The Spanish Inquisition (Monty Python)

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"The Spanish Inquisition" is a series of sketches in Monty Python's Flying Circus, Series 2 Episode 2, first broadcast 22 September 1970, parodying the real-life Spanish Inquisition. This episode is itself entitled "The Spanish Inquisition". The sketches are notable for their principal catchphrase, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"


Plot synopsis

This is a recurring sketch always predicated on an unrelated sketch in which one character expresses irritation at being questioned by another, retorting exasperatedly, "I didn't expect this kind of Spanish Inquisition!" At this point, the Inquisition — consisting of Cardinal Ximénez (Michael Palin), and his assistants Cardinal Biggles (Terry Jones), and Cardinal Fang (Terry Gilliam) — burst into the room to the sound of a jarring musical sting. Ximénez shouts, with a particular and high-pitched emphasis on the first syllable: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

After entering, the Inquisition trio frequently get bogged down in recitations. In their first appearance, for example, Ximénez has trouble with listing their weapons: "Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms—oh damn!" Ximénez states the number of weapons they have ("Our two/three/four weapons are..."), then lists one more than he had counted, before starting again using a higher number. After several attempts, Ximénez states: "I'll come in again...", and herds the Inquisition back off the set. The straight man delivers the cue line again, the Inquisition bursts back in (complete with jarring chord), and the introduction is tried again. This is repeated two or three times before Ximénez relents, skipping the recitation and continuing further into Inquisition activity.

Ximénez repeatedly runs into the problem of not being able to torture anyone effectively. When he calls for "the rack," Cardinal Biggles produces a dish-drying rack. When poking the victim with soft cushions produces no confession, Ximénez inquires whether his assistants had got all the stuffing together into one end of the cushions, for supposed maximum effectiveness. Failing that, Ximénez forces the victim to sit in the "comfy chair," and states that the victim will get "only a cup of coffee at 11" o'clock and makes the torture "worse by shouting a lot."[1]

At the very end of the show, in "Court Charades", the Inquisition are caught by surprise when a defendant (who is also a judge from another court) in session at the Old Bailey says: "Blimey, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!" The whole court rises and looks expectantly at the witness entrance door, obviously expecting the Spanish Inquisition. As the closing credits roll the Inquisitors race to the Old Bailey by double-decker bus, to the tune of "Devil's Gallop", only to arrive just as the words "THE END" appear. Ximénez has just enough time to say "Nobody expects the Spa... oh, bugger." before the episode ends.[2]

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