Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Culture 101 (part 14) - World War I - that Golden Summer of 1914

everystockphoto.com/British WW1 soldiers

English history, anyone?

When I was visiting a Renaissance Festival, one of the players I encountered was an expert in English history.  He invited me to ask him questions about anything in English history.  And I was able to field a few of them, in which he gladly answered.  I confessed that I got most of my background in English history from watching the BBC comedy Blackadder.  He smiled and commented that was a good source.

It started back in the l980s ....

After watching a late night showing of the Blackadder series on PBS, I fell in love with this British comedy.  Later, I purchased the entire set of the four seasons, two specials, and one short movie.  
[reference:  Amazon.com: Black Adder: The Complete Collector's Set]

One of the actors, Sir Tony Robinson, is a history expert.  As one of the features of my DVD collection, Sir Tony gave min-lessons on English history and literature that was relevant to the season.  That helped me to get the jokes, as the episodes were chucked full of Shakespearean quotes as well as works of other literary greats.

Blackadder (1485 - 1917) ...

The first three seasons covered these periods.

1.  The Black Adder - the adventures of Prince Edmund, "The Black Adder," during the transition of Richard III to Henry VII.

2.  Blackadder II - the machinations of Lord Blackadder in the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

3.  Blackadder the Third - the schemes of Mr. Blackadder, the butler serving the Prince of Wales, who was the son of the mad King George III.

Each series had many deaths, including most of the main characters in the final episode.  But the murder and mayhem were somewhat farcical.

Then there was the last in the final series ...

4.  Blackadder Goes Forth - the struggles of Captain Blackadder in the trenches of World War I.

This one got to me.  I had a grandfather that I knew who fought in that war.  And this August (the month when Britain declared war on Germany) marks the centennial of the start of the Great War.
[For  reference:  Timeline of World War One]

Below shows Private Baldrick expressing his angst to General Melchett at the thought of the Big Push.

Here, Private Baldric explains to Captain Blackadder why he is carving a bullet with his name on it.

But the finale of this series was a classic:  "Blackadder Goes Forth" Goodbyeee (TV Episode 1989)

The entire episode, if you have subscribed to Hulu Plus - full episode can be found here:  Watch Blackadder Online - Goodbyeee | Hulu

Below is a sample of some of the discussion among the regulars during their last hours before going over the top, garnered from the the script:  BlackAdder Scripts: Blackadder IV, Episode 6 - Goodbyeee

*  Private Baldrick asks Captain Blackadder how did the Great War get started.  The answer is amusing, but sadly has much truth in the explanation that it was too much effort not to have war.

*  The soldiers' share their fond memories of the Christmas truce of 1914 when they heard "Silent Night" in the air over No Man's Land and clambering over the top to play football with the Germans.

*  Lt. George reminiscences about that day August 4, 1914 when he and his chums from Cambridge joined right up.  Then he realizes he was the last of his chums from that Golden summer of 1914 that is still alive.

*  As it's time to go over the top, they all admit they're scared, but carry on to meet their fate.

The clip below is the last scene as they go over the top:

According to BBC news, "The poignant finale of sitcom Blackadder has been voted the best farewell episode of a TV series."  And it makes me tear up every time I see it.

The real Captain Blackadder ...

Culture meets history as the namesakes of the characters in the Blackadder series did fight in World War One, or at least World War Two.  Fact in fiction:  Captain Blackadder Really Did Fight in World War I — War is Boring

Though all the known World War One veterans have passed away, may the sacrifices of all those who fought a century ago not be forgotten.  But it seems we are no wiser at the turn of the century, whether it be the 20th or 21st.

Rest in peace and may there be peace


Previous posts in the Culture 101 series:

Culture 101 (part 1) - Reagan's Challenge (2012)

Culture 101 (part 2) - Easter Eucatastrophe (2012)

Culture 101 (part 3) - Paul Revere's Ride (2012)

Culture 101 (part 4) - Gold Diggers and the Great Depression (2012)

Culture 101 (part 5) - Blue Bloods and 9/11 (2012)

Culture 101 (part 6) - Gilligan's Island and Breast Cancer Awareness (2012)

Culture 101 (part 7) - Band of Brothers  (2013)

Culture 101 (part 8) - Snow White (2013)

Culture 101 (part 9) - Father Knows Best (2013)

Culture 101 (part 10) - Summertime! x 3 (2013)

Culture 101 (part 11) - Native American Osmosis (2013)

Culture 101 (part 12) - Thanksgivukkah (Thanksgiving and Hanukkah) (2013)

Culture 101 (part 13) - Coventry Carol (2013)


Photo from:  everystockphoto.com/British WW1 soldiers

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