The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle

From the brilliant and insane 1956 film THE COURT JESTER, written and directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, with the (still) inimitable Danny Kaye, in the role of Hubert Hawkins, the bumbling outlaw who must impersonate both Giacomo the Jester as well as a secret Assasin and a Knight. Dramatic Irony anyone? Then there’s Griselda the sorceress, and Maid Jean, the ‘good girl’ and fellow outlaw trying to help Hawkins out of an increasingly complex jam.  Not to mention a poisoned glass of wine.

Hawkins, now “Sir Giacomo”, must do battle with the jealous and violent Sir Griswold who is convinced that Hawkins plans to rob him of the love of Princess Gwendolyn. Imagine a mediaeval nerd having to do battle with someone who’s closer to a brutal ogre, not a pretty picture.  But before this battle to the death (his death!) begins, Hawkins is waylaid by Jean and Griselda, and the witch brings some startling news: he may not have to fight Griswold after all….since the dreaded knight is about to be poisoned!

HAWKINS

If I die, just pray that I die bravely.

GRISELDA

You’ll not die, you’ll not have to fight him. Griswold dies as he drinks the toast.

HAWKINS

What?

GRISELDA

Listen. I have put a pellet of poison in one of the vessels.

HAWKINS

Which one?

GRISELDA

The one with the figure of a pestle.

HAWKINS

The vessel with the pestle?

GRISELDA

Yes. But you don’t want the vessel with the pestle, you want the chalice from the palace!

HAWKINS

I-I don’t want the vessel with the pestle, I want the chalice from the what?

JEAN

The chalice from the palace!

HAWKINS

Hmmm?

GRISELDA

It’s a little crystal chalice with a figure of a palace.

HAWKINS

Th-the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison?

GRISELDA

No, the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle.

HAWKINS

Oh, oh, the pestle with the vessel.

JEAN

The vessel with the pestle.

HAWKINS

What about the palace from the chalice?

GRISELDA

Not the palace from the chalice! The chalice from the palace!

HAWKINS

Where’s the pellet with the poison?

GRISELDA

In the vessel with the pestle!

JEAN

Don’t you see? The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle.

GRISELDA

The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!

JEAN

It’s so easy, I can say it!

HAWKINS

Well then you fight him!

GRISELDA

Listen carefully. The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.

HAWKINS

Where the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.

JEAN

Good man!

GRISELDA

Just remember that.

And then they’re interrupted by the arrival of a RANDOM GUARD.

RANDOM GUARD
Sir Giacomo! Sir Giacomo, into your armor! And you, to your place in the pavilion.

HAWKINS

(to himself, following the Guard)

The pellet with the poison… the pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the true that is brew. Eh… brew that is tru- The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the true that is brew. Eh, eh, brew that is true. Eh. The chestle with the pal- eh, eh, palace with the…

RANDOM GUARD

Look out!

Suddenly the SUIT OF ARMOR which is awaiting ‘Sir Giacomo’ is struck by lightning, which magnetizes it.

RANDOM GUARD

Hurry, now, get into your armor!

HAWKINS

(as he struggles into his armor)

The pestle with t… the pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the palace from the chalice has the brew that is blue. Eh, no… The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle. The cha- eh, the pellet with the plip… the pellet with the poisle’s in the vessel with the plazzle. Eh, the plazzle with the vlessle. Eh, the the bless… The vessel with the plozle is the plazzle with the…

Then, moments later, Hawkins has almost got it down..

HAWKINS

I’ve got it! I’ve got it. The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true, right?

Griselda approaches, worried, she’s overheard this last bit and –

GRISELDA

Right. But there’s been a change. They broke the chalice from the palace.

HAWKINS

They broke the chalice from the palace?

GRISELDA

And replaced it with a flagon.

HAWKINS

Flagon.

GRISELDA

With a figure of a dragon.

HAWKINS

Flagon with a dragon.

GRISELDA

Right.

HAWKINS

Did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?

GRISELDA

No! The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

HAWKINS

The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

GRISELDA

Just remember that.

Fucking brilliant dialogue.

But it’s even funnier watching Danny Kaye say the lines —

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