One of the most enduring and quaint stereotypes about life in the Middle Ages relates to how we imagine people back then spoke. For what people spoke in the Middle Ages, of course, was ‘Mock Medieval’. It crops up time and again in films and popular literature. Excruciatingly, English Heritage, one of the main organizations responsible for historical sites in England, pays actors to dress in period costume and improvise dialogue in Mock Medieval for the benefit, if that is the word, of bemused and embarrassed tourists. The effect is very familiar: ‘Yonder lies the castle of my father’ Tony Curtis famously remarks in The Black Shield of Falworth (1954), not ‘That’s my father’s castle over there’. Mock Medieval is a gift to satirists, and it is so inescapably self-parodic that it is amazing that authors and script writers persist with it. But they do. The medieval characters in Timeline, for instance, talk the medieval talk, at least in the early stages of the book before Crichton tires of it. Mock Medieval even seeps its way into the dialogue of films which self-consciously parade their use of modern idiom. ‘What say you, friar?’ Kevin Costner asks in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Mock Medieval overlaps with another filmic and pop-cultural convention, the American caricature of over-enunciated and over-elaborate British speech.
KeywordsPopular Culture Lost City Script Writer English Heritage Speech Rhythm
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