The Spanish Inquisition (Monty Python)
"The Spanish Inquisition" is a series of sketches
Sketch comedy
A sketch comedy consists of a series of short comedy scenes or vignettes, called "sketches," commonly between one and ten minutes long. Such sketches are performed by a group of comic actors or comedians, either on stage or through an audio and/or visual medium such as broadcasting...

 in Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a BBC TV sketch comedy series. The shows were composed of surreality, risqué or innuendo-laden humour, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines...

, Series 2 Episode 2, first broadcast 22 September 1970, parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

ing the real-life Spanish Inquisition
Spanish Inquisition
The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...

. 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
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 Ximénez (Michael Palin
Michael Palin
Michael Edward Palin, CBE FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries....

), and his assistants Cardinal Biggles
"Biggles" , a pilot and adventurer, is the title character and main hero of the Biggles series of youth-oriented adventure books written by W. E. Johns....

 (Terry Jones
Terry Jones
Terence Graham Parry Jones is a Welsh comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator, and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team....

), and Cardinal Fang (Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam
Terrence Vance "Terry" Gilliam is an American-born British screenwriter, film director, animator, actor and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. Gilliam is also known for directing several films, including Brazil , The Adventures of Baron Munchausen , The Fisher King , and 12 Monkeys...

) — 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
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

, 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
Double act
A double act, also known as a comedy duo, is a comic pairing in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners, usually of the same gender, age, ethnic origin and profession, but drastically different personalities or behavior...

 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
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 anyone effectively. When he calls for "the rack
Rack (torture)
The rack is a torture device consisting of a rectangular, usually wooden frame, slightly raised from the ground, with a roller at one, or both, ends, having at one end a fixed bar to which the legs were fastened, and at the other a movable bar to which the hands were tied...

," 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."

At the very end of the show, in "Court Charades", the Inquisitors are caught by surprise when a defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

 (who is also a judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

 from another court) in session at the Old Bailey
Old Bailey
The Central Criminal Court in England and Wales, commonly known as the Old Bailey from the street in which it stands, is a court building in central London, one of a number of buildings housing the Crown Court...

 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 to appear. As the closing credits roll the Inquisitors race to the Old Bailey by double-decker bus
Double-decker bus
A double-decker bus is a bus that has two storeys or 'decks'. Global usage of this type of bus is more common in outer touring than in its intra-urban transportion role. Double-decker buses are also commonly found in certain parts of Europe, Asia, and former British colonies and protectorates...

, to the tune of "Devil's Galop", only to arrive just as the words "THE END" appear. Ximénez has just enough time to say, breathlessly, "NO-body expects the Spa... oh, bugger
Bugger is a slang word used in the vernacular British English, Australian English, Canadian English, New Zealand English, South African English, Caribbean English, Sri Lankan English and occasionally also in Malaysian English and Singaporean English, and rarely American English...

." before the episode ends.

Related sketches

Cardinal Ximénez briefly appears two episodes later ("The Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin is an American mechanical engineer, retired United States Air Force pilot and astronaut who was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history...

 Show") in a vox pop
Vox populi
Vox populi , a Latin phrase that literally means voice of the people, is a term often used in broadcasting for interviews with members of the "general public".-Vox pop, the man on the street:...

, again displaying difficulty counting (in this instance, the kinds of aftershave he uses). Later in that episode during the "Police Constable Pan Am Sketch", the policeman tells a chemist "one more peep out of you and I'll do you for heresy", with the chemist (played by Palin) responding that he "didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition"; except that instead of the Spanish Inquisition arriving, PC Pan Am (played by Graham Chapman
Graham Chapman
Graham Arthur Chapman was a British comedian, physician, writer, actor, and one of the six members of the Monty Python comedy troupe.-Early life and education:...

) simply tells the chemist to shut up.

In the "Trouble at t' Mill" sketch, Graham Chapman states in a parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 of Yorkshire dialect that "One o' t' cross beams's gone out o' skew on t' treadle." When questioned as to his meaning, he attempts to reiterate it using Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

: "One of the cross-beams has gone out of skew on the treadle!", but then becomes impatient, saying, "I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition!" This is the cue for a sketch in the Spanish Inquisition series.

A precursor

The 'number of weapons' joke echoes a similar joke in the first episode "The Man and The Hour" of the BBC sitcom Dad's Army
Dad's Army
Dad's Army is a British sitcom about the Home Guard during the Second World War. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and broadcast on BBC television between 1968 and 1977. The series ran for 9 series and 80 episodes in total, plus a radio series, a feature film and a stage show...

, broadcast in July 1968. Captain Mainwaring says "We have one invaluable weapon in our armoury: ingenuity and improvisation", to which Private Frazer replies "That's two."

In popular culture

  • In Issue #3 (January 1976, shortly after Monty Python began being broadcast in the U.S.) of the comic book title Batman Family
    Batman Family
    The Batman Family was a DC Comics comic book series which ran from 1975 to 1978, primarily featuring stories starring supporting characters in the Batman comics...

    [featuring the joint exploits of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon
    Barbara Gordon
    Barbara Gordon is a fictional character appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and in related media, created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino...

    ) and Robin (Dick Grayson
    Dick Grayson
    Dick Grayson is a fictional superhero that appears in comic books published by DC Comics. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and illustrator Jerry Robinson, he first appeared in Detective Comics #38 in April 1940....

    )] the story "Isle of a Thousand Thrills" borrowed the scenario of a land where anything anybody thinks of is quickly brought to life. In response to visitors' anxious questions before the nature of their situation is understood, Batgirl replies, "Calm down, everyone! We haven't had time to wonder about all those questions! I didn't expect some kind of Spanish Inquisition...". Immediately six Inquisitors appear, one of whom cries, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition...because our chief weapon is surprise!"
  • The Doogie Howser episode (Season 2, Episode 19, aired 1991-02-13) is entitled "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition".
  • In the Not The Nine O'Clock News
    Not the Nine O'Clock News
    Not the Nine O'Clock News is a television comedy sketch show which was broadcast on BBC 2 from 1979 to 1982.Originally shown as a comedy "alternative" to the BBC Nine O'Clock News on BBC 1, it featured satirical sketches on current news stories and popular culture, as well as parody songs, comedy...

    sketch on the new film The Life of Christ (itself a reference to Python's 1979 Life of Brian), the Bishop (Rowan Atkinson
    Rowan Atkinson
    Rowan Sebastian Atkinson is a British actor, comedian, and screenwriter. He is most famous for his work on the satirical sketch comedy show Not The Nine O'Clock News, and the sitcoms Blackadder, Mr. Bean and The Thin Blue Line...

    ) who is being harangued for this parody of Pythonism professes himself surprised at the furor, saying: "Well, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition."
  • In the 1998 film Sliding Doors
    Sliding Doors
    Sliding Doors is a 1998 British-American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Peter Howitt and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah, and featured John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Virginia McKenna. The music was composed by David Hirschfelder...

    , the skit plays a central role: James (John Hannah
    John Hannah (actor)
    John David Hannah is a Scottish actor of film and television. He has appeared in Stephen Sommers' Mummy Series, Richard Curtis' Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow...

    ) exhorts Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow
    Gwyneth Paltrow
    Gwyneth Kate Paltrow is an American actress and singer. She made her acting debut on stage in 1990 and started appearing in films in 1991. After appearing in several films throughout the decade, Paltrow gained early notice for her work in films such as Se7en and Emma...

    ) to "remember what the Monty Python
    Monty Python
    Monty Python was a British surreal comedy group who created their influential Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on 5 October 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series...

     boys say..." - referring to the phrase "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition". Later, James and Helen and friends laugh over the skit in a pub.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an American television series that aired from March 10, 1997, until May 20, 2003. The series was created in 1997 by writer-director Joss Whedon under his production tag, Mutant Enemy Productions with later co-executive producers being Jane Espenson, David Fury, David...

    episode entitled Him (Season 7, Episode 6, aired November 5, 2002), Dawn Summers
    Dawn Summers
    Dawn Summers is a fictional character created by Joss Whedon and introduced by Marti Noxon and David Fury on the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Michelle Trachtenberg. She made her debut in the premiere episode of the show's fifth season, and subsequently appeared in every...

     (Michelle Trachtenberg
    Michelle Trachtenberg
    Michelle Christine Trachtenberg is an American actress. She is best known for her roles as Dawn Summers in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and as Georgina Sparks in Gossip Girl...

    ) is called into the principal's office to answer some questions about a boy who fell down the stairs under suspicious circumstances. Afterwards, Dawn's heartthrob, RJ, said, "That sucks, facin' the whole inquisition thing." Dawn replied, "Yeah, 'No one expects the Spanish Inquisition'. God, it's like I have a disease or something."
  • In 2004 when Abbey National
    Abbey (bank)
    Abbey National plc was a UK-based bank and former building society, which latterly traded under the Abbey brand name. It became a wholly owned subsidiary of Grupo Santander of Spain in 2004, and was rebranded as Santander in January 2010, forming Santander UK along with the savings business of the...

     was to be sold to the Banco Santander Central Hispano. A newspaper headline announced: "Nobody expects the Spanish acquisition!"
  • In Neal Stephenson
    Neal Stephenson
    Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

    's 2004 novel The Confusion
    The Confusion
    The Confusion is a novel by Neal Stephenson. It is the second volume in The Baroque Cycle and consists of two sections or books, Bonanza and The Juncto. In 2005, The Confusion won the Locus Award, together with The System of the World....

    , a group of characters are detained and subjected to torture by Spanish religious authorities in Seventeenth-Century Mexico, prompting one of them to exclaim, "I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!"
  • The Boston Globe reported on October 5, 2009, that the newly announced Nobel Prize
    Nobel Prize
    The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

     winner, Dr. Carol W. Greider
    Carol W. Greider
    Carolyn Widney "Carol" Greider is an American molecular biologist. She is Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. She discovered the enzyme telomerase in 1984, when she was a graduate student of Elizabeth Blackburn at the University of...

     of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was asked if she had expected to win the honor. She replied: "It's like the Monty Python sketch, 'Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition!'"
  • In the videogame "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines", when being asked if the Malkavian character knows the punishment for breaking the Masquerade, the player is given the option to reply "the comfy chair".
  • In the simulation game Tropico 3
    Tropico 3
    Tropico 3 is a video game developed by Haemimont Games and published by Kalypso Media. Like the previous games in the series, Tropico 3 is a construction and management simulation game with heavy emphasis on city building, and as a sequel to Tropico, the game attempts to return to the roots of the...

    , when the player issues the edict "Inquisition", the description declares that "Nobody expects the Tropican inquisition!"
  • In May 2011 during the "Real Democracy Now
    2011 Spanish protests
    The 2011 Spanish protests, also referred to as the 15-M Movement and the Indignants movement, are a series of ongoing demonstrations in Spain whose origin can be traced to social networks and Real Democracy NOW among other civilian digital platforms and 200 other small associations...

    " protests in Madrid's Plaza de la Puerta del Sol an anonymous demonstrator carried a placard bearing the phrase "Nobody expects the #SpanishRevolution"
  • In the video game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution
    Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Retribution
    Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War II - Retribution is the stand-alone second expansion to Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, part of the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series of real-time strategy computer games...

    , the character Inquisitor Andrastia
    Inquisition (Warhammer 40,000)
    The Inquisition is an organisation in the fictional Warhammer 40,000 universe. They act as the secret police of the Imperium, hunting down any and all threats to the stability of the God-Emperor's realm. In fiction relating to the games, Inquisitors are usually represented by extremely powerful,...

     has "my chief weapons are surprise and fear" as one of her lines. At some point on the plot, another character elaborates: "We have lost the element of surprise and they do not fear us. Perhaps they will appreciate our devotion to the Emperor and ruthless efficiency."
  • In the videogame "Zork Zero
    Zork Zero
    Zork Zero: The Revenge of Megaboz is an interactive fiction computer game, written by Steve Meretzky over nearly 18 months and published by Infocom in 1988, with an original retail price of $59.95...

    ", the torture room has a comfy chair in it. Sitting in this chair leads to death, because it's so comfortable that you don't ever want to stand up again.

External links

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