would like to suggest a comparison between a scene from Ovid and a scene from Monty Python, Holy Grail. Maybe Ovid, or just more generally the myth he narrates, even influenced the scene. Here is the death of Pentheus from the final scene of Ovid Metamorphoses III (if you want a terrifying re-telling of this myth, read Euripides' Bacchae): 'Here first to see him [Pentheus] watching the sacred writes with his impious gaze, first stirred to make for him at a maddened dash, the first upturned thyrsus to do violence to him was his mother, 'o, my fellow sisters, come, join me,!

There is the wild boar, that huge beast which wanders in our fields, I must strike him as my sacrifice.'* And every one of them sped against this one man in a raging mob; all surged together and chased the trembling man, now terrified, now speaking words less blasphemous**, now cursing himself, now confessing his sin.

Wounded he, nevertheless speaks up: 'help me, aunt Autonoe! Remember the ghost of Actaeon***'.

But she, quite forgetting who Actaeon was, tore off his right arm as he beseeched her, and maddened Ino swiftly ripped off the other.

Although the unfortunate man had no arms that he could hold out to his mother, he showed the stumps of his torn off limbs, 'look mother' he whimpered. Having seen this, Agave shrieked, tossed her head, shook her hair wildly and embraced the torn-off head in her bloodied fingers shouting 'io, behold my comrades, this is my victory token.' Slightly dark humour. It is especially that final paragraph that reminded me of the Monty Python scene (linked below). It is less the nitty-gritty details of the scene that suggested the comparison to me than the grim humour of Pentheus vainly holding out the stumps of his wounds as if he still had arms, just like the knight making his threats as if he did, too.

It may well be that there is no influence here at all, but rather an proof of the timelessness of humour, that we can laugh at similar centuries later. I am also slightly reminded of the rather cute scene from Shrek where Donkey exclaims in distress: 'I can't feel my toes...I ain't got no toes, *sigh*, I need a hug!'

*She is under the influence of an angry Bacchus and is deluded. She genuinely is seeing Pentheus as a bore, sorry BOAR!

**Pentheus had challenged Bacchus' divine status, and is about to meet his end as a result.

***Actaeon had also been punished by a god. He had (in Ovid's version at least) unwittingly stumbled upon Artemis having a bath. Angered at his peepo-ing, she changed him into a stag and he was torn apart by his hunting dogs. Oh DEER!

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