‘None shall pass’ and ‘The skull beneath the skin’: Monty Python, the British Class System and Death

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Social hierarchy and death are two intransigents blocking us all. In Britain, the class system permeates every assessment of other people, every exchange. For elsewhere, perhaps, substitute or add other constructs in which people invest and by which we are controlled, i.e. money, politics, religion or a grasping after eternal youth. Man-made constructions of governance and religion, illegitimate power and torture enabled by tyrants and their followers are an everyday reality; they’re human constructions dominating the physical and the imaginary. So, also, death dominates life. The energy and drive of Monty Python troupe is all about debunking dominant absurdities and seizing the day – carpe diem made comic, with clever clarity. What links the class system and death, two intransigents which will not let anyone pass, it seems, blocking the way forward, physically, psychologically, spiritually, like a Black Knight in a clearing (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975) is the issue of levelling. Death is a great leveller. No one escapes death. The class system and all forms of complex structuring of hierarchy based on rock solid but transient principles is an absurd investment in a scaffold fashioned from a set of rules invented somewhere by someone or other. It is a construct. It only has substance because we invest in it and apply it. Death is similarly skirted round with repertoires of belief but unlike the class system, it is in the end unavoidable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnd Now For Something Completely Different
EditorsJeffrey Weinstock, Kate Egan
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2019


  • comedy


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